The Movie Hidden Figures Highlights the Life of Three African-American Women

The movie Hidden Figures highlights the life of three African-American women who held prominent positions within NASA during an era when America was racially segregated. These three women began their journey from the bottom, serving in menial administrative positions, inferior to both the Caucasian male and female alike.

This movie was reviewed by many people and online newspapers, but today I will specifically discuss the review given by A.O. Scott who writes for the New York Times. Although movies can be streamed on Netflix or certain internet links, A.O. Scott chooses the old fashioned way of still attending screenings to experience what the director wanted to portray in the most optimal conditions possible. If he must use a laptop, Scott puts on headphones and intensely engages the movie to ensure he is giving an in depth and exhaustive critique. Because of this he has earned the title of “Chief Film Critic” of the New York Times and serves as a great author to use for this film analysis.

This movie is your basic film based around the oppressive dealings of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, and a few individuals who were able to overcome a system that caters towards white privilege. Scott highlights this in his review when he stated, “Like many movies about the overcoming of racism, it offers belated acknowledgment of bravery and talent and an overdue reckoning with the sins of the past. And like most movies about real-world breakthroughs, is content to stay within established conventions (Scott, 2016).”

He is definitely right about this movie staying within its established conventions. If you are a viewer looking for a film to spark that entrepreneur inside of you then you will surely be disappointed. This movie doesn’t dare break the boundaries of so many similar films that display minorities being content climbing the corporate ladder in a system that was never intended for them to reach the top rung. Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Katherine Jackson are the three main characters that are actually brilliant enough to establish their own corporation, but they would only be able to go so far in a Caucasian male-dominated society that was in place at that time. So Scott was right when he stated that story may be new to most viewers, but the manner in which it’s told will be familiar to all but the youngest.

Movies like this appeal to the masses and keep controversy and feelings in check unlike the film Birth of a Nation. That’s an example of a movie that goes outside of the conventional norms and breaks down all barriers of established conventions. I bring this movie to the forefront, referring back to when Scott stated that the film Hidden Figures brushes over the topic of three African-American women, who represented African-American women worldwide, that were being rewarded an “overdue reckoning with the sins of the past.” The definition of reckoning is the settling of an account or basically judgment concerning a matter. Where and when was the account settled? Racism and prejudice continued even after these women made their great contribution to NASA. Scott’s statement would have went better with a movie like Birth of a Nation, in where the slaves freed themselves by killing their masters; and thus reckoning is hand down for sins of the past.

Controversy does not come without a price though. Not to move too far off topic, but Nate Parker, the main actor in Birth of a Nation, was brought up on charges of rape that he allegedly committed 17 years ago (Pearl, 2016). I believe this was a distraction to take away from the validity and power that the movie carried after being released in January 2016. Theodore Melfi, probably considered this and decided to direct Hidden Figures very particularly because of the aforementioned. According to A.O. Scott, Mr. Melfi knows how to push our emotional buttons without too heavy a hand. He trusts his own skill, the intrinsic interest of the material and — above all — the talent and dedication of the cast. From one scene to the next, you may know more or less what is coming, but it is never less than delightful to watch these actors at work.

I agree with Scott on his former point. The film is really predictable and plays out like a love story. You see the struggle, along with the trials and tribulations, but you just know that there will be a happily-ever after ending when it’s all said and done. You laugh, you cry, and you rejoice with the women once victory is achieved. Mr. Melfi does an excellent job of causing the viewer to become emotionally attached with the onscreen characters.

It begins to become clear that Scott and the film director are careful to use such language that will neither offend a Caucasian audience nor incite an African-American audience to anger and violence. I noticed that the director dealt more about triumph and overcoming, even including one of the women getting married during her journey at the NASA Space Program. Scott observed this as well by stating that film “also embeds that history in daily life, departing from the televised spectacle of liftoffs and landings and the public drama of the civil rights movement to spend time with its heroines and their families at home and in church. The sweetest subplot involves the romance between Katherine, a widow with three daughters, and a handsome military officer played by Mahershala Ali.”

You can also tell that the director was very specific, in that while he displayed the detrimental effects of white supremacy in which would anger some at first, he also makes sure towards the middle of the film to display a Caucasian gentleman as a protagonist, as Al Harrison tears down the “Colored Restrooms” sign to allow Katherine to not walk ½ mile just to relieve herself. The director barely scratched the surface of civil rights issues that African-Americans faced during that time and honed in on the barrier being broke down for Negro women obtaining influential positions in NASA.

A.O. Scott noticed the direction that Mr. Melfi was going as well and I agree with the points made. He stated that “Hidden Figures” effectively conveys the poisonous normalcy of white supremacy, and the main characters’ determination to pursue their ambitions in spite of it and to live normal lives in its shadow. One statement he made that I disagreed with was that “for the most part the white characters are not treated as heroes for deciding, at long last, to behave decently.” There is no doubt in my mind that the head of Katherine’s group (Al Harrison) was all for white supremacy, but for the sake of completing a job, he made it seem as if he was tearing down the wall of partition between whites and blacks, thus making him a hero in the eyes of those black women at NASA.

In conclusion, I believe that A.O. Scott gave a clear and concise review of the movie Hidden Figures. He did his best at ensuring that his personal beliefs and comments were left out and that the reader was presented with a whole lot of facts and little to no opinion. He makes speculations and will reflect on certain scenes of the movie but only to the point that the reader is left wanting for more and hopefully go watch the movie and draw their own conclusions. Other websites I visited, such as The Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times involved the authors being more biased. If the movie was good in their eyes, then they highlighted certain uplifting parts of the movie that would encourage a certain type of crowd to go see it. If the movie wasn’t that great then the author would hone in on those particular parts and try to dissuade their audience on why not to watch it. Scott was objective in his approach and I’ll conclude with one of his quotes: Hidden Figures “can fill you with outrage at the persistence of injustice or fill you with gratitude toward those who had the grit to stand up against it.