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5 Questions With Tilly Bridges

July 12, 2023

Red pill, blue pill? This lesbian author reinterprets The Matrix in her new tome.

Tilly Bridges (along with her wife and creative partner, Susan Bridges) is a writer of comics, teleplays, screenplays, and pioneer of audio dramas. The Bridges are the only married trans woman/cis woman writing team in Hollywood and their body of work runs deep and wide, and includes head writing for the 2021 Hugo Awards, 2023 Nebula Awards, writing for the new Monster High animated series, more than half a dozen comic anthologies, their unscripted podcast Tilly’s Trans Tuesdays and the Fallout role-playing games. Next up: Tilly’s fascinating new book, Begin Transmission: The Trans Allegories of the Matrix, which is out June 27. A cultural analysis of the Matrix trilogy through a transgender lens, it puts a unique spin on the game-changing film series that itself was helmed by two trans women, the Wachowski sisters.

GO Magazine: Describe for me the first time you saw The Matrix. Was it always a film that spoke deeply to you?

Tilly Bridges: I think my experience with it was similar to man [people’s]—my mind exploded, and my entire world changed. That’s hyperbole, but only a little. I was a long way from discovering and accepting my own transness, though I’d always known the world felt wrong and broken somehow. It resonated with me down to my very core, for reasons I didn’t understand. I mean I’m a sci-fi nerd and a writer, and so I loved it for all those reasons. It’s game-changing in so many ways. But this was something more, something deeper, and I had no idea what that was.

GO: What was it like viewing The Matrix films after coming out?

TB: I think my experience with it after accepting my transness was again similar to many– my mind exploded, and my entire world changed. It flipped everything I thought I knew about the movies upside-down. In fact, once I dove into uncovering and explaining the allegories, I found that they were so intrinsic, so vital, that the movies wouldn’t be the same without them. I can no longer watch them as just surface level scifi movies. Watching them is like seeing my own truth ripped from my heart and shown to everyone, bleeding and beating and screaming for the world to listen. There’s no coming back from that.

GO: While The Matrix trilogy speaks to the trans experience on a very broad scale, is there any specific part of that resonates most with your personal experience?

TB: It actually speaks very specifically to many facets of being trans, with incredible detail and nuance. Each movie covers a different aspect of our journey, of our lives, of what it means to be trans in this bizarro world we find ourselves in. I resonate with so much of it, in so many ways. Two of the big ones are with the character of Bane in Reloaded and Revolutions, who represents Neo’s internalized transphobia, and how difficult it is to root out all the implicit biases that society implants in us without our consent. The other is the “Burly Brawl” in Reloaded, which is transphobic society writ large when you’re an out trans person. It’s being attacked from all angles, by bigots trying to legislate us out of existence, by deadnaming and misgendering, by cis gatekeepers to trans healthcare and transition services, and so, so much more, all at the same time. And it’s every day of our lives.

GO: You have a sizable thread on Twitter analyzing The Matrix as a trans allegory. Was it upon writing that thread you considered compiling all that into a book?

TB: Yes. I’ve said before that this book was accidental, and it’s true. I didn’t set out to write it. When I began writing about trans issues under the Trans Tuesday hashtag (chronicling my transition, the experience of being a trans woman, and things you might not notice about society if you’re not outside the false dichotomy of the gender binary), I kept getting asked about the trans allegories of The Matrix. Not only was I already writing about trans issues, but I’m also a screenwriter, so people thought I might be able to explain it. I thought I’d do a thread on these movies I’d always loved, thinking that the allegory was likely to be fairly broad and generalized—not specific down to the minute details. That one thread turned into 24 threads, and then those got compiled, revised, and expanded upon for the book.

GO: Even though The Matrix has been confirmed as a trans allegory there are still those who struggle to see it. If you had to pick out a single moment/line/scene/etc. as the most irrefutably trans part of The Matrix what would it be?

TB: The movies cover the width and breadth of trans existence in ways cis people aren’t likely to spot or understand without context, so pointing to most of those isn’t going to help. And so often the refrain I hear is, “Well that’s just your interpretation.” And lots of it is. But some of it’s not. So, let’s just start at the beginning with something entirely empirical, an objective fact that you can look up for yourself. “Thomas Anderson” is Neo’s deadname, and it roughly translates to “twin of man, the manly, or the masculine.” And nobody accidentally picks that name for a series of movies that are intrinsically transgender down to their core. It’s not a coincidence. And there’s a thousand more details just like that, all the way through. Ask yourself why every character has the name they do, and what that says about things. The Wachowskis are telling you something important through every frame of every movie, but you’ve got to be willing to listen. I’m just a guide trying to help you find your way through.

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