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Body Talk: Conversations on Transgender Cinema with Caden Mark Gardner: The Matrix Resurrections (Lana Wachowski, 2021)

Willow Catelyn Maclay: In the lead up to Lana Wachowski’s latest film The Matrix Resurrections there was a buzz in the air among transgender cinephiles that I don’t believe I had ever experienced before. The feeling was reminiscent to the broader expectations among cinephiles of David Lynch returning to Twin Peaks, but funnelled through a much smaller demographic. It was a movie that many trans people felt protective of prior to its release, likely due to the fact that for any trans person who didn’t live in New York or Los Angeles this was their only chance to see a movie directed by a trans person in a cinema in 2021. There were other great movies directed by trans people during the calendar year like Jane Schoenbrun’s “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”, and Angelo Madsen Minax’s, “North By Current”, but “The Matrix Resurrections” was everywhere. As a result this film that was otherwise a pop cultural behemoth felt like ours in a much more intimate way. When I finally had the chance to see Resurrections one day before my city went into lockdown I was thrilled to find that Lana Wachowski had deliberately made a movie about questions of identity, intent of personal expression, survival, and the cross of being hand-cuffed to the past. The only option for Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Wachowski was reinvention. Resurrections was sold as the latest bankable fan-service ready IP, but deflects from those lazy ideas that are parasitic to the current filmmaking landscape in America with a steadfast belief in change. While watching this movie I couldn’t help but feel that this was about post-transition life in its own way. This was The Matrix as an out trans femme with all the calculated, hyper-precise construction of the original trilogy gone in favor of something more creatively loose, and aware that saving yourself is a continuous interrogation, rather than a single choice. In this edition of Body Talk we’ll jack into The Matrix, but first, Caden, how did you feel when watching this movie?

Caden Mark Gardner: I definitely was among those who were anticipating this movie with great curiosity and a certain wonder in what this film would exactly look like.  This is a film series that I still have a really hard time listening or reading cis critics on, especially those who only seemed to open their eyes that these films were possibly transy only after the Wachowskis said so. The Matrix Resurrections for me is about how everything we as trans people have ever thought about The Matrix gets smeared in highlighter while Lana Wachowski also wishes to cross out every bad reading she can call out about The Matrix in under two and a half hours. Naturally, most red pillers detested it while many trans cinephiles rejoiced. It was a nice feeling.

This film’s metanarrative works for me as both a meditation on how trans people have to tell their stories and also a very Hollywood tradition of artists deliberately reinserting, and in some instances, cannibalizing their own works while being in conversation with the film production trends of their era. The Matrix Resurrections subs in the video game industry for the film industry to have these provocations and self-references- the fact that Neo’s Thomas Anderson is a world-famous video game designer with his experience in ‘The Matrix’ now being reworked in this simulation as his megahit video game series-  which, given how the earliest critics of the film derided the story as more elevated video games than cinema is absolutely a wink from Wachowski. But again, to me this is still in line with certain Hollywood films from decades ago. I thought as much about the work of Frank Tashlin whether it was his animation from The Looney Tunes shorts he did, and his live-action stuff like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, that were in often derisive conversation with television emerging as a serious competitor to film. I also thought of Vincente Minnelli’s later film Two Weeks in Another Town that lampooned the trend of “Hollywood on the Tiber” films where Minnelli uses his older Hollywood backlot film The Bad and the Beautiful, and re-contextualizes it as a film from Kirk Douglas’ character’s past shown in screening rooms as part of that film’s narrative, like the older Matrix films are screened and projected in Resurrections.  And as far as other film sequels and franchises, I thought of Wes Craven’s return to Freddy Krueger with New Nightmare (the seventh film in that franchise). That one is about the franchise’s original stars Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund being roped back into possibly returning for another feature with Craven, himself a character within the film, but there are these supernatural elements resulting in deaths and other mysterious incidents that make the existence of this project feel treacherous. It’s an extremely clever film but also very meditative on wanting to continue on a project that in Craven’s case, left his hands for many years and many movies ago. The Matrix films have always been credited to the Wachowskis, although the legacy of these films is how they were co-opted by the most toxic and reactionary elements imaginable that cannot be ignored. Also what cannot be ignored was how the media seemed to accept the ‘taking the red pill’ mantra while ignoring the very obvious signifiers of there being something queerer going on in these films. Part of that is because the Wachowskis had been for years, quite famously, reclusive rather than visible and present although as you have noted to me, Willow, there were reasons for why that was happening. I think you can dive into that because I think we cannot discuss these movies, and especially this movie, without discussing how the Wachowskis have interacted and been portrayed in the media before and after they were both out. 

WCM: It is necessary to consider where transness was in the mainstream in the late 90s and then in the following decades when analyzing Resurrections. At the center of this is The Wachowski sisters who are exploding in popularity after the success of Bound (1996), and the first Matrix movie, but are staying out of the limelight as much as humanly possible. In the lead-up for our discussion I rewatched all of the behind the scenes vignettes attached to the old DVDs for the trilogy, and while the Wachowskis talk sparingly about the 1999 film they seem to vanish for the sequels as if they are actively avoiding being filmed. There’s a pattern of common experience where, at a point, closeted trans people wish to no longer be photographed, and there are vast periods of our lives where documentation is mostly absent. In the case of The Wachowski sisters I assume that period had begun with the mega-watt spotlight of having a movie as successful as The Matrix. It is around the time of the sequels, and later with Speed Racer (2008), where rumblings are starting to come out about Lana transitioning, and there is even an attempted outing by Rolling Stone magazine. With transness, when you’re beginning to come into your own, and your identity becomes definitive, there are issues with previous contexts making the endeavor problematic. Others can be slow to adjust to the new reality of your identity, and it can sometimes feel as if this thing that you’ve tried so very hard to manage, and bring into existence, is nothing more than a perception up for debate, which brings me back to The Matrix, and the red-pill, blue-pill proposition, which is curiously referred to in Resurrections, as “not even a choice”.

Every artist has to come to grips with letting go of their creation and allowing the public their interpretation, but what do you do when the art in question is about something as personal as your identity? In the years since Lilly Wachowski has been publicly out as a trans woman both siblings have been vocal about how they were working through their feelings of transness while creating the trilogy. It is obvious in hindsight that some of the philosophical queries, and thematic structuring, has a foundation in questions of destiny and identity. There’s a thread about Thomas Anderson (Reeves) becoming Neo, and how it was an inevitability. Everything in the original Matrix trilogy is given cool sci-fi undertones of oppression and rebellion, but are also rooted in transness as something that is created, innate and in Resurrections, must be sustained. But no one was thinking about transness as a science-fiction metaphor in 1999. Cisgender cinephiles are only now coming to the realization that transgender cinephiles, and critics of some clout on social media, are underlining certain things for greater exploration like body horror, artificial intelligence, anime, and experimental filmmaking that centers bodies. In 1999 no one in the mainstream knew any of this, and the question at the center of The Matrix became one co-opted by right-leaning douchebags who proposed that the Red pill was about seeing the world for what it was, which obviously meant panic about the gains made by persons who were socially disadvantaged. Lilly Wachowski famously tweeted “Fuck Off” to a few of these more prominent douchebags. It’s easy to feel the frustration over this metaphor for transness, that probably meant a lot for both directors, slipping out of their control. What I love about The Matrix Resurrections is the attempt to redefine what The Matrix means by allowing its queerness to come out of the shadows, with stronger, more blatant ideas on the subject, which go beyond transition, but life after, and only further emboldens those budding elements in the original trilogy. It is my belief that it is now all but impossible to completely detach queerness from these movies, even with the metaphor still being hidden to a degree.

CMG: I’m not sure if you’ve seen that Spanish television program Veneno that is on HBOMax, but it’s essentially about how a younger trans woman came to terms with her gender identity early on when she watched, initially from afar, the rise of this trans Spanish tabloid figure and television personality La Veneno (Cristina Ortiz Rodriguez), and how even with the very slanted, often times cruel depictions of trans people in media, that was still something that can stick with you as a trans person who needed a North Star of some kind. I bring this up because that infamous Rolling Stone piece on Lana Wachowski- Rolling Stone effectively scrubbed it from their site but I remember reading the print version because my father was a Rolling Stone subscriber- was essentially my Veneno moment.  I remember being a teenager and feeling in a fugued out stasis of who I was at the time and there were rumblings about Lana due to the fact her appearances at certain Matrix sequel red carpet premieres was being widely perceived as more ‘androgynous’ in the years prior. I was less invested in wanting to know the sordid details of another person’s life (and the Rolling Stone piece really leans into transness being intertwined with sexual deviancy and at least adjacent to porn with trans male adult film star Buck Angel, who felt Wachowski “stole” his female partner, being a major character in the piece), especially in the form of what was this incredibly transphobic exposé by Peter Wilkinson. I still cannot get over the fact that the piece cites a Stanford University “research piece” from the 1970s that “men who want to be women” are “just like Wachowski”, because according to Wilkinson, they are “jonesing for technology” as they are predominantly found to be working in computer sciences. You read that piece and can completely understand when Lilly Wachowski publicly came out a near decade later that she admittedly did it to get ahead of a similarly invasive piece that was supposedly in the works to out her.

Yet, despite the toxicity of this piece, I kept that copy of the magazine for years and had re-read it several times, partially because I think, even if Wilkinson was oblivious to the fact he too was contributing to this so-called ‘self-imposed exile’ Lana Wachowski put herself in, I saw myself in the ways people like Lana had to negotiate with trying to work through their gender identity among people who knew them, or thought they knew of them.   I will say even at that point I was not obsessing about the red pills and blue pills as an allegory for hormones even with that knowledge because I was a teenager in high school going through my obnoxious film snob phase and had up until college distanced myself from films of my adolescence like The Matrix trilogy. Still though, I remember watching Speed Racer in theaters and Racer X’s whole storyline of physical transformation, a new identity, and leaving behind his family to live this other life pinged for me, especially in that context about Lana.  I highly recommend Cael Keegan’s book on the Wachowskis that does a deeply thorough exploration of gender and identity in their whole body of work from Bound to Sense8 (and honestly, I cannot wait to read his take on Resurrections) for those who have really only gotten their Matrix takes from social media because to me there’s a deep, dense text in the Wachowskis’ work that I would say from the moment Lana came out publicly (around the releases of Cloud Atlas) has gotten messier and complicated because the works since that point, although not cinematic game-changers, do still explore the topics of identity and destiny. It can be very New Age-y woowoo– and in some cases too woowoo for my tastes- but I feel it is consistent with the earnestness of the Wachowskis’ oeuvre.   

And I actually think the whole difference of Resurrections being hypertext and hyper-specific about what it wants to say about itself versus the earlier films is also in line with how trans people themselves often have to really underline things for clarity, not so much for ourselves, but to avoid either misreadings from well-intentioned cis people or willful misreadings from bad cis people. Yes, part of this is certainly wrapped around the legacy of MRAs co-opting ‘the red pill’, but I think with the aforementioned incidents in which the Wachowskis had the stories of themselves told by others in ways that were, at bare minimum, a massive invasion of privacy, also informs this film. Neo living as Thomas Anderson is working on his newest game called BINARY for a major multimedia conglomerate in a new Matrix system that has trapped him into believing he is just simply a tortured male genius who just needs to take more blue pills from his therapist who is his ultimate gatekeeper. The therapist, or rather The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), is the creator of this current Matrix construct and it turns out, is also keeping Neo away from the one person, Trinity, who has the same lived experiences and skill sets as him. Ain’t trans history all about realizing and ultimately rejecting being fed the lie that there is nobody else like you? 

WCM: I believe we can look at Resurrections and find deep pathways of significance as queer viewers, but I like that you bring up that this sequel is ultimately a quest to find that person who is like you. This is particularly of note in the context of mainstream American cinema when looking at representation. We have often seen grand celebrations of corporations like Disney including 1 gay character in the background of their movies, and treating it as if it were an achievement of social justice. There’s that moment in Avengers: Endgame (2017) when a gay man is in a group therapy session discussing how lost he felt after his husband died during Thanos’s extinction event, but other than this single line of dialogue there’s nothing in the film for him to do. He doesn’t have an arc and there’s nothing specifically queer about what he has experienced. The bare minimum representation of LGBTQ characters in mainstream movies (television fares a bit better these days) is a ponderous, frustrating thing, because actual art being made by queer people exists, and is out there if you look for it. Even worse is when trans people are trotted out in mainstream movies and saddled with a pole-vaulting spirit of having to make sure it is correct in language and presentation, which robs us of anything resembling complexity and sponges off any negative aspects that allows for characterization or contradiction. But Resurrections is different. This is a movie over-loaded with suicidal imagery, and whose narrative thrust begins with a slow-motion frame of Neo jumping off a building, and is framed by the therapist character as a psychotic break. A suicide attempt. A young woman named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) finds recognition in this image, and sees herself in Neo staring down at her before he steps off the roof. In an interview from 2012 Lana Wachowski states that there was a time in her life when she was ready to attempt suicide, but didn’t because there was a man in a subway station who couldn’t stop staring at her before she jumped. It is impossible to untangle suicide and the ghosts that come with it from our community. I don’t know a single trans person who hasn’t lost someone along the way, and this particular image, as well as the usage of past footage from The Matrix, hangs over the events of Resurrections like a haunting. To me this is a clear indication of a messier application of transness. It is easy to celebrate becoming yourself, and praising the act of transition, but it is much more difficult to then argue for continued survival. We can only do this with a community of others like us, and therefore, transness has to be a community representation rather than a single portrait. Queer people are not an isolated bunch, because we require one another to survive, and this is especially true for trans people. There’s an old adage in our community that the only people who “get us” are “us”, and there’s certainly a whiff of that in how Neo and Trinity are characterized in this newest version of The Matrix. They’re two lost souls who only find clarity with one another.

Resurrections is a self-referential journey back to the center of Neo and Trinity, but unlike the original trilogy, which was built on a foundation of the emergence of a messiah figure (Neo) who could liberate his people, this one is far more personal, and concerned with finding a home in yourself, and in those around you. It’s a version of The Matrix that could have only been made having come out on the other side of a great personal struggle that illuminated something of central importance. Lana Wachowski has said in interviews that she returned to these characters from a place of grief, and there’s a dedication to her mother and father in the credits. She wanted to bring back someone she loved, and she found that outlet in Neo and Trinity. This isn’t just a rebooted property, but something deeply personal for the cast and crew. It is an artistic expression of grasping, pleading notions of love, and survival, that takes gigantic swings in classic Wachowski’s fashion. I don’t think all of the self-referential, meta elements work, and some of the ideas are repeated too frequently, but what does work in grand fashion is Neo and Trinity coming together, in spite of the entire world being at risk if they do come together. Isn’t that a potent metaphor for what we’ve been through during this still ongoing pandemic? Touch is worth it, because life isn’t worth living without it. Without anything physical what is queerness? Without anything physical life is just The Matrix.

CMG: This film also looks different, and while it does not necessarily have the scale, due in part to the key principles of the cast being older, of the earlier trilogy, there are these thoughtful deliberate choices. Few things in cinema will ever capture the same public sensation as stopping bullets and climbing walls of the first film, and the highway sequence in Reloaded is in a class of itself (really, only George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road really tops it among recent films, and that is a franchise coming from a very singular, idiosyncratic vision, and completely shirks the notions of franchise tentpole continuity and structure).  But I liked reading how the way the film resembles a desktop screensaver in colors is a reflection of the modern computer in the way we had the blacks and greens of the earlier trilogy.  And again, that was a deliberate choice, done to be uncanny, as opposed to something like The Life of Pi that truly ends up looking like a screensaver in trying to create a world from CGI.  Perhaps my favorite technical flex in the movie is the latest “bullet time” moment with Neil Patrick Harris’ The Analyst.  According to co-cinematographer Daniel Massacessi there was a stereo rig that held two cameras like a set of eyes on a harness that shot those scenes at two different speeds and were then combined in the editing process. The fact that I am still wowed from a franchise film and had a, “How did they do that?” response to that moment does show Wachowski and her crew still have some great tricks up their sleeves.

I definitely think the meta stuff could wear thin, and has a your mileage may vary in certain threads, but honestly, I love Jonathan Groff as the new, upgraded, ioS, 5G, whatever the fuck you want to call it, version of Agent Smith and yes, when these digital worlds change so do the key features and players. But there’s also other text around Groff being in this type of role that is adversarial within the context of the series that gets complicated in the course of the film, and also Groff, primarily known as a gay song and dance man on Broadway, now being this action star in filling the shoes left by Hugo Weaving’s at times quite beguiling nemesis to Neo.  The Matrix’s queerness is not just about the pining for utopian worlds where you can be whoever you want to be, but also the fact that sometimes your biggest foes conceal themselves and act as your allies, and sometimes that happens to be in the form of evil corporate white cis gays in which case, Neil Patrick Harris and Groff are perfectly cast. 

To me his work in the role is more successful than Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (who I do really like as an actor) as Morpheus, which can never really embody Morpheus as a character, or Laurence Fishburne as a performer, to have me accept this new alternate version.  But I also think maybe there’s just more text and intrigue with Groff to work with. He isn’t doing a Weaving impression but seemingly can inhabit the space as a smarmy company man with relative ease.  Morpheus also feels less foregrounded in this version compared to both franchise staples like Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and even newcomers to the series like Bugs (a very winning Jessica Henwick). Did you have any strong opinions on the new faces in the series?  I know some of the supporting players include many from other works by the Wachowskis like Sense8. And how about the technical changes from the trilogy, which I know doesn’t have the same choreographer or cinematographer in these films?

WCM: Jonathan Groff is really wonderful. He’s so euphoric as a reborn Mr. Smith, and while it isn’t necessary to make any more of these, if they did go down that route it would be exciting to see Groff further develop as a villain. Groff has been doing good work for a long time, particularly on television for Andrew Haigh and David Fincher, and it’s no surprise that auteurs of some value keep working with him. He has a lot of dexterity as an actor and does really well with both extroversion (as seen in Resurrections) and introversion (Looking). Neil Patrick Harris is also well equipped to play a therapist character, whose own limitations of what could constitute as help, prevent Thomas Anderson (Neo) from fully embracing who he needs to be. There has been some criticism of the new film being anti-therapy, but it is necessary to remember the context of therapy for trans people, where, historically, transition has been held at bay at the whims of therapists, because up until recently it was necessary to pass a psych evaluation before hormones could be prescribed. This tactic is still in place in many parts of the world, like the U.K., resulting in years- long wait-times for medication.

The new cast members are all successful to varying degrees and fit well in the landscape of The Matrix. It’s important to remember that these movies have always had a diverse background of actors and behind the scenes personnel. While The Wachowskis have been ham-fisted, clumsy and naive around race (Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas), there have been constructive hiring practices on their films when other blockbusters of the period were almost exclusively white. That being said, the biggest absence felt in this newer incarnation of The Matrix is Yuen Woo-Ping, who handled the fight choreography for the original trilogy. Yuen is a legend who has worked on a half dozen of the greatest martial arts films ever made that turned names like Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh into megastars around the globe. He’s the secret ingredient for why the action in those first movies is as great as it is, because his melding of real world martial arts contrasted with the fantastical elements of innovation like bullet-time, digital pans, and CGI inflected wire-work. Without him these movies are probably more dated than they already are. Dated isn’t a bad thing for what it’s worth, but there’s a timelessness to martial arts that’s always going to work. Just take for instance the MMA influence on Reeves’s other mega-hit John Wick (2014). Yuen is irreplaceable, but it’s smart that they seemed to recognize that without the great master helping with the martial arts they could focus on other things. The action isn’t necessarily the point in Resurrections, and while what’s there is good, particularly the opening section with Bugs, it’s not the main draw. It is a means for an end to the vulnerability of Trinity and Neo reuniting with one another., and their proclamation that in order for them to survive they must be with one another.

On the surface Neo and Trinity may not seem like a queer relationship, because they’re of different genders, but the beauty in queer interpretation and metaphor is that things can become imbued with the traits of their queer creator. This is the case here. Their relationship, even in the original trilogy, doesn’t carry with it a raw sexual impulse of procreation, even though there is a sex scene involving the two in Reloaded. Neo and Trinity love each other because there seems to be no other option. There’s a common meme in the trans community that is cycled through almost endlessly of Neo and Trinity congratulating one another on having surgery. It feels like for this particular subsection of viewers who are trans, Neo and Trinity are thought of as being T4T. What a concept to smuggle into mainstream movie-making. Trans people have had to watch movies over the years with little to no representation, so, of course we’ve found our own way into movies, and latched onto hyper-specific details to try and cope through media. What else was there to do in the 2000s? But I don’t believe this is only a fan interpretation. Neo and Trinity love each other like trans people love each other, because they’re the only ones who understand, and it seems like they’d rather die than be without the community of one another. When they fly off in the end, dressed identically, it might as well be a declaration that they are cut from the same cloth, and are two halves of a whole. Do you read their relationship with one another similarly? 

CMG: I absolutely have read Neo and Trinity as T4T. Again, the same life experiences, understandings, and relationship to their bodies as you- it is easy to read that way and also sense the mutual attraction between them as characters.  Some cis critic earnestly asked me way back if the Matrix was a trans allegory then why is the central relationship a cisheteronormative romance and my inner monologue was, “Hooo boy, I have to explain T4T to a non-local allegorically and conceptually? In this economy?”  But also, I’ve been in T4T relationships and I know there are T4T couples (in this case, a trans woman and trans man) who get perceived as passing for cisheteronormative by cis people who are none the wiser. So of course if I know cis people can barely clock a T4T coupling out in the wild, how can they really go into that deep of a reading for this movie?  That’s when you know this movie may really only be our kind of playground and sandbox to play in and to some degree, I am fine with that.

But also I wanted to tell this critic about Switch, a mythic character of trans fictional martyrdom. I am being serious about that. I’ve witnessed trans women from completely different generations from myself in-person talk about The Matrix and specifically Switch with a wistful sense of what could have been. Switch was in the first film but was unfortunately not portrayed or rendered in their initial conceit which was, as Lana and Lilly Wachowski have both been public about for quite some time, somebody who in the ‘real world’ was male but once in the Matrix would be female. Even Keanu Reeves has spoken about how Warner Bros. was not ready for this type of character and frankly neither was Hollywood in 1999.  While there were these moments like Boys Don’t Cry and trans characters popping up in All About My Mother in that same year, it portrayed largely the victimization and otherness associated with having a trans body whereas Switch could have been a character to represent the gender euphoric possibilities of this new interactive space.  The only thing that comes close in 1999 was that moment in Being John Malkovich where Cameron Diaz’s character feels like after that experience in the portal she should have a sex change (that conveniently is never discussed in any deep way in the film again) because she feels a unique sense of power when embodying John Malkovich. Nevertheless, it feels extremely poignant and pointed that the Wachowskis have Switch killed by Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher who, for me personally and for some people I see online, is a traitor on a deeper level beyond being the Judas within the film’s messianic hero’s journey. Cypher is analogous to a “gender critical” de-transitioner in the fact he goes from somebody who initially buys into the mission of Morpheus only to work in lockstep with Agent Smith with the full knowledge it will harm and even kill his former comrades in the process. The Wachowskis have not really gone back into the well of introducing a Switch-like archetype to modern audiences but I think that is partially because Switch represented the inner-searching synonymous to early transition whereas they have both now been out for years and personally speaking as somebody who has also been out for years, your outlook on life no longer feels so contingent on hyper-visibility. 

Switch, left, in White

I think we both agree that it still feels like a big ask to wish for a Switch type of character in this film for 2021. But I feel a certain comfort from Lana Wachowski not having to ‘prove’ her bona fides as a trans filmmaker and storyteller by needing to drop a trans person into the situation because it is all still there as text.  Plus, they did it with Sense8 with Jamie Clayton as Nomi. I will also note Lilly Wachowski, with the television show Work in Progress, does interesting work in presenting intergenerational queerness and perceptions to gender that are a lot more honest than other Hollywood attempts when trying to tackle topics of transness and gender non-conformity even without having a trans main character either.

WCM: In that interview you linked to with Reeves he ponders to himself very briefly that maybe people are ready for a Matrix where the transness was front and center, but I’m not sure it’s necessary considering they’ve underlined everything in Resurrections. I do wonder what it says about me, and how I’ve been socialized to prefer my representation come from the shadows, but it’s how I’ve always operated. Switch is always going to be a great what-if, and would have been a prominent point of interest for me as an adolescent had they been adapted the way they were intended. It would have made an impact in making my brain fuzzy with recognition, but Resurrections does so twenty years later. In the weeks leading up to the release I suggested that Trinity might be “the one”, and many of my close trans friends thought so too. We were right, and when it did happen I cried while watching, and I don’t cry at the movies often. Here was this loud siren of The Matrix as an object whose “transition” was now front and center, and it meant something to me. When I reviewed “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” earlier this year I suggested that transgender cinema is at its best when its textures could be recognized and only understood in totality by trans people. Resurrections is one such example, but I believe it has also restructured how I think about movies made by trans people. It’s not enough to merely show transition, but to deal with what comes after, and the continued attempts to live as you’ve defined yourself. Every movie in this series is dealing with transgender ideas, but these meanings are more easily recognized by us, and it has this wonderful effect of feeling like a hidden object in plain sight of other interpretations by cisgender viewers. With The Matrix series it’s always been a little easy to get swept away in what everything means, rather than talking about where the movie succeeds in its craft, and with this one Lana Wachowski has created a film where her images are in harmony with one another. Esther Rosenfield, who writes about movies over at letterboxd, and has clout as one of a handful of prominent transgender cinephiles on social media, suggested that Resurrections has the effect of making the original trilogy feel incomplete in hindsight, and I agree with her. Those movies needed this one. Resurrections exists to interrogate itself, and find clarity in the past and the present, in the hopes for a sustainable future. This is a deeply personal film that will resonate strongly with trans people who admire this series. Trinity says in closing, to the architect, “I like that idea about repainting this world with rainbows.”. Lana Wachowski did just that with The Matrix Resurrections, and isn’t that a beautiful ending to this story? Not only remake yourself to live, but remake the world so that it can too. Susan Stryker once argued that transness was one way people could reimagine a new world, because we have for ourselves. A future is possible.

CMG: I definitely agree that I think this film serves as an interrogation of the original trilogy and also an interrogation of tentpole cinema. I sadly think the latter will kind of fall by the wayside, but I think within our community, both critically and artistically, there will be a lot of reaction that will still be generated from this film and that is only just beginning.  I sadly do not see a trans filmmaker getting the type of budget as Lana Wachowski was afforded in the near future, and the current state of market oversaturation with the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes me just generally depressed about moviegoing in general. But I think we have both seen and read works of art that have blown us away, and heavily related to, that show new possibilities of trans narratives are still out there to be dramatized on-screen. Jane Schoenburn’s ode to Web 1.0 with We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is just one example, and that is still operating in the realm of allegory, but both of us clocked it from our experiences as trans ‘eggs’ coming to terms with our gender identities through online spaces. The Wachowskis are not necessarily an example to duplicate, as far as a financial model that is largely out of reach, but I think they are still examples- and dare I say, martyrs- of a certain personalized moviemaking that goes from metaphors, symbols, and allegories to something more foregrounded and direct that I think we are both incredibly attuned with as trans people. Resurrections isn’t a better movie than the original Matrix for being more explicit, but it is the natural endpoint for a trans artist whose identity will forever be synonymous with this franchise.

Published inBody TalkQueer Cinema

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