Movies, Pop Culture

Critics might have hated A Wrinkle In Time but as a Black sci-fi lover, I can’t stop thinking about it

Black girls have been largely left out of this genre and I'm sick of begging for representation.

A Wrinkle In Time is the beloved science fiction novel (written by Madeleine L’Engle) which centers around Meg Murray, a fearless 12-year old who ends up traveling across dimensions to rescue her scientist father after he disappears. Along the way, Meg and her two younger siblings encounter three women called “The Mrs.” who help them thwart the effort of malevolent beings that attempt to throw them off of their path.  Over a half-decade after its release, the on-screen adaptation, finally premiered in theaters on February 26 of this year.

The film sticks closely to the source material (though it does take some creative liberties), except the fact the cast mirrors more closely to the diverse world we live in. Unlike the novel where Meg and her family are White, movie Meg (Storm Reid) is a curly haired, biracial girl with glasses. Two of The Mrs are played by Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling, who are of African and South Asian descent. The third is played by Reece Witherspoon, a White woman. Chris Pine rounds off the main cast as Dr. Calvin Murray — Meg’s father.

With Ava DuVernay at the helm, this also marks the first time that an African-American woman has directed a film with a $100 million dollar budget. All in all, the casting choices, as well as the team behind the movie, reflect the progress we’ve made as a society that just wasn’t a reality when the book was written.

[bctt tweet=”I’m an unapologetic nerd today, but growing up, I never felt comfortable embracing my true interests. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

As a young, Black woman, who loves all things science fiction, I nearly squealed when the news of the casting came out last year. I would have probably been excited regardless, considering that A Wrinkle In Time is the book that kick-started my love of science and fantasy novels. And knowing that the movie would feature so many people of color was the icing on the cake.

I’m an unapologetic nerd today, but growing up, I never felt comfortable embracing my true interests. Nor did I feel like there was much representation on screen in that genre for girls that looked like me. I’ve always felt that there were unspoken rules about what interests are suitable for Black people. Not to mention that the Black experience is often stereotyped — negatively, mind you — in the media, and oftentimes in our own community as well. I wish more people understood that Black people aren’t a monolith, and “Black” is a race, not a personality trait.

Knowing that A Wrinkle In Time’s diverse cast was going to challenge that narrative enthused me. To say that I was excited about this film, and wanted it to do well, is an understatement. Coming off of the heels of Black Panther, which brought in 1 billion dollars in 26 days, its release couldn’t have come at a better time.

[bctt tweet=”I’ve always felt that there were unspoken rules about what interests are suitable for Black people. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

That’s why I was disheartened to read so many Black people who were praising Black Panther in one tweet,  saying in another that they “weren’t here” for A Wrinkle In Time. Why? Well, among other things, because it was a children’s movie, or because it wasn’t a superhero film. Michael B. Jordan wouldn’t be taking off his shirt. Oh, and because the lead actress was mixed instead of dark-skinned. If you can think it, people have said it.

Whatever personal biases people may have about why the film isn’t the “right” kind of movie, I don’t think any of that compares to the cultural significance of it. Historically, Black girls have been largely left out of the booming YA market — in both books and on screen. (I’m still waiting for my Black Katniss Everdeen or Hermione Granger.) 

Sadly, films with Black leads that don’t fit a certain mold don’t seem to get that benefit of the doubt beforehand. When our films don’t sell, movie executives use it as an excuse to decrease the already limited roles out there for people of color.  

Movie studios don’t respond to public outcry alone. They respond to revenue. If Black Panther had bombed at the box office, regardless of what the end credits suggest, it would not be getting a sequel.

By judging A Wrinkle In Time prematurely, we’re saying “we don’t want more girls of color in roles like this” or “we’ll only support certain genres of diverse films.”  If we want movie studios to realize that mainstream audiences can appreciate movies with diverse casts, I think we need to show support to the ones that do get produced, so that the trend will continue.

[bctt tweet=”Historically, Black girls have been largely left out of the booming YA market — in both books and on screen.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In my honest opinion, it’s not even a matter of whether or not this is the “type” of movie you’d watch. It’s more so about ensuring that more of its kind will be made. So that, eventually, you’ll get to the movies that you do like.  

All in all, if you’re always spouting about representation, but are only referring to: movies made for adults, certain genres, or movies that fall in line with the stereotypical media perception of us, then you’re doing a disservice to the new generation. A generation maybe, just maybe, want to see themselves in a variety of roles — not just a select few.