“Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars” is great advice for anyone who doesn’t work for NASA.
When “computers” referred to people and John F. Kennedy was president, the United States of America and the Soviet Union were locked in the Space Race. NASA was feeling the heat from the entire nation after the Russians successfully sent a man into orbit around the Earth before the United States, thus causing what Americans saw as a threat to their privacy and safety. That’s where Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) come into play.
“Hidden Figures,” based on a true story, focuses on three African-American women who worked at NASA as calculators. Their undeniable strengths become crucial to the space mission, but these women have to fight every step of the way to advance their careers. Even when it had become obvious that arguably the main character, Katherine G. Johnson, was an incredibly skilled computer, she was kept out of crucial meetings and given data that was largely redacted, due to how little clearance she was allowed.
In the face of ill-treatment, these three women persevere. They juggle the challenges of trying to launch a man into space, being African-American women in a segregated state, working in a male-dominated field and trying to keep everyone in their personal lives happy. Each challenge is difficult enough alone, but the deft way these women balance them all is awe-inspiring.
“Hidden Figures” is emotional. The first scene made me regret wearing mascara to the theater and wonder why I didn’t stuff tissues in my sleeves for my “allergies.” To be frank, I don’t like movies in general. I get restless, and I don’t always get emotionally invested in the characters, so I don’t really care how the movie ends. This is most definitely not the case with “Hidden Figures.” I was captivated the whole time, and there was humor throughout the movie, keeping me laughing nearly the whole time. When I was not crying tears of laughter, I was trying not to cry tears of happiness or sadness. I whisper-threatened to my movie buddy that I would walk out of the theater if Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) was going to say what I thought he was going to say (he didn’t, so I continued to watch). Like I said, I dislike movies, but everyone within earshot of me in the last week has heard me gush about how amazing this movie is.
Although I am a self-diagnosed history nerd, movies based on historical events really don’t cut it for me, considering most textbooks are worse than any spoilers on IMDB. We all know going in how any history movie is going to end. (Spoiler alert: Thomas Jefferson becomes president. I hope I didn’t ruin Act II of Hamilton for anyone.) This movie doesn’t have this problem.
This movie tells a largely untold tale of African-American women breaking color barriers and glass barriers left and right. Although the IMDB page for this movie admits the hostility with which these women were treated is somewhat exaggerated, the message remains the same. These women stood up and fought for what was important. They fought for their work to be respected. They fought to launch a man towards the stars. They fought for their country in a new way.
This movie struck a chord with me, because I have been surrounded by, dare I say, propaganda about women in STEM my whole life. I have wanted to be some kind of engineer for as long as I can remember, because that is what I was exposed to and what I am interested in. There are entire organizations that are dedicated to generating interest in engineering in young girls and women. This has not always been the case.
I have brave women like these to thank for my warm reception into the STEM field. These women have, in part, paved the way for me and those like me to follow, so we can in turn take our shot at changing the world. This movie is a must-watch for everyone, especially young women interested in reaching for the stars.
If you are interested in watching this movie, IDEAS club is hosting an event to watch this movie at Aksarben Cinema at 7 pm for $5 (pay at the theater). Popcorn is free with the purchase of a $2 drink. Sign up with Tori Dunston (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tylin Welch (email@example.com) by the end of today (Jan. 23).
Check out a trailer for “Hidden Figures” below!