Hidden Figures

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.

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Background Noise at a Coffee House

I spent a Friday evening out on the town with my sister and a friend.  We walked around the west side downtown area before taking a taxi back home.

We went to a little redbrick pub and coffee house filled inside with fairy lights and bookshelves.  I got a warm slice of apple pie, a Reuben panini, water from the pitcher in a corner, and a Mexican mocha in a mug, finding rustic polished wood seats amid the bustling college town crowd.  I had an acoustic guitar leaning in a corner from my music lesson earlier.

My friends and I talked about the books scattered haphazardly over our table, and about Pokemon Go.  (My friends are trying to get me more into gaming; I like anime and manga, but I currently play video and app games about as well and as often as a retarded goldfish.)  Out around us, people drank, laughed, and chatted, the atmosphere languid and friendly and the lights warm.  A regular host of live music, this was a place of culture instead of drinking, the sort of place where a cup of coffee could last for hours.

Eventually, a pianist started singing and playing keyboard in the background; she was dressed in a checkered flannel shirt and tight jeans.  Like most musicians, she knew enough not to ask me to play something just because I had an instrument, which I appreciated.

I don’t know what happened, but she played for a few minutes, then suddenly grabbed her jacket and ran out in tears.  She’d said something about singing a never before performed song…  Had she expected more of a reaction to her music?  I wonder.  Because she was good – very good.  But the venue was not one that allowed itself to some crazy huge reaction.  The atmosphere was all wrong if that was what she wanted.

And yes, I have sung in front of others before, so I do in fact know a little bit of what I’m talking about.  A word of advice?  If you’re really that sensitive about a song, you should probably wait to sing it until you’re in front of a bigger crowd that’s paid to listen to people sing.  I know that’s scarier, but you’ll also get more noise and reaction that way.

You don’t get wild rounds of applause as the background noise at a coffee house.

Confetti Pink and Patriarchal Dudes

We pondered the absurdity of ice cream and shoe shopping when it was so black and rainy outside, but in the end my sister and I soldiered on after classes with our scheduled plans anyway.  We walked everywhere, hunched down over the sidewalks of long, dark, slick main thoroughfares in gleaming black rain jackets, mildly dazzled by dimly gleaming lights and the zooming of passing cars, our headphones in and our walk carrying the silence of the amiable.

We entered a lonely little few-table ice cream parlor first.  It was covered in gleaming glass and confetti pink.  I had a cup of late-night Oreos cookie n cream ice cream, while my sister got a big colorful ice cream cone.  We were the only patrons, aside from a heavily accented man trying to order ice cream ahead for later to the confused clerks, and a woman with her daughter celebrating the little girl’s birthday.

At one point I sneezed so loudly in the silence that my sister stared at me with big eyes, and I started laughing uncontrollably.  We fell into easier chatter after that, some strange spell broken.  We put on our collective bucket list an edible cookie dough place we recently learned about in New York, and nerded out over anime con stuff.

A big family entered the ice cream parlor as we left.  The mother was talking loudly enough for the clerks to overhear about “cheap ice cream.”

The gleaming single-story mall full of storefronts was nearly empty at this late hour.  A single red balloon was stuck to the ceiling in the quiet.  I’d needed some new summer shoes.  All I had right now were big, clunky black winter boots.

The extremely bored clerks in the aggressively red shoe shop immediately went to help me find the right shoes.  I shop fast – I get in, I get what I want, I get out.  I’m petite with an average woman’s shoe size, so it helps that I’m not terribly hard to shop for.  I chose grey and indigo crinkle patterned vans to go with my dark leggings and darker skinny jeans.

I’m boringly practical.  I only ever buy with debit, I buy shoes twice a year, and I never spend much time shopping.  I’m infamous for always picking out exactly what I want on the first try.

In other words, in patriarchal dude terms, I’m “kinda weird for a chick.”