Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hidden Figures

2017 is going to be the year I get better about voting with my time/dollar, specifically in arts and  entertainment. I started strong in the book department with several books by women writers and I'm excited to carry that momentum into movies. Jesus and I watched Hidden Figures last weekend, and we have no  complaints. The acting was brilliant, the music (by Pharrell) was fun, and the story is an important one to tell.

Set in 1960s Virginia and based off a book by the same title, Hidden Figures follows the real life stories of three black women (Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble Johnson, Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson, and Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan) hired as human computers for the NASA space program. While these women and their coworkers all hold advanced degrees, they're still segregated from the (white, male) engineers and their plans for advancement within NASA aren't taken seriously.

Several times one of the characters said something that could have been said in America in 2017 (I know, movies reflect their current culture - but it's always so powerful when they do). When a judge tells Mary that no black woman - or any person of color - has attended a specific school offering the classes she needs for an engineering certificate, she responds with: "I can't change the color of my skin so I have no choice but to be the first." When an engineer tells Katherine that there is no protocol for a woman attending a Pentagon briefing, she responds with: "There's no protocol for men circling the earth either, sir." When a supervisor tells Dorothy that she has nothing against her, she responds with: "I know you probably believe that." Time after time the women meet stubborn injustices and benign racism with common sense, honesty, and composure. We clapped for them several times, both for clever comebacks and for their math genius.

Because each woman has different strengths and goals, we get to see three very different yet frustratingly similar struggles: smart, capable, driven woman unable to progress because of years of ingrained prejudice and racist laws. We also get to see what progress has been made in civil rights, although those advances highlight how far we still have to go. I hope everyone gets the chance to see this movie, especially young students who need to see more examples of American Heroes of all genders and races. 

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