Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 young adult novel A Wrinkle in Time is a childhood classic for many but leaves much to be desired when it comes to representation of people of color. Though the characters' races are not explicitly mentioned, as a black woman reading the book, it soon became painfully obvious that I was not reflected in those pages. Ava DuVernay and her team changed that.
Hand-picked by Disney in 2016, Ava DuVernay became the first African American woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million. It is no surprise, particularly given movements such as #OscarsSoWhite and the current racial climate, that Disney wanted the film to resonate with a range of audiences.
DuVernay brings us into a multi-cultural fantasy universe—something we don't often see in mainstream Hollywood. This showcases the significance of Afrofuturism (and cultural and gender diversity in general) in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres.
Unlike in Ava’s past films, Selma and 13th, the topic of race does not take center stage in the story’s plot. However, Black culture is noticeable present if you are watching closely…
Here are seven unexpected traces of Black culture in the film A Wrinkle in Time that definitely were not included in L’Engle’s 1962 book:
- Mrs. Who (played by Mindy Kaling) expresses herself in quotes by notable people, including Chris Tucker and lyrics from Outkast’s “Git Up, Git Out.”
- Mrs. Who’s quilting brings to mind the African American quilting tradition, often used to send messages and for passing family stories from generation to generation.
- Meg is a student at James Baldwin Middle School, named for the renowned novelist and civil rights activist.
- Photos of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and other prominent African Americans are posted throughout the school halls.
- Meg (Storm Reid) and her mom, Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), show us that it is more than okay to be a Blerd (that’s a "Black Nerd," folks!).
- Meg and her mom's beautifully curly hair definitely makes us naturals proud!
- Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Witch, the oldest and most powerful of the celestial beings of the story's universe, guides the children along their multi-planet journey. With her words of wisdom and encouragement to tap into their power within, this is not far off from the role that Oprah plays in the lives of many in real life!
All too many Black children know the struggle of being mislabeled with behavioral problems and intellectual challenges by our public school systems; many also know what it's like to be raised by a single Black mother, longing for your father. Ava sheds light upon these issues as well.
In a time when there is much darkness in the world, A Wrinkle in Time inspires us all to be Warriors of the Light. Watch the trailer here.