‘Hidden Figures’ explores fascinating lives of black women scientists
A recent movie that is bringing light to the real stars of the space race
January 23, 2017
Hidden Figures is a romanticized look into the true story of the brilliant minds who sent the United States into space, as well as some of Civil Rights movement’s greatest steps forward.
The movie showcases the careers of three immensely talented African American women working for NASA during the space race of the 1960s. Katherine Johnson was a brilliant mathematician who calculated the safe landing trajectory of the Friendship 7, the first space craft to safely house an American astronaut into and back down from Earth’s orbit. Dorothy Vaughan was the head of the female, “colored calculators,” and lead the programming team with the induction of the computer into NASA. Mary Jackson assisted in the design of multiple shuttles, as well as being one of the first African American’s to study in a segregated, all-white Virginian High School for expanding her engineering degrees.
They each had extensive skill that made them crucial parts of their teams. Through engineering, computer science, and mathematical genius these women proved their worthiness past the shrouds of institutionalized racism inherent in high-level STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields of the time, blazing a trail for non-white women into powerful, professional positions.
During its 127-minute run time, the movie tackles the discrimination experienced by women and people of color brilliantly, examining various levels of prejudice without dehumanizing the people implementing the racist acts. From the dispersed “colored” and “whites” signs that fit eerily in the scenes.
Throughout the film the film-makers tip their Hollywood hats to the effects of Martin Luther King Jr., the Woolworth lunch counter sit-in, and the Freedom Rides. The filmmakers did not use blatant racist attacks like beatings or thrown around slurs that we often see recreated from history, however they highlighted the more roundabout, and subtle ways in which discrimination takes place. This allowed the film a deeper expression of the skewed cultural norms for prejudice of the time.
The biggest downfall of the movie was the short run-time. Though the plot was not distractingly rushed, it barely touches base before moving from one development to the next. For a home-run film like this, the creators could have taken a more leisurely stroll in the lives of these amazing women, and the other important people involved in the first American flights into space.
Vibrantly witty, exceptionally well-acted, and gorgeously filmed, this movie will educate on prior Civil Rights battles while allowing one to recognize the intricacies of the fight for equality.