Saturday, August 9, 2014

Heroines: Flawed, Awkward, and Full of Grace

On Facebook Tuesday, news zipped around that the director of Frozen would be making a movie version of A Wrinkle in Time.

I wrote:  "Oh the important casting questions. I hope they don't make the Meg character all glammed up. She needs to be studious and Calvin needs to be athletic, and they can find each other regardless."

Bookgirl then responded:  "I also immediately went to the casting of Meg. It's kind of like Jane Eyre. They never make Jane plain enough. They never make Meg awkward enough. (Might make an interesting blog post; would truly plain or awkward heroines make audiences too uncomfortable in a way that book readers aren't?)"

Bookgirl and I then went on to write further on this subject on our blogs.  In her post that elaborates on our Facebook exchange, Bookgirl sums up my feelings in two sentences:  "Meg is an awkward, difficult teenager whom people love anyway, and I think that’s part of the reason so many of us identify so deeply with her. She was not someone we aspired to be; she was who we actually were."

I wrote further about these topics in this post on my creativity blog. 

Since we've written, I've thought about the spiritual dimensions of the book and how the movie will deal with those.  There's the good vs. evil plot line--that one will be easy for the film to cover.

There are the three mystical creatures who guide the human characters.  What do they represent?  Dead stars?  Guardian angels?  The triune God?  The book is delightfully vague.  I suspect the film won't be.

As I thought about these topics, I've revisited the other posts I've written on A Wrinkle in Time.   Several years ago, I wrote this post about reading the book again as an adult.  Reading it again, this part leapt out at me:  "Meg is perfect, just the way she is.  In fact, all of these characters turn out to be perfect, despite their imperfections.  It's such a great message for a world that tries to get us to conform, to change, to squeeze ourselves into costumes that do not fit.  Meg doesn't have to slim down, to use the right make-up, to get a better hairstyle, to get the guy.  Meg doesn't have to settle down so that she can do well in school and get into a good college.  Her parents continue in their scientific pursuits, even though they aren't successful in traditional ways.  Charles Wallace is allowed to grow up at his own pace.  Calvin finds a family that fits him better, but he doesn't have to reject his birth family."

I was also struck that in this book, Meg's flaws turn out to be the very strengths that she needs to win the day.

We might not think of this quality of the book as particularly religious or Christian, but it is.  For me, the central message of Christianity is that God loves us exactly as we are; after all, God has created us and delights in us.  I know that not everyone gets this message in the Christian churches they attend, and that, in fact, some people get the exact opposite message.  Let me not digress into a discussion of the central heresies of the faith and who gets what wrong.  I will assert until I die that a God who loves us so much that God comes to live among us--that's a God who loves us and delights in us.

The world tells Meg she's imperfect and needs improvement.  But Meg's fierceness and stubbornness are traits which save her and her family.

If the movie gets this part right, it could be a very powerful movie, even if the casting decisions aren't ideal.


John Flanagan said...

By all means speak of God's love, but do not neglect His righteousness and His commandments regarding a neutral or careless attitude about tolerance of sin. There are Christians who only regard God's love, and expect to have God and also retain their favorite sins at the same time. The word of God addresses His love, and also declares His requirements, like repentance, faith in Christ as Savior, about being born again, and so forth. To understand the mind of God on a fundamental level, a Christian must read the Bible, including those difficult verses which discuss the penalty for sin and unbelief, and remember that His love should not be taken casually, while we seek to live according to our own desires.

Wendy said...

As I recall, the TV movie I referenced in my post concentrated on the science fiction/adventure elements of the story (including a big snake-like monster under the floor instead of just a brain) to the detriment of character development and the foundational story of faith and grace. I'm sure they gave a nod to those things, though, as it was not evidently particularly memorable, I couldn't tell you how much. If they can bring in those elements--and with some degree of subtlety--it might be powerful indeed (even if Meg doesn't wear glasses, but she should).