The Matrix: Transgender Allegory, Applicability, and Me

Neo’s desperate attempts to defy a system that insists on deadnaming him and pushing him back in line, always read as a powerful transgender allegory.

You're listening to the
Companions audio articles, a new

series that features our best
stories on the companion. I'm

Rebecca Davis. Today, I'm happy
to present to you an expert

analysis on The Matrix entitled
Transgender Allegory,

Applicability and Me by Ell
Twine as part of our pilots he's

in. You see, when we first
launched the companion, we

created the mission to become
the home for sci fi. But with a

category so rich with characters
and stories, where would you

start? We ultimately decided on
the 90s because it was a

generation of science fiction,
film and television that defines

so many of our lives. If you
haven't listened to our other

audio article, the last action
heroes how the 90 Swap bugs for

thinkers, you should listen to
it right after this episode,

because it sets up the themes of
transformation we're about to

hear now. That article breaks
down the literal transformation

through Hollywood's casting
choices based on the reflection

of the cultural, societal and
technological shifts over that

decade. And ends with Keanu
Reeves as Neo. There may not

have been a more influential
film in that era than The

Matrix. I think so many of us
can see pieces of ourselves in

Neo, Trinity and even Agent
Smith. For those of you who

haven't seen The Matrix, you may
want to first as we break down

the film scenes in this
analysis, transgender allegory,

applicability and me by L twine.
Neo coughs blood as he comes to

a kneel on the train tracks
attempting to get himself back

on his feet. Agent Smith jumps
down from the station platform

to the tracks and kicks Neo. He
wraps his arm around Neos neck

and holds him there as a train
approaches them both. Your that

Mr. Anderson that is the sound
of inevitability. The sound of

your death. Goodbye, Mr.
Anderson. Is reenter The Matrix.

The Matrix was a pop culture hit
when it first released in 1999,

and went on to spawn two
sequels, a line of comics and

anime anthology series and
several video games. The lasting

impact of the franchise has
brought back co director Lana

Wachowski. To continue this
story in The Matrix

resurrections almost 20 years
since it originally ended. So

much of what we use in our day
to day lexicon has come from

this initial impact of The
Matrix, be it harmless terms

like a glitch in The Matrix for
interesting visual coincidence,

or more negatively driven
ideologies like red pilling that

targets feminism and liberal
politics as a suppose that

oppressor of men, a larger
discussion surrounding the

franchise has also been
maintained by the depth of

writing and potential
allegorical theming that points

towards a transgender narrative.
If you're a fan of The Matrix

franchise and have interacted
with online communities, this

may not come as a surprise to
you. The ideas put forward by

fans burst into popularity and
have only grown since Lana

Wachowski came out publicly as a
transgender woman in 2008. Lilly

Wachowski would later have to
out herself as a transgender

woman in 2016, after a reporter
from Daily Mail reportedly tried

to coerce her to discuss her
identity. She wrote in the Windy

City Times, I knew at some point
I would have to come out

publicly. You know, when you're
living is an out transgender

person, it's kind of difficult
to hide. I just wanted needed

some time to get my head right
to feel comfortable. But

apparently I don't get to decide
this. With both directors from

The Matrix trilogy, having
transitioned between the release

of the original series and the
coming fourth movie, discussion

and readings on the topic have
reached a fever pitch dividing

fans on if the transgender
themes were purposeful, or even

there at all. There's a strong
chance that you'll spot a number

of articles like this across the
Internet as we gear up for the

release of The Matrix
Resurrections later this year.

The Matrix as allegory. It's not
especially hard to see even at

the most basic level what thread
people are pulling at with this

discourse. The first Matrix film
features our lead character on

the run from a trio of almost
identical looking white men in

business suits who keep using
his dead name Thomas Anderson to

reject His chosen identity. Neo.
This is all you really need to

start the discussion. Neo is
attempting to outsmart and

outrun a system that is built to
try and keep him from becoming

more than they want him to be. I
first became aware of the

transgender discussion
surrounding the franchise soon

After Lana had introduced
herself to the world, a small

forum post somewhere led me to
an old undergrad essay from 2002

titled fluid realities, fluid
identities, gender in The

Matrix. written well before the
sequels have taken to the big

screen. The author of the paper,
Hannah Coleman, discussed what

they saw within the film that
potentially challenged gender

roles. Now serving as a time
machine of sorts, it can be seen

that Hannah had even written a
disclaimer in their summary for

the paper. My aim was to
appropriate The Matrix for some

trans theorising fun, I don't
think the Brothers Wachowski had

any transgender liberation aims
with the film this morning is

quite funny to read with the
context we now have on the

topic. But while written for
fun, Hannah had a lot of

interesting and strong beats. A
number of people maintain that

the speech Morpheus gives to Neo
about the reality of The Matrix

can easily be about the
construction of gender roles.

And I likewise suggest that
readers take the quote and swap

The Matrix for gender. He tells

The Matrix is everywhere. It is
all around us. Even though in

this very room, you can see it
when you look out your window,

or when you turn on your
television. You can feel it when

you go to work. When you go to
church, when you pay your taxes.

It is the world that has been
pulled over your eyes to blind

you from the truth.

Following this Hannah's essay
calls attention to the writing

of Ricky and Wilkins in their
1997 book, Read My Lips: Sexual

Subversion and the End of
Gender, where the gender regime

is defined by five set rules.
One, there are only two cages to

everyone must be in a cage.
Three, there is no mid ground.

Or no one can change. And five,
no one chooses their cage. A

core part of The Matrix that
struck a chord with me was when

Agent Smith interrogates Neo
early in the film, sat either

side of a table in an
interrogation room, Agent Smith

calls attention to Neo's
multiple lives. He defines the

life of Thomas Anderson is
someone who works for a

respectable software company,
has a social security number,

pays his taxes and helps others.
While his second life is one

that he lives online under the
name Neo and is branded as

guilty by the agent. One of
these lives has a future. One of

them does not Smith tells him
it's no surprise that most

viewers know Neo will be the one
to survive as the former

identity of Thomas Anderson is
to be let go. Audiences aren't

unaware that Smith is the
villain of the scene and he is

someone to overcome. It struck
me in rewatch that Anderson is

described how most of us would
be almost everyone has a social

security number, pays taxes,
maintains a normal job and helps

people in need. Neo is
threatened with the idea of his

basic rights as a human being
stripped from him if he goes

down any path less travelled.
But none of this is news to you.

Not one bit. There's not a deep
reading of a scene that spells

itself out. What this meant to
me, though, was the same

threatening thing in my own
journey with self identity and

potential losses. I may not be
losing the core basics of a

social security number. But in
my period of self discovery, I

had an Agent Smith in my head
telling me what simple joys I

might be stripped of parts of my
family could disown me friends

could reject me, my colleagues
might avoid me and my potential

romances were all at risk. Along
with the ability to feel safe

around people that may not be a
threat at all if I remained the

person they expect me to be.
Much like Neo I lived my second

life online. I'm not proud to
say that as I someone that

identifies as a transgender
woman, type this I'm in the

middle of my fourth week with a
growing depression beard. My

female identity online is not
even close to what would be my

current Thomas Anderson. At
best, I look like a young Hodor

from Game of Thrones. When I go
out and it's quite rare at this

point, I live by allowing people
to consider me a man. A large

part of this is due to the NHS
gender identity clinic waitlist

reaching a near five year wait
for a first appointment as the

trans community struggles to
receive help. While the

secondary reason is pure
personal safety. If Neo sat at

this table, refuses to give up
his digital identity and conform

to what the agents want of him,
he will be met with opposition

for the rest of his life. Neo
rejects as expected leading us

down a path of transformation
that otherwise never would have

been achieved. The applicability
of The Matrix after Neo awakes

on Nebuchadnezzar were given a
scene as he eats breakfast a

tonne of slop with the ship's
crew. One member, Mouse, asks

Did you ever get tasty wheat? No
but technically neither did you

That's exactly my point.
Exactly. Because you have to

wonder now down to the machines
really know what tasty weight

tasted like maybe they got it
wrong maybe what I think tasty

we tasted like actually tasted
like oatmeal or or tuna fish

that makes you wonder about a
lot of things. You take chicken

for example, maybe they couldn't
figure out what to make chicken

tastes like which is why chicken
tastes like everything.

Tasty wheat being a product that
exists solely in a crafted

simulation has no way to taste
wrong. The powers that be

machines in this scenario, have
built a system that lacks the

ability to ask questions from
those inside it. But Neo prior

to his interrogation by agents
has faced the possibility that

everything is a construct. His
life in the matrix has been

produced and assigned to him by
the powers that be he was placed

in one of one two cages to that
he must remain in three without

the ability for to choose what
one five, he would like to be a

part of. Where am I going with
this? Before challenging my

identity I used to think that
Agent Smith represented the real

danger of external forces. I've
seen this film many times at

different moments in my life.
The first time as a young boy,

it was just a movie scene where
he's offered the chance to stop

his journey before it all kicks
off and puts them in danger. In

my late teens, he was threatened
with an external societal

stripping if he tries to step
out of line. Much like the

allegory debate over The Matrix
there's a continued discussion

among fans of another popular
series Lord of the Rings, that

debates if the series is an
allegory for JRR Tolkien's time

in the war. The fan base remain
split, after Tolkien himself

said when asked. I cordially
dislike allegory in all its

manifestations, and always have
done so since I grew old and

weary enough to detect its
presence. I much prefer history

true or feigned with its varied
applicability to the thought and

experience of readers. I think
that many confuse applicability

with allegory, but the one
resides in the freedom of the

reader and the other in the
purpose domination of the

author. The divide has caused
many declaim there's no wartime

experience that served as
inspiration for the popular

fantasy series. But what Tolkien
seemingly meant with the idea of

applicability is that despite
his direct intention to not have

the story be an allegory. His
own personal experiences in life

can still take shape and the
books and the experiences of the

reader can take shape and their
journey through it. Lana

Wachowski stood on stage to give
a speech at the human rights

campaigns annual gala in 2012.
This speech covered a number of

topics in relation to her trans
identity along with anecdotes

from her past struggles. At one
point, she tells the audience

about her experience with
attempted suicide.

After school I go to the nearby
Burger King and I write a

suicide note. It ends up being
over four pages little talk to

him. But it was addressed to my
parents and I really wanted to

convince them that it wasn't
their fault. It was just that I

didn't belong. I cry a lot as
they write this note but the

staff at Burger King have seen
it all before. And they seem

immune. I was very used to
travelling home quite late

because of the theatre. I know
the train platform will be empty

at night because it always is I
let the beat train go by because

I know the age chain will be
next and it doesn't stop. When I

see the headlight I take off my
backpack and I put it on the

bench. There's the note in front
of it. I try not to think of

anything but jumping. As the
train comes

this written piece your reading
started with a scene from the

final action sequence of the
movie where Agent Smith holds

Neo down on the train tracks and
makes him await the coming

inevitable death. It was here
hearing this speech as a strong

ally and closeted transgender
woman in the middle of my own

struggle with self identity that
I realised I had seen Smith

wrong on my earlier watches. No
doubt Smith will grow in my mind

to be a representation of an
external force when I get to

that portion of my changing
journey. But what The Matrix

really did for me is put to
screen my own internalised

confusion and worries that
needed to be overcome to move

forward. It told me that as long
as I keep allowing the voice in

my mind to scare me with risks
of personal loss to dictate the

taste of a constructed tasty
weight world with two cages. I

might one day be weighed down by
at all and find myself awaiting

my personal version of the
coming train. The transgender

experience begins years before
We're finding out the truth

about yourself. In 2016, Lilly
addressed the discussion in her

GLAAD award speech, saying,
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. In a 2020 Netflix Film

Club interview, Lilly added that
The Matrix was all about the

desire for transformation, but
it was all coming from a

closeted point of view. I don't
know how present my transness

was in the background of my
brain as we were writing it. The

debate on allegorical intent
within the matrix can continue

to take shape as the fan base
engages with that discussion.

But Tolkien's applicability
argument felt right to me, it

doesn't feel like an accident
that The Matrix features the

protagonist being held on the
train tracks, a place where Lana

had once heavily considered
ending her own life. While The

Matrix may not have been written
with any intent to be an

explicit allegorical transgender
story, the mindset of the

creators at a time where they
were still seeking themselves

certainly seemed to have bled
onto the pages of the script

well enough that many
transgender viewers are finding

themselves and guidance through
the same confusion and use of


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