Hidden Figures (2016)
Directed By Theodore Melfi
I initially didn’t want to watch this film but I heard great things from critics and reviewers that it began perking my interests. Luckily, HBO was airing it, so I got the chance to watch it.
Hidden Figures is a biographical drama that is based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film focused on three African-American women who worked at NASA during the Space Race as mathematicians.
I’m not going to go into detail of the plot and characters because I think this is a film that you should personally watch yourself, but I am going to discuss some personal thoughts that came to my mind while watching this movie.
I actually got teary-eyed in this movie, particularly in one scene: when Katherine Globe (Taraji P. Henson) explained to her boss, Al Harrison, why she isn’t in her seat one day. Harrison was annoyed that she always takes “long breaks.” Katherine explains that she takes “long breaks” because she has to run half a mile to the colored people’s bathroom since there isn’t one nearby. After hearing this, Harrison abolishes the bathroom segregation rule by destroying the “Colored Bathroom” sign. You can hear from just the tone of Taraji P. Henson’s voice, the sternness as if she really believed in the words that she is saying.
Now, I never experienced the feeling of a segregation bathroom, so it seems strange for me to be emotional in this part of the movie. However, I do know the feeling of being excluded in some group or area or the feeling of not belonging—I think that resonates with a lot of people.
The other thought I had about this movie is “what does it mean to be a ‘hidden figure’?” The story has two obvious answers. A hidden figure could mean the outcome or answer to a question, particularly a math problem. In this case, Katherine was trying to figure out the correct landing coordinates of a space capsule. The second meaning of ‘hidden figure’ is the people that work behind the scenes in a workplace or project—the individuals that aren’t often credited for their hard work and dedication. It is usually the leader or head figure that gets credited and becomes famous. In fact, these three African-American women—Katherin Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—could have remained hidden in history books, but they finally are getting recognized by the world for their efforts in NASA through this movie. I think this movie popularized these figures as important individuals in history, not just for their contributions to their work but also shaping the path for women of color.
However, I do think there is another layer to the term ‘hidden figure’ that may not be as obvious to the audience. This ‘hidden figure’ is the minority. I refer to the ‘minority’ in a more general sense. In this movie, the “minority” is the African-American. Yet if we were to apply this ‘hidden figure’ symbol in real life, I would think that ‘hidden figures’ is each and every one of us who have ever felt being on the outside. However, we shouldn’t be discouraged about this. Through these three women, we see that ‘hidden figures’ will get their recognition one day.
Lastly, I would like to comment how I love that Hidden Figures encourages STEM among women and people of color. I am not a STEM major, but I do appreciate them.