I write a lot of feral sorts of women in many of my books. Maledicte, as likely to stab you as to speak to you; Sylvie, always ready to throw down and go for the throat; and Silene, whose dearest desire is to… well, telling you would be spoilers because I’m not done with those books yet. There’s more’n a handful of like-minded women in my short fiction.
I, myself, was a feral sort of child. Good parents, all of that, yet my brother and I were a tumbleweed of fighting and biting and scratching all the time. Too many thoughts and not enough words in the world to express them.
But it was all right, because I could read about Meg Murry. And she was a feral child. Poked with a metaphorical stick, she poked back, hard and fast and angry. She stood up for her small brother with instant fury and no real sense of perspective. She was as merciless on herself as she was on others. And she wanted justice. More than anything else, she felt the world’s unfairness keenly and wanted people to SORT IT OUT. I really adored Meg. I read A Wrinkle in Time until the book literally fell apart.
What this is all leading up to is my disappointment with the new movie of A Wrinkle in Time movie. I wanted to like it. I really really did. But Meg… she isn’t angry. She’s insecure. She feels… sanitized. The principal accuses her of being hostile, but… she’s just sullen. Locked down. She’s not my Meg. (no criticism of Storm Reid; I blame the writing/directing.) In the book, Meg attacks boys older than she is and comes home bruised and snappish, having defended Charles Wallace from their comments. In the movie… she carefully pops a basketball into her classmate’s face after a similar comment. It’s… deliberate. It’s calculated. What it isn’t is a savage instinctive reaction.
The whole movie (perhaps the whole movie, I admit I noped out after they arrived on Camazotz out of sheer boredom) just feels… tidied.
In the book, the Murrys live in a repurposed summer house that they retreated to after the father vanished. It’s an old building perched at the edge of old woods and very isolated. They’re under hurricane weather, and the house is shaking with the storm and Meg is savagely critical of herself for being afraid…. Then Mrs. Whatsit blows in. In the book, she, too, is a feral sort of creature, a scheming disaster of a personality trying to cadge Russian caviar for a sandwich because she knows its there. In the movie, we get Reese Witherspoon in ruffled-sleeved bedsheets, wearing glitter and gold. When Reese Whatsit goes back into the night and declares perkily that “Wild Nights are my Glory”, I… laughed. Because it’s the suburbs, and she’s under a street lamp, and there’s a bare puff of air to show that it’s a stormy night.
Sigh. I wanted to like it. But I couldn’t. Not when they stripped all the wild and strange pieces from the story and left us with a collection of sweet, but standard heroes on an adventure. In the book, Charles Wallace doesn’t speak in public, so people think he’s mentally deficient. In the movie, he tells off a teacher or two and chats easily with everyone. This easy comfort with other people really takes away from his trust in the Mrs. Ws and in Calvin. Part of the reason that everyone goes along with these strange women-like-things is because Charles Wallace trusts them.
In the book, Calvin is the kid (3rd of 11) in the wrong family; he doesn’t fit in and his mother is difficult and abusive–physically-run down (after 11 kids!) and prone to whacking at her kids with a soup ladle. In the movie, Calvin is an only child with the oh-so-familiar Mean Dad verbally abusing him for his failings. It’s just all so … familiar. It could be any fantasy movie.
I reread the book today, and it doesn’t stand up to all my memories–front-heavy, the climax choppy and truncated–but the savagery is still there. Meg is still the character I remember and love, and she deserved better than this. All the savage girls do.