“This is a GREAT poster - but don’t they want little boys to see this too…?”
On February 25, this tweet was sent out into the universe by YouTube host Grace Randolph, accompanied by a poster from the new Disney movie, A Wrinkle in Time. Immediately, it received backlash.
Responders to the tweet wondered what about the advertisement was “girly.” It featured a profile of the female lead made up of a kaleidoscope of colors and sharp lines, creating shapes containing a scene or character from the film.
“It wasn’t something that seemed to say, ‘Hey guys are included in this adventure as well,’” Randolph said over a phone interview. “[Meg’s] the leader and that should totally be played up, but they minimized any of the guy characters. They also used a color palette that is traditionally female.”
Based on the famous children’s book of the same name, the film, directed by Selma’s Ava DuVernay, follows stubborn social outcast Meg Murray (Storm Reid) as she travels through time, dimensions, and all things sci-fi to find her missing father (Chris Pine). Although accompanied by both a younger brother and a male love interest, the cast is strongly women-led, also starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling as The Mrs., inter-dimensional beings sent to guide the kids on their quest.
The aesthetics are bright colors, high contrasts, and whimsical special effects. The trailer alone is enough to make any adult stare in awe, but will it captivate young boys into getting tickets?
Randolph uses her channel, “Beyond the Trailer,” to critique films and related advertisements. She said that after seeing the movie herself, she’s sticking with her initial critique.
Deadline reports that the audience on March 9, the Friday of opening weekend, was 70 percent women.
“There’s so much entertainment now that people have to be selective,” Randolph said. “They have to look and ask ‘is it for me?’”
Ashtyn Bennett, 10, is seeing the movie with his class at Nathan Hale Elementary School, located in Meriden, Connecticut. Although, Ashtyn said that’s not the only reason he’s going. He recently read a comic version of the original book.
“I like that it’s make-believe,” Ashtyn said. “My favorite character was Calvin. He shares characteristics with a lot of people that I know.”
In the movie, Calvin, the love interest, feels like an unnecessary addition to the story, an afterthought, Randolph said. She also thought Levi Miller (known for Peter Pan in Pan) was a poor casting choice.
“It’s really great to have a focus on women,” she said. “People are so upset about being ignored in entertainment for so long, which I get. But there’s this feeling of ‘well how do you like it? Let’s do it to you.’ An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
In one scene, the kids stumble across an alternate universe of creepy suburbia. Children stand at the edge of the driveways, bouncing balls in perfect synchronization. Mothers come out to call them in in unison, each house and family mirroring the next. Ashtyn said seeing this in the previews made him even more excited.
“You’d think that that could never be done, but somehow they can pull it off in the movie,” Ashtyn said. “I’m sure it’s done on a computer, which is really cool.”
A Wrinkle in Time cost $103 million to produce, but only made $33.3 million opening weekend.
“It was very feminine,” Randolph said. “Annihilation was the same way. It’s visual effects had a very feminine quality to them….I think it’s worth pointing out that both movies failed financially. Also, I think that anything that is too hyper masculine these days also doesn’t do very well.”
Adam Campbell, 10, will be going on the same school field trip, too, but hasn’t read the book. He also found the effects especially interesting.
“I’ve seen commercials on my computer, on tv, and also at previews at the movie theater,” Adam said. “I thought it looked very well designed, a very good movie to see. I like the CGI.”
Alex Nedinsky, 13, also did not read the book. Although his 10-year-old brother Ethan is also seeing it with Nathan Hale, Alex has no such plans. He said the fast-paced trailer and action scenes caught his eye.
“I might see it, I’m not sure yet.” Alex said. “It looks like more of an adventure movie, and I like movies like that.”
It’s hard to ignore the main issue at stake here: gendered casting. Although supporting characters like Calvin and the brother Charles Wallace are boys, the lead and the Mrs. aren’t. Randolph seemed to think this feminine dominance could negatively affect the movie’s turnout.
“This movie in particular often seemed like diversity for diversity’s sake,” she said. “I think that Black Panther showed that audiences don’t want tokenism. People have moved past that, they want real portrayals. I don’t think the trailers ever made it seem like the Murrays were a real family.”
But, all four boys seemed unfazed. In fact, Ashtyn said he’s most looking forward to the Mrs.
“I liked their costumes and effects,” Ashtyn said.
Laura Campbell, Adam’s mother, was surprised any of these issues were of concern. She referenced a quote from comedian and actor Aziz Ansari on the importance of diverse leads.
“He said something along the lines of all these years he’s watched movies of white men,” Campbell said. “As an Indian, he’s had to relate to these white men and black men in movies. But why then as an Indian, can’t he be someone that a white guy has to relate to?”