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Return to the Matrix: Notable (?) News, Round 2

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

The Wachowski brothers are now the Wachowski sisters. I didn't see this one in the newspaper, but I did see it in a news feed that came discussing the soon release of the latest installment in the Matrix movie franchise. Their names were different. Anywho... They were Larry and Andy. Now they are Lana and Lilly. They are both trans women. One transitioned 10 years ago, the other five years ago. So it may be old news to some of you, but it was news to me.

They had a rather free-form upbringing. Their dad was a militant atheist and their mom a Catholic who turned to shamanism. They grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and attending schools that emphasized science and drama. Lots of imaginative freedoms. This certainly played into their creativity as screenwriters and film directors. They've had some huge box office successes and some of its biggest flops. Their films are loved or hated, with some enjoying an almost cult-like status. In the first Matrix movie, they broke new ground and won critical acclaim for pioneering the “bullet time” filming technique, which allowed them to depict very rapid motions (like a speeding bullet) with super slow speeds while rotating the viewer's perspective almost 360 degrees. It revolutionized the entire fantasy/science-fiction genre in film. Heck, the NFL now uses this technique in its replay and play-analysis clips.

Prior to transitioning, both of the Wachowski brothers married. One later divorced and remarried. They've had money and enough success to pretty much pursue what they want to pursue. They've managed to largely stay out of the media spotlight so as to guard their privacy. Strange isn't it, that they weren't happy or content. They had creative fulfillment. They had financial and popular success. They had spouses and some strong family relationships (at least with each other and their sisters). But apparently none of this gave them a feeling of being whole or well in the core of their being. They each felt that they were displaced or mis-placed, someone different from what they outwardly appeared to be.

As the fourth installment of the Matrix franchise is in final production, Lilly now states that the original movies were about a longing for transformation that had to be kept closeted. With the character of Switch, who was a woman in the matrix but a man in reality, Lilly indicated that that was meant to represent where the brothers were in their headspace. In other words, the movies were a secret trans metaphor.

Okay. Who am I to argue. The writer/director gets to say what he/she means by his/her movie. But the movies always were a mish-mash of religious and philosophical themes. You had the character named Trinity. You had a prophesied messiah-figure in Neo, and the city of Zion. However, the notion of reality as an illusion is a Buddhist concept. And on it goes.

Transformation, though, is a huge human longing, so Lilly is right to try to get at that. But the universal longing for transformation is not the skin-deep desire to switch our gender, however true it may (or may not) be that sexuality is at the core of human identity. I would argue that our longing for transformation is the longing to become fully human, whereas we are currently stuck in something less than that. We long for immortality, strength, perfection...glory. We long to be free of selfishness and sin and sickness. Ultimately, we long to be transformed to such a degree that we can see God face to face and live.

Unfortunately, our hearts are fickle things. Divided, wavering, treacherous. I always thought that one scene in the matrix was a particular gem with respect to its insight into the folly of the human heart. The character of Cypher had had enough of reality. In the computer-generated world of the matrix, he enjoyed beautiful women, great steaks, and fine wines. But once Morpheus ripped him from his infantile bubble and he got a taste of the brutalities of life as it really was, his heart began to long for the illusory over the real. He betrayed his comrades-in-arms for one more round of delights in the matrix.

The Israelites in the wilderness longed to go back to Egypt (to slavery!) because they remembered the fleshpots and the leeks and onions (Numbers 11:4-6). We grow accustomed to the way things are and our hearts balk at pressing forward in faith. We come to Christ and begin to cast longing glances back to some of the pleasures of our former life. But this life is transitory, and the things we crave will one day come to nothing. New heavens and a new earth await the faithful, but it seems we are undecided as to whether or not that is worth having. Perhaps better to settle for the here-and-now, what we once knew so well.... It's like betraying our closest Friend for one more dip in the matrix. God help us.

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