The recent release of Disney’s big-budget adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time was a critical and box office disappointment. However, the film, along with Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, have been noted for possibly signaling a shift to more diverse choices among Hollywood decision makers and audiences in what they’ll accept with casting lead roles. The industry is still one where less than a quarter of films have a female lead, and still trying to adjust in a post-Weinstein new #MeToo environment. With A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle’s main theme centers on the triumph of accepting differences over the conformity of what someone, or something, believes life should be. And the main character of Meg does not fit in and accept the social roles expected of being a “girl.” So, with this in mind and the decision to have the character played by Storm Reid, much has been written about not only a movie with a female lead, but also a lead of color, since “black women’s anger is policed even more fiercely and more stringently than the anger of white women.”
The novel has a place in my heart since it was the first work of literature I became aware of as literature, since my fourth grade teacher read from it for an hour a day every day. Little did 9-year-old me know the novel I was listening to had been rejected over two dozen times by publishers before finding a home. According to L’Engle, the general criticism of the story she heard was it was too complex, especially for children, and too uncertain as to what kind of story it is (e.g., science fiction or fantasy). But another aspect of the rejections was the concept of having a female lead character in fictional genres where those characters are expected to be male. Would an audience accept the hopes, dreams and ambitions of a girl?
That was in the 1960s, but much of those biases still plague our society here in the 21st century. The recent concerns over Nancy Pelosi’s impact on Democratic congressional chances has been predicated on the former speaker of the House’s negative public image. But why does that image exist? It would be easy to write it off as just another example of negative Republican media messaging doing its damage, but is it more than just that? Some argue there might be something more ingrained and fundamentally sexist, where visible aspects of female ambition engender negative reactions in contrast to their male counterparts. If true, this not only has implications for women in politics and business, but also perceptions of women throughout society, and how they’re depicted (or wish to be depicted) in media. It also opens up a chicken or egg debate over whether these perceptions are fed by media, or if the media is reflection of those already ingrained biases.
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