Last night was the world premiere of the long awaited “Wrinkle In Time” movie and both at the premiere and at the press junket the day before the running theme was inclusion is strength. Racial inclusion in front of and behind the camera, the normalization of interracial relationships, gender inclusion where the girl is the hero and the boy is vunerable and there is nothing wrong with that, and the inclusion of joy in a world that takes so much pleasure in being cynical and dark.
Listening to these stars talk about how important this movie, this book, this process was for them was so heartening. So often when one talks about the need for representation online it can feel like shouting into the void and all that’s listening are trolls determined to shoutdown any inkling of weakness in the status quo.
For so long the insistence has been “it doesn’t matter as long as it’s a good story” when people point out the lack of diversity behind the camera even with media that is supposedly “diverse” has dominated the naysayers and to hear Reese Witherspoon talk about what a unique and amazing experience filming on this set was such an “I feel seen” moment.
“In all seriousness she creates an opportunity for a filmmaking experience I’ve never had before in 27 years of making movies. I’ve never seen that kind of inclusion behind the scenes. When you’re talking about the art it’s so important that inclusion is part of that conversation but having that behind the camera infuses the movie with a different kind of energy. We talk about changing the stories we tell, we have to change the story tellers.”
“She doesn’t just make a movie she makes an experience for everyone. she cares about what happens in front of the camera and she cares about what happens behind the camera. Everyone feels like they are important, special, valued.”
And Rowan Blanchard, who after filming her scenes reached out to Ava to see if she could shadow her to learn more about directing spoke about that experience in the environment that Ava created. A teen girl SHOULD feel safe and it’s sad that it’s so hard to find environments where they can.
“There is something so sacred about me coming on set as this young girl and shadowing a woman of color on a set that is so incredibly safe, like statistically safe–because it has more women and more people of color and it is literally a safer set. There is something so special and unique about that that I don’t think I would have been able to experience on any other set.”
Oprah too felt the power of the set. Seeing Ava get that Disney money was everything:
It makes me well inside, fills my heart every time I think about Ava and her dreads and her sneakers and these big cranes, all of these men running around taking direction from her…to see her orchestrate all of that was powerful and inspiring. It touches the part of us that recognizes oh yeah we can do that, we’ve always been able to do that.
Oprah also had a lot to say about the power of women, the importance of lifting each other up and being true to who you are. How else would we have Oprah Winfrey or Ava Duvernay unless they followed their own voices?
One of the great joys of being a woman on the planet is you get to lift other women up and you understand that that is at the core of you being lifted because you did not get here by yourself…My favourite line is “do you know how many millions of events had to occur in order for you to be exactly the way you are”…Within each of us there is an internal gps that is your voice, that is louder, stronger, more profound. That is connected to the greater voice that is the universe and your only job on earth is to be able to hear it and follow it.
Listening to the stars articulate how they felt about Meg Murray herself both what the character in the book meant growing up and what seeing Storm Reid playing her on the big screen felt like they were reaching to my 9 year old self, especially when Bellamy Young started off talking about how much Meg meant to her with “as a geeky kid who was full of self-doubt” because Big Mood:
“To have Storm be our Meg for the next generations to come…it’s new all over again but the message remains so important your faults are your strengths, what you fear in yourself will free you and once you embrace that and share with the universe, much less the world, you won’t just save yourself you’ll save the rest of us.”
Chloe and Halle, still young adults themselves at 18 and 20 got to write the song Warrior for the movie and they based it on the book and the movie but what they said about the trailer and watching it over and over again while writing really hit me. Just that snippet was so inspiring:
It’s so important for young girls all around the world to see them being powerful and being represented in such a strong light feeling that self empowerment we got from the trailer and we’re writing a love letter to ourselves talking about being powerful in all the thing that us as young girls can do
And this movie isn’t just important for girls. Zach Galifinakas brought up such a great point about how important it is for boys to be able to see themselves as vulnerable, to see that it’s ok to not always be macho and it’s definitely ok to follow a girl. The idea that boys are better and stronger than girls and shouldn’t show emotion is drilled in young and that needs to stop:
It’s nice for young boys to see that it’s ok to have a sensitive side of you I think when young boys of this climate are seen as sensitive they’re made fun of that means but it really means they’re stronger. I wish we would change that. We need balance, it’s time for balance.”
Meg Murray herself, Storm Reid knows the importance of the role she took on, knows the spotlight she was catapulted into last night. 6th grade when she read the book and 8th grade when she was cast as Meg and she’s changing the world.
“I feel like it’s so important for me to be playing Meg and be representing Meg…to be that for little African American girls to let them know they can dream and they can do whatever they want to do, even though they have faults or challenges, whatever they think is stopping them they should just let that go. Representation is everything, we should all be represented and to be represented in the right way is even more important.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw was hesistant to take on the role of Doctor Kate Murray partially because she’d never played a mom before and didn’t know if she was ready but then
When I saw a picture of Storm and my heart melted because I saw myself in her and it reminded of the fact that when I was growing up there were no heroes who looked like myself and Storm front and center so it was a very important moment.
She and Chris Pine (Doctor Alex Murray) also talked about how important the normalization of their interracial relationship is. “It’s 2018!” Mbatha-Raw said and honestly as a brown girl growing up with a white dad I appreciated it so much. Yes there’s a lot of discourse to be had but at the end of the day, in your house, it’s not my white parent and my brown parent, it’s just mom and dad. It was so great when they were talking about how Meg is an outcast at school not because of her skin colour but because her dad is a weirdo, a reason any kid can relate to.
When Mindy Kaling talks about growing up a little brown girl loving science fiction and fantasy, I felt the ache of loving something that doesn’t love you back deep in my bones. Mindy has waited 30 years for this, I’ve waited 20, college age brown girls have waited 10, and knowing that little brown girls growing up now only have another 10 days to wait is everything. So often people fight diversity assuming it’s just pandering and not that important but they couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I loved science fiction and fantasy growing up but it was a genre that largely did not love me back. I never saw any representation of a dark-skinned Indian woman, it’s a really peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that shows you no love back. It’s such a pure love, because you’re not getting anything from it.”
“I wish I could talk to the little version of myself and tell her that if she just waited 30 years she would see something like this. it’s really incredible, when you grow up loving sff you love it even if you don’t see anyone who looks like you in it and I hope filmmakers will be inspired by this and continue to do it.”
“To be part of this, to be on a green screen stage in harnesses because you’re doing a science fiction/fantasy movie, it’s so fun because I finally feel welcomed with open arms from something that has ignored me completely. that is so profound, and if that can be something that the miniature version of me could watch and be excited by, I think that’s such a huge thing.”
Ava knows the truth though. She knows that diversity isn’t just a game or a fad, that it’s real and important and that representation matters.
It’s about time we saw a different kinds of representation of people of we show people that everyone belongs, everyone has a seat at the table everyone come into the story why not why would you not want it that way it’s so much better at a party when you have all different kinds of people.
And just as importantly she knows that representation doesn’t just matter when it’s time to tell specific real world stories and that brown and black lives are more than just pain. That the world is more than just pain. And that as nice as they are, you don’t need super powers, yourself is enough.
It’s not for cynics it’s just to open up and be free while you watch it, particulary for girls who never see themselves at the center of the story like this. She’s not a jedi she’s not a superhero, I love those movies but she’s just a regular girl in a plaid shirt and she saves the world.
This is the kind of story, this is the kind of cast, this is the kind of joy you get when you put in the work to create an inclusive and welcoming environment. Ava curated an amazing cast and created what is hopefully the beginning of a new normal. Lena Waithe, actress, producer, screenwriter, former production assistant of Ava Duvernay had this to say at the premiere:
A black woman directing a 100mill movie, grateful to disney for doing that that’s what #timesup all about, women of colour having opportunities like this. Having brown people in front don’t matter if there’s no black people in back to make sure the images are accurate… you gotta make sure we’re there in the back telling our stories so that way we don’t get them misconstrued.