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Art Critique Essay Humanities Social Sciences Theory

Mirror Scene: Transgender Aesthetics in The Matrix and Boys Don’t Cry

By Cael M. Keegan, 2021

What is trans cinema, and how do we know? Drawing on methods from the emergent field of trans studies, this chapter takes up the classic trope of the mirror scene as technique for expanding the archive of purportedly “transgender” cinema. Redeployed as a beside strategy, the mirror scene reveals contemporaneous films Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and The Matrix (1999) as mirror images of one another—a historical meeting place reflecting inverse explorations of transgender representation at the turn of the millennium. Reconsidering Boys Don’t Cry’s legacy in light of The Matrix’s trans authorship and aesthetics, the chapter works dually across these film’s bodies to illustrate how competing trans* imaginaries were developing within the late twentieth-century’s popular cinematic frame.

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