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Well, they are again going to try to film a book that was formative to me: one of my absolute favorites from the age of ten on. The trailer just came out, and it looks fairly spectacular in some ways. You can see it here.

Then I saw this:

And, of course, there is this.

These three stories are rightly beloved by many thousands of girls and women. Did you catch the common theme? I honestly didn’t until just the other day, and--

I’m shocked that it took me so long to notice, actually. In each of these stories, a young girl on the cusp of adolescence rescues her little brother.

The three stories are very different in tone, and the three young girls are very different characters. Sarah, in Labyrinth, is dreamy and rather immature. She resents having to care for her toddler half-brother. As I remember (it’s been awhile since I read it), Laura Chant, in The Changeover, is conscientious and responsible. She helps her mother out the door in the morning, for example. Meg, the protagonist of Wrinkle in Time is brilliant in some ways and way behind her peers in others. She is passionate, outspoken, insecure, and stubborn. Of the three girls, Laura seems the most mature; Meg seems the youngest. She probably is, being written as somewhere between twelve and fourteen years old. Laura is fourteen, and Sarah, whose age is never specified, is also a young teenager.

In all three stories, the young protagonist is an outsider, or feels herself so. And in all three stories, the protagonist’s brother is threatened. That’s the commonality. The reasons for the threat are very different. In Labyrinth, Sarah is actually to blame for her brother’s disappearance; she wishes the goblins would take him away, and her evil wish is granted. Laura’s brother Jacko is attacked by a Lempire, a spiritual vampire who feeds on the little boy’s youth and vitality. Meg’s little brother, Charles Wallace, at five, is the eldest of the threatened children, and he walks into danger with his eyes open, in a failed attempt to rescue his father. Meg must then rescue both father and brother.

But, in spite of these basic differences, all these stories—especially A Wrinkle in Time and Labyrinth—are alike in another way. In order to rescue their brothers, each of these young girls must recognize, accept, and claim her own power. Of course, since the stories are different, they do so in different ways. Sarah must negotiate the Labyrinth that haunts her imagination and face the goblin king who fascinates her so much. Laura must accept her power as a sensitive and “change over” to become a witch. Meg needs to discover what capacity she has that an apparently all-powerful and all-knowing enemy lacks. She also needs to summon the courage to face that enemy alone.

In their quests, the three girls need to call on their intelligence, courage, determination, empathy, and imagination. Even more than this, they need to consciously recognize and claim their power as young women. Everyone who knows and loves Wrinkle in Time will remember how thrilling it is when Meg succeeds. But it’s Sarah, in Labyrinth, who puts it most plainly. Facing the goblin king, whom she both loves and fears, she says the words she cannot even remember at the beginning of her quest.

“…my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me.” (From Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.)

And those who love the movie will remember that it’s that last sentence Sarah struggles with. Perhaps she can’t remember it because she can’t believe it. When she finally says it to the goblin king’s face, it’s with something like surprise and joy. She really does have power! She really has done all these things she said she’d done!

And somehow, I think there is wisdom in that. You can’t use power you don’t know you have. You need to claim your power as your own before you can use it. Sometimes, claiming your power IS using it. For knowledge is power, and what all three of these young heroines achieve is self-knowledge.

It’s with good reason that these stories are so beloved by so many. It’s still a rare thing to send a girl on a heroic quest that is particularly hers. Meg, Laura, and Sarah are genuinely feminine heroines, on heroines’ journeys. It’s no wonder they have so many fans.

Now, I just hope these new films are going to be as good as they look!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2017 08:20 pm (UTC)
Great post! I had no idea there was going to be a CHANGEOVER movie until you posted the trailer here, but it looks great -- Timothy Spall is appropriately creepy and I like the rest of the casting. I hope I'll get a chance to see it.
Jul. 19th, 2017 12:36 am (UTC)
Yes, the casting looks great, doesn't it? I'm eager to see this one--more so than I am to see "Wrinkle", actually. That was such a formative book for me, and the earlier filming was honestly such a mess, that I can't help but be apprehensive, especially since I recognize nothing from the book except the scene on Camazotz. But "Changeover" really looks excellent.

And I do think all three of these stories are refreshing in that they have genuine young heroines, not ersatz heroes in female form.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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