A Wrinkle in Time’s Representation is Just as Important as Black Panther
Like most movies for and about women, “Wrinkle” is being dismissed as not as relevant or important as one that is being marketed to the masculine cinematic gaze.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is a classic science fiction fantasy novel that has graced the hands of children for decades. The new movie, directed by Ava DuVernay, places a young, Black girl as the main protagonist and fills out the cast with people of color (POC). This is a huge deal, so why is it not spoken of with the same reverence as Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther”? The answer is sexism and misogynoir.
“Black Panther” is an important film for diversity across various spectrums. It’s a blockbuster movie that features a majority Black cast with major names attached to it, the merchandising is aimed at Black children, it’s actually being advertised and supported by the studio. Its existence in the pop culture scene and what it means for representation in media cannot be understated.
The same can be said for “Wrinkle”, but when support was called for in making its opening weekend just as spectacular as what is promised for “Black Panther”, many Black male “nerds” scoffed at the idea. Because to them, this film was not on the same level. Where are the memes? The think pieces? The promises to show up with your kids, family, neighbors, and everybody on opening weekend?
“A Wrinkle In Time” is the newest film version of the story, there have been a few before but this one is unique because it has made the main character, Meg Murry (Storm Reid), a Black child. The first point of contention for many is that she is of mixed heritage, her father is white. Because she’s not “all Black” then that is given as a reason to dismiss the importance of this portrayal for Black and Brown girls.
That is bullshit.
The reason that this film is not getting the support from the culture that it should is because it’s a “girl movie,” a space in entertainment that is woefully under respected, especially when it centers on women of color, as this one does. This film is being marketed for female audiences and the first merchandise we’ve seen from it are actual Barbies. Like most movies for and about women, “Wrinkle” is being dismissed as not as relevant or important as one that is being marketed to the masculine cinematic gaze.
This is a story about a smart girl who goes on an adventure to save her father, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine). Although there are action moments, it is not an action film, it is a mystery and the story requires cooperation and understanding as opposed to physical prowess or violence. This isn’t a criticism of more conventional science fiction films, this is just a statement of differences.
Just like in “Black Panther”, there are big names attached to the production, with DuVernay directing, Oprah, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon all starring. The previews show that there are using special effects to build a magical world and this is not a low budget feature but the calls for support are just not there. In fact, when people, rightfully, point out what a film like “Wrinkle” means for young girls of color, much of Black male nerdom pushes back against it as if giving space to this film somehow undermines the success of “Black Panther”.
The issues around this illustrate the sexism and misogyny — especially towards Black women — that still exist in the Black community as well as world of fandom. This work, that centers a Black girl, is not as important as a work that centers a Black male.
Because the movie isn’t wrapped up the trappings of the male cinematic gaze, it’s not considered as groundbreaking. But it is a groundbreaking movie. It is an important movie.
This is also wrapped up in cultural Blackness which seeks to push back against colorism in our media — “Black Panther” is undoubtedly a Black movie which has been given multiple cues to that culture. From the location (a fictional country in Africa) to the soundtrack and the costumes, it is very, very Black. “A Wrinkle In Time” does not share those same conventions. It’s fair to say, from what we can tell in the trailer, that there’s nothing “Black” about the movie save for some of the actors — but with our media landscape as it is with Black people portrayed in non-stereotypical roles so rarely, the fact that the only “Black” thing about the movie is the color of some characters’ skin IS important and worth supporting.
“Wrinkle” takes place in a fantasy world but it doesn’t make up its #BlackGirlMagic. Meg can be just about any little Black girl who is having an adventure and although the representation in “Panther” is so, so important, the fact that Meg can so easily be substituted for any other Black girl is also important. This character shows that you don’t have to be exceptional, you don’t have to be from some far-off land. Adventure is around the corner, even for Black girls.
This is a film that needs support so that we can have more films like this. So that we can have more movies where Black girls go on magical adventures. Where we see more WOC being magical in a fantastical way. It is different from “Black Panther” but “A Wrinkle in Time” deserves every ounce of our support to ensure that we see more media where Black and Brown girls can take the spotlight in science fiction and fantasy settings.
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