Happy Wrinkle In Time Day! Fifty-six years after the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s novel of a young heroine traveling through time, the motion picture version is shepherded onto the screen by shaman of black girl magic Ava DuVernay. After weeks swooning over Black Panther, now is not the time to forget how much representation matters. A Wrinkle In Time is more than just a breakthrough in casting: it challenges the notion of who gets to be a hero and how.
DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time will star Storm Reid as Meg, a girl who travels in time to save her scientist father (Chris Pine) with help from three celestial beings played by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kialing and Oprah (who may in fact have just been playing herself). Like other films of late–Get Out, Hidden Figures and most notably Black Panther–the casting of A Wrinkle in Time brings a fresh face to the tired trope of the rugged Rambo-like hero.
Black women are the fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs. They are the most educated group in America. They are also mothers to the next generation of black women who will shatter the ceilings still stifling the black excellence we are enjoying today. After the muck of video vixens and tragic mulattos their mothers waded through, our young girls deserve smart capable characters that reflect their courage, intelligence and agency. A Wrinkle In Time gives girls a expansive vision of potential, encouraging them to dream big and risk bigger without fear.
A Wrinkle In Time also challenges another convention of the hero tale: violence. No matter how courageous and conscious our heroes are they always need to open a can of whoop-ass to get their job done. Every superhero uses his power in violent combat. While they often throw in a few pithy lines along the way, it is brute force that ultimatly solves every problem. No wonder we have a hard time not believing that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. Buried deep in the list of solutions to our gun problem is the need to address our cultural beliefs around violence. Our hero Meg is unlikely to do Bruce-Lee-level roundhouse kicks to save her dad. Instead, like people in the real world, her courage will take a different shape. The toolbox that she models for young girls has something other than an arm bar in it–solutions like knowledge, scientific thinking and compassion for others that girls (and the rest of us; looking at you,Trump) could use. We need more diplomacy, characters that aren’t afraid to do something other than destroy the world, and we need heroes who show us exciting solutions that are not based on killing other people.
Beyond the pettiness of our broken politics, human knowledge is advancing at a rapid pace. The ideas in A Wrinkle in Time about multiverses, fractured time, and infinite possibilities are not just science fiction like they mostly were in Le Guin’s own time. Quantum physics, gravitational waves and tesseracts are shifting from fantasy to provable theory–one step closer to becoming everyday reality. Our country is locked in a battle over simplistic binary ideas–left or right, black or white, Trump or the rest of us. Only by drawing on all the knowledge humanity has to offer and expanding our thinking into the multiverse of opportunities that exist can we free ourselves from the small minded structures of power created by small minded men to control the masses. A Wrinkle in Time encourages audiences to expand their minds, and evolve.
A Wrinkle in Time is a vision of a world beyond the flawed one we have built. This is what science fiction can do best–help us visualize our way beyond the boundaries of our knowledge, support the thinkers and creators in building a map to this new world. Meg is a girl of this moment, brave and empowered, afraid sometimes but unstoppable always. This movie is for the girls who are like Meg. May they see their own power writ large on the screen. This is for the world that needs to see those quiet girls, the ones off thinking, silently saving the world. May we see them, may we be them.