"Hidden Figures": Representation Matters

BY: YESENIA JONES

“Hidden Figures” is an inspiring true story about three African American women who helped the United States reach outer space. Their efforts in the space race have long since been unrecognized by the general public until the release of this film. The main characters are Katherine Johnson who was a mathematician, Dorothy Vaughn who was a programmer, and Mary Jackson who aspired to become an engineer.

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Often when learning about space in school, children only hear about the astronauts who landed on the moon, not the people who helped them get there. These three women crossed all boundaries set before them, and made history by solving problems that would have otherwise gone unanswered.

Katherine was the only female women of color to be a computer for Nasa, and eventually determined a safe landing point for the rocket ships first trip into space. Mary was the first African American woman to attend classes at a local high school in Hampton, Virginia in her efforts to become an engineer. Dorothy was the only person who understood how to program NASA’s IBM (International Business Machines) computer.

The film has generated over $104 million and remained number one in the box office for over two weeks. The fierce nature and determination of these three women when faced with racism and sexism during the time of the Jim Crow south, paired with the incredible acting of Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer, has made this movie such a large success.

Hollywood’s lack of representation of women of color has proven to be consistent and this movie along, with a few others, has shown that films with female leads can be just as profitable as films with male leads.

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The presence of the three main characters presented in “Hidden Figures” is important because they depict strong women of color holding lead positions in the field of science and math. This is significant due to the fact that women are often discouraged from pursuing science and are very rarely displayed as leaders in the field. It is essential for young girls today to watch movies such as Hidden Figures, especially since our society often tells women that science and technological careers are only for men. After seeing this film, young black girls everywhere can look up to these women, and be unafraid to pursue careers in science or even acting.

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The simple existence of this film and the representation it provides can spark the potential of millions. I only wish that these women gained the credit they deserved while they were in their prime. However, I believe Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), and Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson) did an amazing job of bringing this #blackgirlmagic to our local big screens. They deserve all the awards!