I finally saw Hidden Figures after receiving lots of recommendations from family members. In truth, I wanted to check it out immediately but low funds delayed the best of plans. In short, the movie was engaging and quietly awesome. It made me feel sadness, embarrassment, frustration, and joy. The plot showed subtle and obvious distinctions in sexism and racism in painful, societal ways. The film plucks at the heartstrings with moving performances and historical accomplishments. I hope at least one of these fine actresses get an Academy nod. Taraji Henson in particular did a fine job in portraying a reticent yet brilliant woman stuck in an all-male, all-white situation. The film showed that her coworkers considered her the lowest member but she often proved to be the highest asset. Her frustrated explosion at her boss made the audience want to cheer her on.
While watching, I first felt horrified and embarrassed on how the “colored computers” or “West computers” were treated. The label “computer” as a job title originated when extremely intelligent women hired for solving complex equations. Originally in the 1940s and 1950s, they were white women but then as demand rose, black women were hired as well. Considering these ladies’ usefulness and high intelligence levels, the minority women were treated poorly and as easily replaceable, which they were not. As the movie moved through their everyday affairs, the audience saw how these women were dismissed even by men in their own community, damned by their sex. The joy came, of course, when each struggling individual broke through barriers and helped the rockets soar. The ladies’ personal pride in their work shone through and their accomplishments were finally recognized.
It is hard for me to think in terms of those barriers and insidious attitudes. I hope I would be better in my treatment of anyone. I certainly would not tolerate it in others, but in that age and society, racism was so normalized. This is something I never want to see again in America. I’ve experienced bigotry and sexism but not on so constant a level. When I was sixteen, I had a boss who could only refer to his female employees in terms of obscenities and body parts. Imagine how that makes a young girl feel. Unfortunately, many of these horrible attitudes are deeply buried in some people and, like cockroaches in the darkness, still creep out now and again.
I saw Hidden Figures the day after so many (millions in fact) concerned citizens of all colors and genders took to the streets to make their voices heard about fears of the new government. Because of those protests, this movie is incredibly timely. So many people fear the return of bleak days of racism, sexism, separateness, and inhumanity. This film serves as a reminder of those terrible times. It tells us we can overcome our preconceived ideas and baser nature to become better individuals.
So I say to those out there, fight the darkness trying to edge back into our country’s collective minds.
And support each other no matter the creed, color, sex, or lifestyle. We are most powerful when we stand united against those who would tear any of us down.
One of my favorite quotes:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.