I went to the movies tonight. The theater is a big old 1920’s era thing, built about a hundred years ago. It plays jazz music in between movies over the loudspeakers, and has a back wall covered with authentic vintage movie posters. It mostly plays independent, foreign, politically relevant, and artsy films, as well as live theater performances.
Tonight, it was playing the movie Hidden Figures.
The floors were damp from spilled Mountain Dew, and my feet hurt from walking there across town in my new shoes. It was a packed audience, exceeding all theater expectations. Maybe because of the current political climate, it seemed the whole town had come out for this movie.
So I bought a bar of Dove chocolate, and sat back to watch Hidden Figures. It’s about three women of color in the early 1960’s who work for NASA. The movie centers around their struggles to be accepted as intelligent human beings equal even to white men, in the atmosphere of NASA trying to justify its space program by launching its first man into space. These women prove instrumental in that goal, and thus succeed in life and career, rising up with the help of impressed white people through a mostly-white system.
Though Hidden Figures did not take risks in anything other than very basic premise, it was a conventional inspirational movie.
What struck me most, I think, was what a powerful intersectional feminist tale it was. These three women of color are probably smarter than every man in the room, and their area of expertise is math and science. One is trying to brave a white school, taking night classes, to become an engineer. One is a numbers girl who ends up working in the head office, and another becomes a supervisor for the new computer division, fighting to take all of her fellow women of color with her.
Their work is their own, but they do eventually impress and gain the support of white people as well. One of the most poignant subplots is between the woman who ends up becoming a supervisor, and a white woman also working for NASA. For most of the movie, the white woman actively works against this woman of color becoming a supervisor for anything, in spite of clear qualifications. At the end of the movie, the woman of color impresses the white woman so much with her intelligence and clear head, the white woman clears the way for her becoming a supervisor and even gives her the announcement of her new position herself.
The movie takes a clear stance, even stated by one of the three main characters at one point: There are many ways of achieving civil rights, not all of them through violent revolution. It is mentioned how important the current civil rights protests are, but the women in this movie are made to challenge the idea that’s the only way of doing things.
There was also a lot of physical affection between couples of color in this movie. I say that with approval, because even in 2017 I don’t see physical affection between couples of color very often on television. There was also a lot of men supporting strong, intelligent women without feeling threatened by them in this movie, which I was a huge fan of.
On a more craft related note, the movie hit all the right buttons: The ah-ha moments of victory, the moments of witty humor, the inspirational music, the heart-stopping moments of tension, and nothing was there that didn’t absolutely need to be. It didn’t take any huge risks in elements of craft, instead choosing a plucky-sports-team-movie sort of aura.
I was left feeling empowered by the idea that anyone can do anything they really set their minds to – especially and including intelligent women. I think we could all use some happy endings in our current era, and Hidden Figures delivers.