The last time a man told me I couldn’t do something, it was in regard to the last chunk of a brick of cheese I’d put away. He said, “Bet you can’t finish it,” and do you know what I did? I picked up that whole hunk and shoved it in my mouth. Took about 8 minutes to chew it up, but damn it, I did it.
Hidden Figures is vaguely similar to that story, yet far more poetic and eloquent with much higher stakes.
Today — right now — women everywhere of every race are fighting the good fight for feminism and everything that means. This film takes place in the 60s, making it even more empowering and motivational for women folk everywhere to stand up, grab that last chunk of cheddar, and cram it in their mouths proudly and with gusto.
Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) were three of the most extraordinary minds working at NASA in the 1960s when the US was in a race with Russia to get a man into space. Living in a still segregated Virginia, these sharp, fiercely driven ladies were subject to the tortures of such a life; belittlement, harsh and unnecessary criticism, and maybe worst of all — limitations on what they were allowed to do due to their skin color and gender.
I will say this word only one time and it is merely to express my deep and utter hatred of it: they fell victim to being “colored”. Don’t worry, fellow enraged masses, there’s an incredibly cathartic and gratifying moment, regarding that word in the film.
Moving right along.
A gifted mathematician since she was just a wee one, Katherine is promoted when the director of the Space Task Group, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), is in need of someone who can do some seriously complex geometry stuff that would make my brain melt. Walking into a room full of white men after being told that no one like her has ever entered that room, Katherine is intimidated, but prepared to take on the challenge.
Dorothy Vaughan — stuck in a tiny, segregated part of the campus with about 20 women — is doing what so many of us have done once or twice before; she’s performing all the duties that a supervisor would, without the title or the pay. Bringing it up with her brusque, standoffish supervisor, Vivian (Kirsten Dunst) goes about as well as you’d expect, and she’s sent back to her office, dejected.
Mary Jackson. Saucy, outspoken, impassioned Mary Jackson. After being reassigned to assist the engineers working on the vessel that will take a man into space, she’s encouraged to become an engineer herself. However, nothing in life comes easily. Especially for these three women. That said, she will not be stopped.
Together, the three face their own day-to-day trials and tribulations; supporting one another with unwavering love and honesty. What else can one do when faced with unbridled oppression?
Together, they would go on to make history.
I can’t recall the last time I was so profoundly moved and personally motivated by a film. While I’m not jumping the same kinds of hurdles they did — not by a long shot — I think this film speaks to what women can do in the face of rejection.
THAT SAID. I was seriously disheartened to read this article, and I recommend you proceed only if you can handle the truth: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
When it’s all said and done, the film is quite good, even with some wavering truths interjected. Hollywood does love to pander, though. If they didn’t, the shark would not have been blown up and Hooper would have been dead at the end of Jaws. That doesn’t get butts in the seats, though. Gotta blow up that shark.
Backed by a fitting score composed by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Benjamin Wallfisch, and written by Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder, and based on the book by the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures is a lovely film with just a couple of alternative facts. That doesn’t take away from the superb performances by Henson, Spencer, Monae, Mahershala Ali, Costner, and Dunst.
I can’t wait for the sequel; Hidden Fences 2 — where Taraji blasts Denzel Washington into space!