This is a musing about the film A Wrinkle in Time directed by Ava DuVernay. This is not exactly a review, but it is a set of thoughts that happened as I read the mixed reviews; and then watched the energy and wanderlust of children I saw in the movie theater watching the film. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but A Wrinkle in Time is not the same rollercoaster that Black Panther is. These are two different films. Yet, it is ironic (and heartwarming) that Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther, has designated Ava DuVernay his “Big Sister.” Coogler wrote a beautiful public letter to her; and he also noted in an interview that Ava had to go through some mess that she won’t ever talk about publicly. I know what Coogler—who I plan to adopt as my son if his parents will share him—meant when he said that Ava DuVernay had gone through some stuff…She is the first Black woman to helm a big budget film and she was adapting Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s book that has been in circulation since the early 1960s. And L’Engle herself had to suffer through 26 rejections from publishers and self-righteous Christians that disliked the fact that she aligned Jesus with the Buddha and other “saviors” in the same book. So go figure?
Now with that said, let me tell you what I got from A Wrinkle in Time. First, the hero (or heroine) of the story is a little Black girl named “Meg Murray” (played by the incredible Storm Reid). Meg Murray is the adopted daughter of an interracial couple, both of whom are scientists. The first thing you notice about her is that her father’s disappearance is weighing her down socially. Both she and her younger brother “Charles Wallace Murray” (portrayed by the adorable Deric McCabe) are getting into trouble at school. Meg wears glasses; the kids tease her; and her grades have slipped. What also shines through is her love for her father and her occasional doubts about whether or not she will ever find him. Eventually, she heads out with the help of “Mrs Which,” “Mrs Who,” and “Mrs Whatsit”**, with her little brother “Charles Wallace” and friend “Calvin” (played by Levi Z. Miller) along for the ride.
Before the film was over, I watched little girls and boys of all shades and ethnicities in the movie theater watch a little Black girl literally save the world. WE have never had a Black girl be this kind of hero in a film. I watched two little girls get up in the theater and dance their own little dance to Sade, who came out of semi-retirement to lend her musical gifts to this film. I watched a young 40-something Black father sit with his 11-year-old daughter; and I watched him glance at her like my own father did when he was watching to see if I was enjoying a movie. I had my moments of nostalgia and I would be lying if I said you shouldn’t bring along a few tissues. Yet, what the film delivers most is staunch warnings against uniformity, against not believing in yourself, and against making decisions solely based on fear. Before it’s over you think about everything from those times when you were jealous, when you were mean to someone or when you underestimated others or yourself. It is, as one person wrote, “A love letter to children.” And in this moment it was a little Black girl that delivered it.
Now, a few reviewers got it right when they said that this film is a family movie where kids are the primary and central audience. (A reviewer named Mark Hughes wrote an incredibly insightful review of A Wrinkle in Time for Forbes Magazine which honestly surprised me. He thought so much more about the intersections of race and gender than most white or black movie reviewers that I have ever read, so I read what he wrote twice.) Children need their own space and their own entertainment. In an increasingly ADULT-centric world of self-absorbed adults, it is mandatory. But for me, the film meant so much more.
I haven’t been a little Black girl for a long time. I’m now an AARP Black woman. But like “Meg Murray,” I know what it means when your father believes in your intellectual abilities. We still live in a male-dominated world; and with less than 7 percent of CEOs being female and only 14 percent of films in Hollywood directed by women and even fewer directed by women of color, the numbers reinforce this domination, which is why director Ryan Coogler’s support of Ava DuVernay and his acknowledgement of what he knows she and women go through matters tremendously. WE don’t get this kind of support and acknowledgement too often. And girls and women get judged all the time based on nothing more than their physical appearance. In this film we see what that looks like and how it feels. Importantly, Black women and girls who are assertive, who give themselves permission to be righteously angry, and insist on their right to take charge of their lives are often called the typical “Angry Black Woman” or worse; they’re/we’re called “B*tches.”
In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murray’s alleged faults become what she uses to change the world she inhabits. Those faults become her strengths. The film, like few others, gives young females the right to have flaws like all other human beings. For a change, and for a couple of hours, little Black girls in particular, and girls in general are not forced into those tragic two-dimensional “either/or” boxes. Instead, it becomes okay, even if only in fantasy, to be exactly who one is rather than some stultifying version of what the world and society expects one to be. That’s all I’m going to tell you except take a child with you to see this film. If you have forgotten what it feels like to be a kid, I am so very sorry for your tragic loss. Kids have an uncanny way of seeing things clearly when the adults miss the lessons or avoid the lessons altogether. That’s why I love children and hang around them every chance I get…Without them, I/we would be amoral and dumb as a box of rocks!
**Author Madeleine L’Engle insisted that the abbreviation “Mrs” have no period in her book A Wrinkle in Time. That idiosyncracy has been respected in this blog.
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