Friday, August 8, 2014

Heroines, Plain and Awkward

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?)"

It's an interesting question.  Can we love the star of a movie who doesn't look beautiful?  Can we believe that a plain/awkward/ugly female character could still get the guy?  Until recently, male leads in movies could be attractive in a variety of ways.  Women have always had a narrow range of beauty.

In real life, plenty of people find love, regardless of how they look.  Why don't we see this more often in the movies?

At least if we don't have that plot in the movies, we have it in numerous books.

I've written numerous times about the importance of A Wrinkle in Time to me as a child.  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."

The book also holds up well for adult readers.  Several years ago, I wrote this post about reading the book again as an adult. 

When I reread the post this morning, 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.

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


Wendy said...

I love what you have to say about Meg and Calvin. And yes, he has allowed himself to find a way to fit in, and that may have a lot to do with being male and being athletic (and tall). Thanks for taking up the prompt.

Kristin said...

Thanks for thinking of our exchange as a window to a prompt!