(Beware: Spoilers ahead!)
By: Jessica Baskerville, Special Feature Editor
Based off of the novel written by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures tells the true story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae)- three black women who work as “computers” at NASA. The movie and novel offer local history and a powerful story about minorities breaking barriers in the Jim Crow South.
To say that Katherine was brilliant is an understatement; she started attending college at 15 to earn her degree in math and was one of the first three black students (the only female) to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school.
All three women started off in a segregated sector at NASA, only interacting with the white people when they came to deliver assignments (most of the time, the head people communicated with them via runner). It was only when they were desperately in need of a computer for the Friendship 7 mission that they moved Katherine into an area consisting of only white men. She was strictly instructed on how to behave and make sure that she “knew her place.” Not surprisingly, the men that she worked with didn’t take Katherine’s presence very well; they hid information that would be crucial to her math and gave her her own “colored” coffee pot that was never once filled.
The entire message of the movie was to keep overcoming obstacles and achieving; always look forward to the next best thing. Whether it was sending a man into space, or becoming the first black woman to hold a certain position, these women had everyone against them: their husbands, the workers at NASA, the country, EVERYONE. As quoted from Monae’s character, “Every time we’re close to the finish line, they keep moving it away.” But, here’s the thing- they didn’t care. People’s ignorance didn’t prevent them from moving forward. All three women continued to progress and prosper in their fields and beat all the odds.
Hidden Figures will have viewers leaving the movie theater joyous and determined. Even though the setting of the story is during the Civil Rights Era of the United States, showing glimpses of protests and discrimination throughout, watching these women’s spirits never get crushed in a world that is nothing but against them is truly inspiring.