"Hidden Figures” is a revolutionary adaptation of a true story featuring strong women who combat social injustice and inevitably change the course of history.
The Oscar-nominated movie from 2016 that was released on DVD on April 11 follows the story of three African-American women who work at NASA as they deal with racism and sexism in the 1960s. Historical context blends beautifully with the dramatic and entertaining true story of the lives of these three women who show incredible perseverance, strength and intelligence.
The main character, Katherine Goble, is played by Taraji P. Henson, who you may recognize from the CBS drama “Person of Interest” or the Fox TV series “Empire.” Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn in the movie. Spencer also starred in “The Help” as Minny Jackson. The character of Mary Jackson is played by Janelle Monáe, who is primarily a singer, songwriter and model but has also played a starring role in the movie “Moonlight.”
The movie’s story introduces us to Goble, who has always been good with numbers and is promoted to work with the Space Task Group on calculations that will get a man into space. Goble faces racism and sexism from her peers. Not only is she forced to walk half a mile to use the restroom and is not able to drink coffee from the same pot as others, she is also looked down by male peers who think she is simply not capable of the work that the men are. Goble is a widow with three children.
Jackson wants to be an engineer but faces obstruction from white society and gender roles. She has a husband who is a proponent of the Black Freedom movement going on at the time.
Vaughn is a strong-willed woman who desires to be a supervisor of her group of African-American women who work for NASA. Vaughn is especially good with computers and electronics. She’s married and teaches her children to never accept society’s labels and racism.
Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner), the director of the Space Task Group, is one of the few men in the movie to be equitable toward the women — white and African-American — at NASA. An intelligent and focused leader, Harrison is geared toward getting a man into space before the Soviet Union.
In order to truly appreciate this movie, one must be able to recognize the historical context within the film. The movie creatively incorporates real video from the 1960s to better emulate the reality of the time.
The 1960s was the peak of the civil rights movement and the start of many feminist movements. The movie addresses the 1961 bombing by Ku Klux Klan members of a Greyhound bus containing members of the Freedom Riders, a movement in which many college students (both African-American and Caucasian) were taking action in the south to try to desegregate buses.
The space race is a complex and rather petty and competitive portion of history. The 1960s was also during the Cold War, in which the U.S. was simply not a big fan of the communist Soviet Union. Like children, we were engaged in a race to space to determine which country could say it had the first man in space.
I fell in love with the characters and the plot of “Hidden Figures.” The plot is intricately woven with drama and humor. Viewers are able to feel personally connected with the characters; their victories are ours, and their disappointments are ours.
I found myself cheering out loud each time Goble was called up to the chalkboard to show those condescending men how to calculate the equations necessary to overcome the problem in trying to get an astronaut to safely return from orbit. I laughed at Jackson’s snarkiness and determination. I was comforted by Vaughn’s motherly instincts.
Despite the predictable plot, “Hidden Figures” tells the type of old-time story about overcoming adversity that can draw in audiences every time. These real African-American women who worked at NASA are true role models who fought adversity and prejudice to do what they love. They made a difference in the world and this movie praises that; these women deserved to have their story told.
Although I wish the movie delved deeper into the challenges the women and others faced, the story is still irresistibly good.
“Hidden Figures” is a must-watch, feel-good movie that follows three women who changed the course of history with their invaluable contributions. By dealing with themes of racism and sexism that are still prevalent today, the movie connects the past with the present. Viewers can appreciate the humor and the drama and inadvertently learn something about society and what many individuals misconstrue as the good ol’ days.