An American Tale

Hidden Figures Day 17              Photo Credit Hopper Stone/20th Century Fox

Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures yet? If not, make sure to treat yourself to it soon. It’s an extremely enjoyable tale from a remarkable period in history when three brilliant young African American women helped NASA launch the country’s first space mission.

And please don’t be fooled in to thinking it’s a black movie, or a chick flick or a civil rights thing. Yes, the movie touches on all of this but its central focus was so much more and it really struck a chord deep inside me. Honestly, I’ve been unable to stop thinking about the movie since seeing it several days ago.

First, the undeniable star of the movie is math. If someone like me for whom high school algebra was akin to studying a foreign language was left agog by the movie’s portrayal of numbers and their importance to every day life, math fanatics will surely be duly impressed.

With the Cold war in full swing and the Civil Rights movement exploding in the background, 1950’s America was, needless to say, a bit tense. NASA was working frantically around the clock, trying to beat the Russians in launching a man in space for which crazily complex math equations for flight trajectories were needed.  The slightest deviation from 100% accuracy meant disaster up in space and so the pressure was intense.

Enter the “computers” who were brought in to triple check the math. Mind you these were not the big mainframe IBM types that were just entering the market, but real live people called computers! The story follows three of them, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson played respectively and very well by Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

While the rest of the cast was solid, which included Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali, it’s these three ladies carried the day. The acting was phenomenal, but what stirred my heart was how these characters reacted with grace and class to some very unjust situations.

The blunt racism of that era was portrayed not by sensationalist car bombings and riots, but through the daily humiliations suffered when doing the most common of things like finding a bathroom to use, checking out a library book or having a cup of coffee. It brought the vicious cruelty of it alive in a much more personal way that helped people like myself who were not around during that time to emotionally connect to the ugliness of racism.

It certainly had to have been difficult living as a black woman back then, but the movie never dwells on that. What struck me most actually was the anti victimhood mentality it promotes. It’s so opposite from what you normally see in narratives surrounding race and gender issues that you can’t help but notice.

This is exemplified during one very fun scene involving baking, whiskey and dancing when Katherine and Dorothy are consoling Mary who can’t enter the engineering program at NASA because the high school offering the advanced classes she needs to qualify doesn’t accept colored people. The message they give their friend was basically to stop complaining about the unfairness of it all and do something about it, which she does in a very kick ass way.

The bond between the women is pure and being introduced to their personal lives brings nostalgia for something long gone. A time when relationships were prized, where broken families were not the norm and where differences between the sexes were celebrated and believed to be complimentary to one another.

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were undeniably inspiring in their brilliance and tenaciousness. They put loyalty to country above justifiable rage to remain focused on the mission, which speaks to an inbred patriotism reflective across the USA at that time. Everyone was rooting for NASA and when John Glenn’s rocket finally launched in to the atmosphere, the entire country cheered!

It really happened that way you know, people of all races, and stations in life came together for the mission, for NASA and John Glenn, for America. It was heartwarming to watch in the movie, but sad too as I can’t fathom that happening in our divided country today.

Or maybe it can but not without a lot more, “loving your neighbor as you would yourself” and dropping the barriers erected to keep people who think differently at arms length. We are all human beings you know created by the same God and living in a country that offers the most unbelievable freedoms and creature comforts. Perhaps that would be a good starting point to rally around.

In the words of the real Katherine Johnson, “Go see Hidden Figures and take a young person! It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best and are prepared.”

A more traditional review of the movie can be found here.

Go here for a fascinating interview with the real Katherine Johnson who is still kicking at 91 and was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2015.

And finally go here for a review of the movie written by Briana Lawrence which offers an interesting perspective.

This entry was posted in Political, Uncategorized, Women's Empowerment and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to An American Tale

  1. This is a movie I knew I would want to see. Thank you for expressing what made this movie worth going to see. Your synopsis will motivate others to see it as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A common national purpose like a world war or the space program or making America great again, kills identity politics and lays a fertile field for national unity and prosperity for all.

    And that is precisely why the Democrat Party hates THE Donald and wants to destroy him.

    Subversive racists like Democrat Congressman John Lewis haven’t been contributors to American civil rights for 50 years.

    He’s a poverty pimp sell out.

    He intentionally keeps the people of his district poor, destitute, hopeless and angry so that he can enjoy his wealthy privileged life as a member of the Washington Ruling Class.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Trying to keep politics out of this one but agreed, a national purpose benefits the entire nation.

      Like

      • Tricia,

        I completely agree with you that we ought to be able to see a movie like “Hidden Figures” and just enjoy the drama and get educated in American history at the same time.

        But those times are long gone.

        Barack Obama made sure of that.

        Like the eight years of Reagan and Bush, the Democrat Party is going to attempt to turn the Trump years into complete pandemonium.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dennis says:

    Growing up in Galveston, TX I saw segregation first hand. Although Galveston is not the “deep South” it still had it’s share of “white only” drinking fountains,clubs,seating on the bus and all the other signs of a very depressed and oppressed people.
    Later after I left Galveston and traveled the South I saw even more examples of black people enduring humiliation in public. It was funny but some of the humiliation came from folks of the same color but who thought of themselves as “above” the others of their own race.
    I saw Birmingham, AL in flames and watched black men and women beaten for doing nothing but marching for equal rights. The races were divided make no mistake but I never heard anyone asking for anything other then a chance to improve their way of life if not for themselves then for their children.
    Not having seen the movie, but I have seen the previews,I can relate to how things were in the days of Jim Crow and poll tax.
    It sounds like everyone should buy a copy of the movie and watch it once a week to keep in mind the terrible way things were and never let them reoccur again. That means getting rid of the political party that exploits racial division.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds delightful! There were some real trials and tribulations in the “olden days,” but what really strikes me as different is the anti-victim mentality.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Al says:

    Can’t wait to see this. I have to wait until it is available on pay-per-view so I will have captions. What a fascinating premise and I always love the based on actual events movies! Thanks for the review, Tricia.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ColorStorm says:

    Siskel and Ebert don’t have anything on you!!

    Nice Trish.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. NPR buzzed with this when it came out. A most timely film in these difficult times.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. DevBlog says:

    !
    It sounds like everyone should buy a copy of the movie and watch it once a week to keep in mind the terrible way things were and never let them reoccur again.

    Liked by 1 person

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