We’re about to see a lot more criticism of siblings Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowskis’ films through a trans lens, with The Matrix Resurrections by Lana Wachowski set to hit theatres. It’s something I look forward to. There aren’t many Hollywood movies or pop culture that have openly trans creators.
Lilly Wachowski is quoted in The Wachowskis. Sensing Transgender by Cael M.Kegan. The Matrix is the most beloved film of the Wachowskis and is perfect for trans reading. Andrea Long Chu, a Vulture critic, summarizes it as Neo has Dysphoria. The Matrix defines gender binary. Transphobia is the agent. You get it.
The Wachowskis’ art could become static and trans art, as I caution them. Our understanding of the Wachowskis work and identity politics can be influenced by celebrity culture, identity politics, and ritualization of coming out. Although it would be easy to see the Wachowskis’ canon of trans-oriented films, this could lead us to rely too heavily on auteur theory in film.
The Director Is The King
Francois Truffaut, a filmmaker-critic, first coined the Auteur theory in 1954. He advocated original films directed by directors with distinctive stylistic signatures. Since Andrew Sarris in Hollywood in 1960s adapting the theory for Hollywood, the theory has been controversial but is now very popular. He suggested (in tongue-in-cheek), that the director IS king.
The director is the visionary behind the film according to the Auteur theory. Recognizing the signatures of filmmakers can be rewarding but a solid film should not be dependent on them. The auteur theory emphasizes the personal lives of storytellers in their public work. It’s easy to confuse authentic representation and marginalised storytellers when we speak about pop culture.
Trans Stories And Trans People
It makes sense that trans people tell trans stories. But, this quickly turns into an argument that trans people can only tell trans stories. This is particularly true for trans identities. Trans people do not always come out before sharing their work.
It is highly probable that Hollywood’s history has seen many trans filmmakers, we just didn’t know it. This logic had a profound impact on the Wachowskis’ 1996 feature, Bound. Keegan points out that the film was consider to be the most iconic lesbian cinema of the time. Their success in Hollywood is not due to their being in the closet. Lana was born in 2010 between the time she direct Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. After threats by the Daily Mail, Lilly was forced to come out in 2016.
It begs the question, If the Wachowskis never came out (especially Lilly’s, as she was force to), would these films still feel transgender? Their stories would still be a hit with many fans who have come out since The Matrix. It’s possible. Many trans people identify with stories about finding your true self, and fighting to liberate others from the constraints of normative living.
Unique Career Path
Without the Wachowskis’ unique career path, could a box-office smash like Jupiter Ascending, which is both ambitious and charmingly girlish, have been possible? It’s gratifying to retrospectively analyze their work as trans. Keegan recognizes revisitation as part of trans meaning making but it would not be satisfying to limit one director’s filmography. This is a chance to examine the limits of auteur theories and to consider how much we can rely on the personal lives of directors to influence the way we perceive media.
The danger of Auteur theory is that it leaves out interesting narratives about gender from directors (and other filmmakers) who aren’t out in the closet or simply tell insightful stories without actually being. To find the metaphors of love, and monstrosity in Guillermo del Toro’s films that resonate strongly with our experiences, we don’t have to look for a trans crew member. We can just as easily watch Alien and Hackers and think oh, that’s my gender.
This argument that only trans creators can tell stories is dangerous. It implies that people are naturally deceitful if they keep their private lives and privacy safe. It must be accept that anyone can tell a compelling story about gender.