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Review: Hidden Figures

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A narrative unknown to most, Hidden Figures tells the true story of three black women whose contributions were essential to NASA’s space program in the 1960s. Set in 1961, these women overcome gender and racial barriers to succeed in a white-male dominated field. Hidden Figures excellently defies the typical space mission film by focusing more on the importance of the people who caused the mission instead of the mission itself. The movie compellingly features an empowering story seemingly lost in history.

At the beginning of the film, we see a young girl deemed a prodigy due to her incredible math abilities. Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) grows up and in time works for NASA, but at a segregated facility where she and her “human computer” colleagues remain unacknowledged and unknown. As the Russians are winning the Space Race, Goble is asked to join a math team that deals with launch coordinates. The film effectively conveys the hardships of everyday racism that she faces even with her extraordinary intelligence as she must run across the facility to use the colored restroom and use a separate coffee pot from her white counterparts.

After an emotionally powerful scene delivered by Henson, the workroom has a significant shift in perspective as the other members of the math team begin accept her abilities despite her skin color and the leader, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), begins to desegregate the facility. Dorothy and Mary, friends and coworkers of Katherine, must also fight racism to succeed in the situations they are placed in. Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) learns that the black women are soon to be replaced by an IBM computer. As a result, she steals a coding book from a segregated library and teaches the other black women how to use the new computer which results in her and the other girls being promoted. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) wants to become an engineer, but is unable to because she must attend a white school in order to take the necessary classes. Through an exceptionally poignant speech to a judge, Mary becomes the first black person to attend the school. The movie also successfully provides a great balance between the careers and the domestic lives of the three primary characters. The women face gender barriers at home as well by being told by the men that their struggles are unjustified and unbelievable because they are women.

This film is an important reminder to us all that not all history is as shared and appreciated as it should be. Nominated for three Oscars, Hidden Figures touches on white supremacy, gender and racial equality, and even highlights Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. In the wake of our nation’s current political situation, Hidden Figures informs us of the significance of certain topics including social justice and equality that are especially relevant today.

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The student news site of Oxford College of Emory University
Review: Hidden Figures