A Movie That Raises Spirits To Outer Space
It’s amazing some stories take so long before they’re told, but fortunately, 55-years after the fact, “Hidden Figures” is finally on the big screen.
This compelling movie is the true story of three African-American women working on the United States space program at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
The year is 1962, and segregation is in full force. There are “colored” water fountains, “colored” restrooms, and even a “colored computers” room where African-American women analysts work. Civil rights protests are underway as police, dogs and water hoses are turned on American citizens searching for their equality guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
It’s an ugly time.
Prejudice and misogyny are two strikes the main characters face daily. Mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and informal supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) must surmount the roadblocks put before them.
They are varied, and they are many.
The women are recognized for their color, and because of that, have a hard time being recognized for their brains, skills, and ambitions.
But the space race is on, and John F. Kennedy is dreaming big. The Russians are off to an early lead, and American pride is on the line. Can the space race ease some of the racial barriers Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy face?
The IBM 7090 computer is also an important character. This incredible new technology takes up an entire room and requires a crew of computer specialists to operate and stacks of cards that must be programmed with complex FORTRAN code to run calculations.
The machine is destined to render obsolete the work of brilliant mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson. Her primary duties are double checking the figures of other mathematicians and formulating calculations.
She reports to Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory” (Jim Parsons, perfect in the jerk role), and they both report to Kevin Costner, the benevolent head of the space program.
Our three main characters face race issues from humans, along with technology issues from machines.
The stakes are high — on the line is Astronaut John Glenn’s butt in a space capsule and American pride.
“Hidden Figures” is an incredible story of three extraordinary people overcoming the odds and making a lasting impact.
We know the history of the space program’s accomplishments, but until recently, few of us knew the stories of these women and how they helped make those achievements possible.
Do yourself a favor, see “Hidden Figures” and prepare to be moved, and outraged at how society behaved in our not so distant past.
It’s one of the best films of 2016.
Patrick Scullin is an empathetic adman and founder of Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising (ASO).