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Hidden Figures Film Review

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With the end of the Obama administration and women marching in the streets in demonstration of intersectionality, the release of the new film Hidden Figures feels perfectly timed. The film brings attention to a history of social issues that are still ever present in our society and likely will be for years to come, while sharing the little known story of some real-life heroines.

Set in Virginia during the 1960’s space race,  Hidden Figures follows the story of three black female NASA “computers:” Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer). Each woman experiences her share of racist and sexist discrimination in the film as they face both workplace and societal hurdles. The cast also includes Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons as fellow NASA staff, working both with and against the women on the overall goal of launching an American pilot into space.

The acting is phenomenal as you watch all involved delve into their characters’ societal and personal issues. You are sure to laugh, cry, and think through the duration of the movie as well as on the way home. The story is uplifting and heartwarming. Furthermore, the film calls attention to a larger audience of the issues faced not only by African Americans or by women, but by black women in a still male-dominated field. Few films dealing with intersectionality have been nearly as successful, which is a testament both to the story and the actors. It is a film to bring your children to, as it reminds you not to let stereotypes and expectations limit your dreams.

With that said, I ask that while watching this film, you pay heed to the bigger picture. While the film makes amazing strides forward in building awareness of intersectionality issues, there is still much to be considered. Even though NASA was widely accepting of women and black individuals during this time period, much of the country was still unabashedly discriminatory toward minorities. While this is seen in some scenes in the movie, the effects are not felt nearly as intensely as they often are, likely because creators of the movies wanted to maintain the lightness of the film. In the past year, at least three other major motion pictures (Loving, Fences, and Moonlight) have dealt with similar issues with less public exposure; however, this is not because the films are of lesser quality. This reviewer wonders if the lack of large scale success for the other films comes from their darker portrayal of racial issues. While it is difficult to watch these harsher narratives, they are necessary to understand the experiences of those to whom we will never be able to relate.
With this digression, I implore you to consider going for a double header at the movies – go see Hidden Figures, as well as one of its darker counterparts, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the race issues that still exist in our society. Remember, you experience privilege that builds your understanding of the everyday as well as history. Broaden your horizons. There is a reason these women went for so long unnoticed. Do not let the next generation’s heroes and heroines go on hidden, simply because they do not look like you.

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Hidden Figures Film Review