'The Matrix' Creator Explains What The Red Pill Really Is and Mens Rights Activists Aren't Going to Be Happy

In a video for Netflix, The Matrix co-creator Lilly Wachowski broke down why the landmark 1999 science fiction film is a trans allegory, and some new implications about what taking the red pill really means is certain to get under a few men's rights activists' skins.

In a lengthy Twitter thread for Netflix Film, the streaming service broke down the film as a trans-narrative, where the company also shared the video of Wachowski speaking about the film. Wachowski came out as trans in 2016, four years after her sister and co-director Lana Wachowski made her first public appearance as a trans woman.

Vulture summed up The Matrix's narrative shortly in a 2019 analysis. "Neo has dysphoria. The Matrix is the gender binary. The agents are transphobia. You get it," author Andrea Long Chu wrote.

And then there’s the whole red pill, blue pill connection.

Not only is the pill literally Neo’s gateway to seeing the world as it is and the systems built to define and control his identity, but it’s also an apt metaphor for hormone therapy. pic.twitter.com/Bipr8p9gcr

— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) August 6, 2020

Netflix broke down so many of the allegorical references, including Keanu Reeves' character Neo taking on a new name and subsequently renounces his deadname. It also speaks about the red pill/blue pill dichotomy serving as a metaphor for estrogen hormone therapy, which Chu points out was literally a red pill in the 1990's.

Despite the narrative of the film being loaded with trans subtext, the "red pill" has taken on a vastly different meaning online, especially in terms of men's rights activists. The term was originally used to describe people who were aware of the "unpleasant truths" of the world, but it has widely been used by conspiracy theorists and subsequently, the men's rights movement. According to The Guardian in 2016, the "truth" that men's rights activists have supposedly been awakened to is a world dominated by women, where men can't express their issues without fear of retribution. To put it simply, the average Red-piller thinks, "Feminism: bad." The term was popular amongst men's rights activists and birthed the subreddit r/TheRedPill in 2012. Vulture reported that sexual frustration is also a driving force for red-pillers' vehement anti-feminism beliefs.

The red pill has also been taken on by the alt-right, as well as conspiracy theorists and white supremacists, according to New York Magazine. Each group's version of taking the red pill serves as a metaphor for being indoctrinated into whatever beliefs they hold.

Obviously, the hormone therapy subtext in The Matrix does some undermining of The Red Pill's beliefs. Even Wachowski has denounced prominent people using the meme. When Tesla founder Elon Musk tweeted the phrase, "take the red pill," and Ivanka Trump quote-tweeted it with "Taken," Wachowski responded, "F**k both of you." While Trump and Musk did not express which brand of red pill they subscribed to, Wachowski's denouncement is telling.

While Wachowski does not speak about the red pill metaphor in the video, she does touch on other trans themes. The director spoke about the character Switch and the original intentions for the character serving as a metaphor for what the sisters felt while making the film.

"The Matrix stuff was all about the desire for transformation, but it was all coming from a closeted point of view. We had the character of Switch, who was like a character who would be, y'know, a man in the real world and then a woman in the Matrix. That's both where our headspaces were," she said.

Wachowski also said that while she may not have actively been thinking about the trans themes of The Matrix, while creating it, her preference for sci-fi movies and books certainly did. "I don't know how present my trans-ness was in the background of my brain, while we were writing it, but it all came from the same sort of fire that I'm talking about, and because trans people exist in this-especially for me and Lana-we were existing in this world where the words didn't exist. So we were always living in a world of imagination. That's why I gravitated towards science fiction and fantasy," she said.

Lilly Wachowski's management company did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Lilly Wachowski attends the Planned Parenthood's Sex, Politics, Film, & TV Reception At Sundance on January 26, 2020 in Park City, Utah. Wachowski was interviewed in a new video from Netflix explaining the trans-allegory in "The Matrix." Getty/Dia Dipasupil