It’s June, which means that it’s Pride Month in the United States! And to celebrate, it seemed timely and also fun to go back through the work of two of the most prominent trans filmmakers in the business: the Wachowski sisters.
So, a few words to that effect.
Larry and Andy Wachowski–as they were formerly known–began their career billed as “the Wachowski Brothers,” and gained cultural prominence as the team behind The Matrix, easily one of the most popular (and highly referenced) sci-fi films the world has ever seen. In 2012, Larry publicly came out as a trans woman, and changed her name to Lana. Earlier this year, Andy was approached by a reporter from The Daily Mail, who threatened to out her as well for the sake of forcing an interview. As a result, Lilly Wachowski also came out as a trans woman in March of this year.
On accepting a GLAAD award for their television series Sense8, Lilly made her first public appearance following the announcement, and had this to say to the crowd:
“There’s a critical eye being cast back on Lana and I’s work through the lens of our transness. This is a cool thing because it’s an excellent reminder that art is never static. And while the ideas of identity and transformation are critical components in our work, the bedrock that all ideas rest upon is love.”
It was this comment that made me think of a rewatch in the first place, a profound statement that brings the very nature of art to the fore. Naturally, fans of the Wachowski films are going to search through their milieu for signs, evidence of both Lana and Lilly’s identities peeking out through their work. Some of these traces are buried in their films, but others run close to the surface—examination of and love for “the other” is one of the most prominent themes in all of their films so far. Additionally, it seems important to renew the conversation in terms of their place in the canon of filmmakers working today. These are two of the greatest action directors Hollywood has on hand, and they are both women. That is as exciting as it is relevant.
For the purpose of this rewatch, I am excluding their directorial debut, Bound—in part because it isn’t an SFF offering, and in part because they directed the film mainly to get the credentials for their true passion project: The Matrix. I am including V For Vendetta, though they did not direct the film, because their screenplay reshaped Alan Moore’s graphic novel for a different time period, using a different political spectrum.
It seems only right to be completely upfront about my own identity in this undertaking: I am coming at this rewatch from the perspective of a queer woman who finds herself often at odds with the gender binary. My wife has recently begun to identify as agender as well, which has given me the chance to come into closer contact with the personal trials of a certain type of transition. (I still call them my wife because we both happen to prefer the word over spouse or partner.) I’ve been a fan of Wachowskis ever since I watched The Matrix in the theater as a kid, so this should be lots of fun.
With that in mind, let’s get ready to talk about transformations, identity, and love.
To our first film—The Matrix.