“Lana and Lilly Wachowski” by Cael Keegan— Sensing Transgender

Keegan, Cael M. “Lana and Lilly Wachowski”, University of Illinois Press, 2018.

Sensing Transgender

Amos Lassen

Lana and Lilly Wachowski have redefined the technically and topically possible while joyfully defying audience expectations. They make and respond to visionary films (“The Matrix” trilogy and “Cloud Atlas”) have made them the world’s most influential transgender media producers, and their coming out retroactively put trans aesthetics at the very center of popular American culture.

Cáel M. Keegan views the Wachowskis’ films as an approach to trans experience that maps a transgender journey and the promise we might learn “to sense beyond the limits of the given world.” Keegan reveals how the filmmakers take up the relationship between identity and coding, inheritance and belonging, and how transgender becoming connects to a utopian vision of a post-racial order. Along the way, he theorizes a trans* aesthetic that explores cinema to create new social worlds, new temporalities, and new sensory inputs and outputs. What we read here demonstrates how their embodied transgender experience is the central component of their aesthetic vision, and “how transgender experience has become paradigmatic of visual semiotic practices in the digital media environment.”

Keegan gives us clear and close readings of the entire Wachowski filmography, and also maps generative points of overlap and intersection between cinema studies and trans studies. This is the first book to consider the transgender content of the Wachowskis’ cinema. Their  trans cinema of the Wachowskis is not just disruptive and wildly imaginative, although it is definitely that. It also represents an expansion of the popular imagination and a very different sense of life in and beyond. Keegan gives a masterful account of the Wachowskis’ world.

This is both a great cinema study and a look at transgender I’ve not encountered before. This is a perfect theoretical and analytical resource for readers who enjoy cinema and gender studies. This book draws on phenomenology and heuristics in making its case for narratology and notes prominent voices from the research field.
Keegan explores individual examples of films and provides multiples scenes and elements in making the case for analysis.  His work is thoughtful, well-developed, and wonderful for building conversation about society and art.

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