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HIDDEN FIGURES: A film review

All the way up until I had children, I saw about twenty to forty films in the theater a year. No joke. Now, I still see some in the theater—maybe four a year. All kids’ movies. I’ve learned to love them. Couldn’t wait for Sing. Counting the days till the next Disneynature flick.

(I’ve told Tim that I’d like FIVE Date-nights this year. Just FIVE. Tim, are you reading? Movies for big people, please?)

But the nonstop tour of pixar and animation is about to change!

Can you believe that we took the girls to their first grown-up movie in the theater this weekend that wasn’t Star Wars? (This is the content of their grown-up movie history: Back to the Future 1-whatever, Belle, Race, Episodes 4, 5,6, and 7 of Star Wars, and I think that’s it.) But, this weekend—opening weekend!—we saw Hidden Figures.

Five stars.

Go. Take the kids.

Three black women, beginning in 1961, make their historical dent on NASA—right at the time when JFK was leading the country in a space race with the Soviet Union (we were losing). Also happening: Jim Crow, MLK, the fruit of Brown vs. Board of Education and other landmark court rulings. But here were three women—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson —whose legacy has been, more or less, hidden.

You’ll watch it and—I promise you—wonder why you didn’t know about this.It is “based” on a true story, and that can be shady in Hollywood. I looked up information on Katherine Johnson, the main character, and her life sounded as stunning in reality as it was portrayed in film. I’m planning on listening to the audiobook behind the film this year, so I’ll get back to you.

Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful film. (The audience applauded at the end.) Kid-safe. Some romance. Married people who go to church! No sex! (Katherine, interestingly, was a member of her church choir for some fifty years.). Actually, there is something I’d like to know more about—another hidden narrative: the role of Christianity here. Their church life does figure into their story—and I’m tempted to say that there’s more to this part of the story. At my girls’ school, they do a book report on a Christian hero in fifth grade. Wendy is currently writing a book report on Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. I’d hazard to guess that Melody could legitimately do her report on Katherine Johnson.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I think one relevant message here is found in the way racism is combatted. Though I’d argue that racism is clearly systemic, it may die in a less-than-systemic way. It might die one person at a time. I won’t say too much here, but keep your eyes on Katherine’s coffee cup and listen to how Dorothy’s last name is used.

I’m anxious to know the true story. Kevin Costner’s character—is he real? John Glenn is strangely liberated—is this real?

See this film because it’s important to uncover these hidden figures. Bravo to the filmmakers who chose to do so in a family-friendly way.


The Black Women Who Helped Win The Space Race

The True Story of Hidden Figures (Smithsonian Magazine)

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