Hidden Figures: A Review By Village Bloggurls

By: Diana and Jiale

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Hidden Figures is about the journey of 3 Black women – Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monaé) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) –  who worked in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in NASA in 1961. Their goal was to send John Glenn, an American Senator from Ohio, into space to orbit around the earth before the Russians. The 3 women were called “computers” because they would do the math and space calculations and make sure they were accurate.

SPOILER ALERT!

Katherine, Mary and Dorothy faced many difficulties because they were Black and women. They weren’t allowed to use the same bathrooms as the white women who also computers. They worked segregated areas of a building. Mary Jackson wanted to become an engineer, but she had to attend an all-white university which didn’t allow Black people. Dorothy Vaughan wanted to be a supervisor and program the IBM computers, but she wasn’t given a chance. Katherine Johnson was relocated to work in an all-white male environment to do calculations for launch of the ship, Friendship 7, but she was faced with racist working conditions. She wasn’t allowed the same coffee maker as everyone else, and she had to run about 40 minutes just to use the bathroom. The film focuses on Katherine’s journey to break through barriers and be the intelligent woman that she is.

This movie matters because it shows how powerful women can be when they show their full potential and are given a chance or take matters into their own hands.

BIGGER SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!

We found out that some parts of the movie are exaggerated. Maybe the original story of Katherine Johnson itself didn’t fit into the “popular way of thinking” to be produced and make profit. Some audiences wouldn’t see themselves portrayed in the film and relate to it enough to see it. Money matters a lot in filmmaking, and we realized this at certain points in the movie. For example, we found out that the scene where Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) knocks down the Coloured bathroom sign is fictional. Even some of the characters are fictional.

But, film is a representation of reality, one of the points about media literacy. This matters because it will lead to more people relating to Katherine’s experiences and understanding her actions. Hidden Figures also educates many people about what it was like to be a Black woman in the 1960s. Therefore, some characters and scenes in this movie were added to represent and help people understand the times Katherine, Mary and Dorothy were living in and the barriers they were facing.

This movies passes the Bechdel test but we think that the Bechdel Test is outdated, and should be updated to have more specific criteria. The “norm” for movies has changed but the test hasn’t caught up. There are movies which are sexist, but still pass the Bechdel Test, such as the Lego Movie. We think that the criteria should include:

  1. Half the characters should be women and gender non-comforming people because “at least one woman” is too limiting and not enough. We make up over half the world!
  2. Women and gender non-conforming people have stories that stand on their own. Not every story about us has to be romantic either.
  3. We have to see ourselves on screen (people of colour) without negative stereotypes and racist and negative images unless it is NECESSARY to tell the story

My(Jiale) favourite scene is the part when Katherine is backing up her absence everyday when she has to run about 1 mile just to use the bathroom to her boss, who later took matters into his own hands and got rid of the signs. I like this scene because she stops being quiet and lets people know that it is important to have a voice. If you don’t let others know that you have a voice, other people end up taking control/advantage of your life.

My (Diana) favourite scene is the scene at the beginning when Katherine, Mary and Dorothy were trying to fix their car which had broken down on the side of the road. A policeman approaches them and starts asking them questions, almost as though he was interrogating them for a crime. When he finds out that they work at NASA, he seemed very surprised and taken aback. Suddenly, he acts all polite and even volunteers to escort them to work. This scene is important because it really shows how often people make assumptions based on race and gender.

In our opinion, the flim is a MUST-SEE for everyone!!! It is amazing, inspiring and important to understand why telling our stories is necessary!!!

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