Hidden Figures depicts the journey of three African-American women employed by the oppressive, misogynistic and white-dominated NASA of the 1960s.
The women, Kathryn Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) worked in the segregated West Area Computers division for the Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.
The West Area Computing Unit was an all African-American group of mathematicians who made calculations prior to the invention of electronic computers.
Colored computers worked in a separate building, despite that fact that they were just as qualified as their white counterparts.
At the start of the film, Johnson and Jackson are reassigned to work with the white office. The women use their knowledge of mathematics and engineering to help send astronaut John Glenn into orbit around Earth in 1962.
Johnson was assigned to be a computer for the division responsible for the mathematics behind the launch.
With her aptitude for advanced mathematics, Johnson proves to be a vital part of the NASA team. She breaks barriers which previously seemed impossible to penetrate.
Jackson, on the other hand, was tasked with helping to figure out how to build a capsule which would withstand the flight around Earth’s orbit.
Jackson works to become an engineer at NASA, which leads her down a path to challenge the government of Virginia, and Vaughan fights to make certain that her women at the West Area Computing Unit are protected.
Each of the women prove throughout the film that they’re not only qualified, but that they can outperform their white coworkers, making them invaluable assets.
The story inspires viewers to pursue goals, despite the odds. A story about educated, eloquent and driven black women who strive to contribute to society is not one that is heavily present in today’s society. It’s not everyday that a movie depicts the struggles of educated black women in the work force.
Henson, Spencer and Monáe delivered inspiring and convincing performances. Henson is well known for her role as the wildly outrageous Cookie Lyon on the Fox drama Empire.
However, Henson’s depiction of Johnson could lead one to believe that the actress was a totally different person.
Henson seamlessly delivered the language of an advanced mathematician without any hesitation or falter.
Spencer delivered a comical, but convincing performance of Vaughan, and Monáe shocked me with a flirtatious and graceful performance as Jackson.
The cast was also present with seasoned and well known actors and actresses. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali were also among the star-studded cast.
The soundtrack for the film was an album full of color and character. It features hip hop and R&B performances that are reminiscent of the 60’s. Musicians who appeared on the soundtrack include Monáe, Pharrell Williams, Mary J. Blige, Lalah Hathaway and Kim Burrell.
The events of Hidden Figures occurred during a drastically different time in history, but the problems the women had to face in the film have lasted well into 2017. After a presidential election fraught with racist rhetoric, it’s more important than ever to highlight African-American culture.
Walking out of the film, one may feel deep respect and empathy for black women in all professional fields of work. Black women are faced with the status of being a double minority in male dominated fields, and that can be a daunting challenge to face.
The women in Hidden Figures worked, and proved to be worthy of their positions at NASA. The powerful message of the film should be present to show all young black girls that they can break the status quo.
I encourage all to watch this film, and I especially recommend it to women of African-American heritage. Black women are often depicted as less than exemplary people in the media, television and movies. It’s time that the face of black women in the United States is praised instead of degraded, and Hidden Figures is a winning film on this end.