There just seems to be an abundance of good Black films coming out lately. Even though Hollywood seems unable to tell one Black film from another, there is much in the way of variety. Earlier this week, I caught Hidden Figures.
This movie tells the story of three Black women working at NASA in the early 1960s. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, it depicted the struggle of being recognized as enough, even when you are more than qualified. Based on the actual experiences of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the film shows how they had to deal with racism and sexism. The stifling social norms of Virginia in the early 1960s were ever present.
The backdrop was the space race, and the Cold War between Russia and the United States. In showing how Black citizens were held back from contributing to American society, Hidden Figures showed how America at times stops itself from advancing.. cutting off it’s nose to spite it’s face.
Seeing this film, as well as “Fences” I see a commonality in both movies. We seem to be at an interesting crossroads in American history where larger political forces are hellbent on going back to having things the way they were. This was part of the broad appeal of “Make America Great Again” Is it possible that artistically, we are being shown stories from the 1950s and 60s as a reminder of how our parents and grandparents coped under less progressive conditions? Any sources of strength we can draw on, are definitely needed. Especially considering what kind of administration we have coming in next Friday.
Contemporary political pontificating aside, Hidden Figures is an important, inspiring film. It is an excellent movie to show to high school students, and can inspire more girls to study STEM related subjects. For those who want to know more about the story, there is also a book detailing the efforts of these three women. At a time where the political scene is a downer, this true story is a reminder of what we can accomplish in spite of.