False Variety

When my son was sick yesterday, we got desperate for a diversion and watched A Wrinkle In Time on Netflix. I don’t want to get into the theological problems of the book’s author, Madeleine L’Engle, but let it be admitted that she came from a Christian culture, attended a Christian church, and infused her writing with symbols and quotes of Jesus, which were tellingly absent from the film. As a replacement, the film delivered a mishmash of new age aphorisms about love and light and believing in yourself. Also, it delivered a fair amount of diversity that was lacking in the author’s world. L’Engle unapologetically created a white European cast of characters — and not just in this book, but in all of them. The director apparently thought color-washing instead of white-washing would take a wooden script and delivery and make it sparkle, but it didn’t work. And I certainly don’t blame that on the actors, who might sparkle under good directing. Kaling and Witherspoon are known quantities; Kaling can be very funny, and Witherspoon definitely sparkles in some of her films. I also have hopes for the new-ish actress who plays Meg.

Despite the film’s failing at taking a weird SF tale and a few good actors and making it better than bland and boring (I mean, come on, they had a lot to work with here), it did produce one scene that stuck in my mind. When Meg and company land on the planet cloaked in evil, they find a neighborhood where all the children of all races are bouncing their balls to the same beat. This is followed by the mothers — again, of all races — simultaneously calling in their children to dinner using the same words. What you see is Hollywood admitting a central truth of our culture: our push for diversity is outward and doesn’t really mask the general lack of appreciation for eclecticism. I found myself asking if this weren’t perhaps a meta moment, where the film was taking a good hard look at itself. I suppose even Hollywood creators are capable of accidental moments of clarity.

False variety is present in every layer of our society. From the products that fill our grocery store, to politicians, to “edgy” thinkers, there is very little real variety. In 90% of brands, the ingredients are the same. The yogurt is all low-fat. The bacon has the same list of ingredients on nearly every label. Everything packaged tastes like canola oil. McCain was eulogized by almost every segment of society because his conservatism was the same as the their liberalism. The Bushes and Clintons play golf together.

What got me thinking about this was the cancellation of the Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter tour in Australia. It was canceled for no apparent reason, and the ticket holders were told they could switch their tickets out to see Tommy Robinson and Gavin McInnes, as if “edgy” thinkers are all exactly alike. And to be fair, generally they are very similar when push comes to shove. Edgy is allowed, if it fits into the right parameters of what “edgy” means. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Milo has been permanently banned from Twitter; McInnes’ organization The Proud Boys was recently banned from Facebook. Although all four of these rightist thinkers are edgy rabble-rousers, none of them are of the appropriate “edgy” variety. Swapping one group out for the other is a stop-gap measure before these types of tours just never find any venues at all, edgy money notwithstanding.

Albeit, sometimes I think I’m just not seeing the entire picture. I mean, obviously, I’m not God. Or even QAnon. In any case, most of our edgy rabble-rousers provide absurdist level distractions.

I don’t have a profound point to end with here — unless I want to tie this post back to Trump in some way. I don’t know how profound that would be, more like inevitable. Trump is the renewed version of Godwin’s law. Everything comes back to him. And it’s perhaps too easy, really. Trump did not and still does not have the same ingredients as the other products on the shelves, which is why his sudden salability has driven the “producers” or “authorities” to frothing at the mouth every few seconds.

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2 comments

  1. I REALLY dig A Wrinkle In Time when I was a frosh in high school. I think it was the only other fantasy I read besides David Edding’s 833482 book series. I read it a few years ago, and ehhhh it was okay. Maybe being exposed to the ideas hit me harder the first time; second time was like, “Yeah, that’s an old hat. What’s next on the list?” I had a similar reaction to the 2003/4 Disney film version.

    I’m not about to touch the Netflix movie at all.

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