A Wrinkle in Time is a beloved 1962 children’s book set in an all-white environment, now systematically reimagined to fit the Current Year. Though its production budget was only $100 million, A Wrinkle in Time had an extraordinary marketing/advertising budget of $150 million, equal to Black Panther. As part of this marketing effort, black director Ada DuVernay portrayed her casting of character Meg Murry (white in the novel) as a black woman as a political victory. As she put it in an interview, she was tapping into “black girl magic.”
I mean, that’s such a radical idea as a woman of color, as anyone who’s outside the industry contract of who’s usually put forth as the hero in cinema. To deconstruct that, to unpack that, is really what attracted me to it.The book’s white author, Madeleine L’Engle, once said, “Of course I’m Meg,” in regard to her heroine’s identity. [Madeleine L’Engle, Author of the Classic ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ Is Dead at 88, by Douglas Martin, New York Times, September 8, 2007]. Yet today, the character’s whiteness is nothing less than a moral failing, a kind of aggression against young black girls. The New York Times even ran an Op-Ed unpacking these racial ramifications:
[Directors Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler Want to Transform Worlds, by Kyle Buchanan, Vulture, December 29, 2017]
But for African-American girls like me, identification with Meg was not as easy…Not surprisingly, the Main Stream Media pushed hard for A Wrinkle in Time, claiming that buying a ticket was a political act [Watching ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a political act, by Kerra Bolton, CNN, March 9, 2018]. Yet despite journalistic cheerleading and a cast featuring possible presidential aspirant Oprah Winfrey, the film had a weak $34 million opening.
Rereading it as a 42-year-old African-American woman, I started scouring “A Wrinkle in Time” for that original sentence or scene of identification in which my 7-year-old eyes saw myself in that all-white setting.
[I Saw Myself in ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ But I Had to Work Hard., by Salamishah Tillet, March 9, 2018]
Why did this happen? Because Black Panther is not a diverse film: it's a black film, with a few white faces tossed in.
But A Wrinkle in Time was a book by a white woman about a white heroine, which Disney allowed to be reimagined by a black supremacist. Indeed, Ava DuVernay says she only took the job because she was allowed to cast the protagonist as black. (Guess what she’s blaming for the bad reviews?—‘A Wrinkle In Time; Director Ava DuVernay Uses Racism To Explain Away Bad Reviews, by Tyler O’ Neil, PJ Media, March 14, 2018.) But it’s still fundamentally a white film in blackface, not a story about and for blacks.
Blacks rallied in huge numbers to see their preferred story, Black Panther:
In the U.S., 37% of the movie’s overall audience was African-American, which is well above the norm as the average movie audience is about 15% African-American, according to box office tracking company ComScore and Screen Engine.In contrast, minorities did not turn out for A Wrinkle in Time.
... [An Especially Diverse Audience Lifted 'Black Panther' to Record Box Office Heights, Fortune, February 26, 2018] Link in original
Even though A Wrinkle in Time had a marketing campaign which sought to hook a diverse moviegoing crowd, African American and Hispanic crowds turned out respectively at 18% and 14% along with 54% Caucasian per ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. Compare this to Black Panther‘s first weekend which pulled in 37% African American, 36% Caucasian and 17% Hispanic…Partially, this is because A Wrinkle in Time is simply not a good film. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has a 43 percent (out of 100) rating from professional reviewers, and an embarrassing 37 percent audience score. To put these numbers in perspective, a much maligned 2003 made for TV version of A Wrinkle in Time (featuring an almost entirely white cast) 42 percent audience score.
A Wrinkle in Time just doesn’t cut it profit-wise with regard to this $100M-plus production… finance sources do not see A Wrinkle in Time breaking even.
[‘Black Panther’ Rules 4th Frame With $41M+; ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ At $34M: A Diversity & Disney Dominant Weekend, Deadline, March 11, 2018]
But much of the success of Black Panther is due to the religious zeal of black viewers to see the film again and again. They don’t want “diversity” or black characters in white stories. They want blackness. Black Panther is like Tyler Perry’s career on a mass scale.
Blacks do not feel the same way about Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. She’s just a character, not an avatar of a race.
Of course, no white person really identifies with the likes of Marvel’s Thor, Captain America or Doctor Strange. But turnabout is not (apparently) fair play. Whites heroes are not going to get similar star treatment. Meg Murry is now a non-white hero, the whiteness of America’s past now replaced by the vibrancy of America’s non-white future. While blacks can see heroes they identify with onscreen, young white girls must live vicariously through heroines of color. Schoolchildren will only know of Disney’s multicultural bomb.
What does this mean? The racial polarization of the country that is affecting institutions like the NFL is now affecting films.
Needless to say, this isn’t a good decision for the studio financially. Yet it is a mistake to believe studios only care about making money. A Wrinkle in Time accomplishes the goal of removing whites from their own culture and earning points from the Main Stream Media for promoting diversity. Disney evidently believes this is worth losing a few million dollars for.
And until whites a.k.a. Americans regain control over their own institutions of cultural production, there’s no reason to believe this trend won’t intensify.
Paul Kersey[Email him] is the author of the blog SBPDL, and has published the books SBPDL Year One, Hollywood in Blackface and Escape From Detroit, Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White and Second City Confidential: The Black Experience in Chicagoland. His latest book is The Tragic City: Birmingham 1963-2013.