or, I really needed this movie when I was young
There was this photograph of me that was taken at my grandmother’s house with her really good camera shortly after I had gotten my first pair of glasses. I have since gotten rid of that picture because I hated it so much. I was eleven years old, right before adolescence, and I was just starting to get an inkling of how important it would soon be to feel pretty. I felt far from pretty. I was awkward and dorky and quiet with the hopeless mass of untameable curls that looked unlike anything anybody else had. And I had those god awful glasses, glasses from a selection of two that were on the plan for poor people who had no insurance. I am absolutely convinced that the price of those glasses were in direct relation to how ugly they were. I mean it really was as if the system asked somebody to sit down and design ugly glasses for welfare kids. They were octagonal shaped. Shaped like stop signs. Like fucking stop signs. A cute boy in my class started referring to me like, “Shut up with your stop sign glasses.”
I got rid of the photograph, but the image is still burned into my brain. It is difficult to forget the things that you loathe. I have been thinking about that photograph a lot lately, because all those images of Storm Reid as Meg Murry in the movie A Wrinkle in Time.
My feeling so ugly and awkward during that time was in no small part due to being biracial and the only biracial kid I knew and having all of that curly hair most everyone around me, even the black kids, responded to with dismay and scorn. And there were certainly no role models or images of anybody who looked like me in the media and culture that I was consuming.
Yep, I guess this is why representation matters. It would have meant the world to me back then. Knowing that now years and years later is honestly a bit painful.
A group of us went to see A Wrinkle in Time on opening night. When we walked out of the movie theater, Belle asked, “What was your favorite scene?”
I hedged and didn’t answer because I couldn’t think of a favorite scene. I could only think of the scenes that affected me profoundly in a way that was too personal to address at that moment.
In the movie, Meg’s friend, Calvin, who is clearly smitten with her, tells her something to the effect of “Your hair is really cool.” In response, Meg almost sneers and says, “No it’s not.”
Later in the movie, when they have been dropped into a place that is like this fantastical wheat field, Meg pulls her hair away from her face into this adorable Afro puff and Calvin tells her “I like your hair.” And this time Meg responds “Thank you.”
I reacted so strongly to the scenes, but I couldn’t identify or describe the reaction. It wasn’t until later, possibly the next day, even, that I remembered this boy I had known in school. He had befriended me in English class and had throughout the year said flirty things to me that I didn’t take seriously because I wasn’t in an emotional place to do so. One day during an assembly when he was sitting a couple rows behind me with one of his friends he said to me, “Shannon, your hair looks really good today.” And, like Meg in the movie, I had looked back at him with this frown on my face like I knew that he had to be kidding because nobody, particularly no boy, ever said anything nice about my hair. And I had gotten so used to that and internalized it so much that my initial gut reaction was that he could not be serious. It did not occur to me until later when it was too late to really respond appropriately that I realized he was sincere. I had honestly forgotten all about that incident until my memory was triggered by seeing similar scenes in A Wrinkle in Time.
Seeing this movie and this version of Meg Murry as the star, the hero, makes me wish I could go back in time and tell that younger me that it was totally possible that not everyone saw me the same way, that there could be a boy who truly liked me, and that I had every reason to like myself.
But maybe it’s also better to know something late than never.