‘Hidden Figures’ showcases women in science

February 21, 2017

Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer play the three African-American women engineers behind NASA’s most famous space missions. – 20th Century Fox


Morgan Bernard
Staff Reporter | mrb056@latech.edu


“Hidden Figures” is a story based on the lives of three African American women who used their brilliant mathematics and engineering skills to serve the NASA program in several of its most famous missions in history.


Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) each played a major role in sending the first American, John Glenn (Glen Powell), into space.


In the setting of early 1960s Virginia, a segregated state, these three women overcome the barriers of race and gender as they work their way up through the ranks of the space program.


From a male police officer (Ron Clinton Smith) who is in disbelief that women work for NASA, to the white woman adviser in charge of the computers (Kirsten Dunst) and is harsh to the black women workers, the audience can sense the waves in society early on in the movie.


The film begins with a small backstory of each woman that explains each of their unique talents that they use for their positions in NASA.


Katherine Johnson is a mathematical genius and hard-working mother who is perfectly portrayed by Henson. She showed a love for math from childhood, and her quickness with work, confidence in her skills and love for her family make her a character that anyone can look up to.


Mary Jackson, played by Monáe, is an expert in engineering who is never afraid to speak her mind. She also lets nothing get in her way of getting the engineering education she wants. This character’s bravery and diligence are shown throughout the whole film.


Dorothy Vaughan is also involved in the engineering field. Her handy mechanic skills and eye for problem solving helps NASA program the first IBM machine that changes the space program for years to come. Spencer did an excellent job of showing her character’s leadership skills as well as her patience.


The main characters face several challenges, and even other characters, on their way up to new spots in NASA.


By having these many obstacles to conquer, the film was able to show how much work these women put into getting what they wanted. It also gives the audience a sense of inspiration and a want to put more effort into what they may have to battle in their own lives. The story of these three incredible women is one that was untold for years and has finally made its way out into the world. This film, directed by Theodore Melfi,  had the power to bring this important piece of history into the light it deserves.


Melfi was able to show the love and strength behind each character through scenes with their families, but also showed their everyday battles with racism and gender inequality.


“Hidden Figures” is an excellent portrayal of these women’s lives and what it was like for them during times of segregation.


The main characters did not ignore the racial issues in their workplace but instead fought against them using grace, intelligence and patience rather than arguments or protests. This is one of the factors that makes this film so unique.


Not only is it based on actual history, but the way these women created this history is something different than the audience will see any other film.


“Hidden Figures”  inspires as well as entertains. It acknowledges racial divisions while insisting that there is more than one way to fix them.


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