On this day, I will review movies and TV shows, without sticking to the strict alternating schedule that I do with fiction/poetry posts. Sometimes it’ll be several shows in a row, sometimes films.
I can’t go to the movie theater every week (or keep up with TV!), so many of these will be new material off Amazon video or Netflix. With that said, let’s talk about
I saw this film the weekend it came out, but I wanted to use this platform to talk about it more.
Hidden Figures, if you don’t know, is a Based-On-A-True-Story film about the women behind the 1962 Friendship 7 mission. Directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Shroeder, the film follows three leading women: Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer).
(Some spoilers ahead!)
“Black movies” don’t get much viewership from white audiences, so this movie is really important. It’s a piece of history about black women being incredible in a time where they weren’t expected or even allowed to be based on race and gender.
This is history, so the ending of the movie is pretty obvious: John Glenn makes it safely up and orbits the earth three times.
Katherine Goble Johnson (1918-) transferred to a school in Institute, West Virginia as a mathematical genius. She started working for NASA in 1953 as a “computer,” before being assigned to Guidance and Control Division of Langley’s Flight Research Division. There she checked the calculations for other engineers before becoming an aerospace technologist in 1958 until she retired in 1986. In the film, she struggles to gain respect in the Space Task group, especially from Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons). Eventually Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) breaks down the Colored/White bathrooms and she gains respect of the white male mathematicians and scientists.
Mary Jackson (1921-2005) petitioned the city of Hampton, VA to let her attend an all-white school so that she could go on to become NASA’s first black, female engineer in 1958. She worked at NASA until 1985. In the film, she graduates to have the qualifications of an engineer as the movie ends, in about 1962.
Dorothy Vaughn (1910-2008) started working at NACA in 1943 as a ‘computer’ as well. When NACA introduced a digital computer, she taught herself and then her coworkers computer programming to stay competitive. In 1949 she became acting supervisor for her group until finally being promoted as the first black supervisor. She retired in 1971. In the film, Dorothy has been acting supervisor and petitioning to be a true supervisor for some time. She is eventually promoted when she demonstrates that she has more knowledge of the computer than the men assigned to it.
The movie is wonderful and inspirational, but it is a film; like every other based on a true story, it takes its liberties. From what I can find on these women’s wiki entries, the film mostly crunched the storylines so they all take place at the same time (most obviously with Mary). Check out the book the film was based on, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly the story with less theatrical flair.