For years, Hollywood just couldn’t get it right. Those tasked with telling the stories of real, marginalised women in America seemed to trip a step backwards at the very hint of forward momentum. Films like The Secret Life of Bees and The Help were so close to capturing an honest acclaim, but failed audiences by telling stories of black women through the eyes of white ones, negating the substantial progress their stories promised. But when they could have followed suit with the other relics of this underdeveloped genre and done wrong, Hidden Figures did so much right.
Audiences were absolutely craving a story told as candidly and justly as this, evident by the dominating box office trends of the past few weeks. Seasoned and dynamic lead actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe championed the screen as performers representing real-life American heroes who, for too long, have gone unrecognised by popular historical record. The world finally got to meet expert NASA scientists Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson and the teams of women that were the quiet composers of America’s fight in the race to space, the unsung geniuses behind some of the most significant American achievements in recent history.
Their triumphs were not glossed over, nor were their struggles. Refreshingly genuine in their telling of this important story, the filmmakers chose to emphasise the conflict of race and gender undeniably at play, following real history. Not only were these brilliant women facing the most complicated and crucial scientific inquiries of their time, but they also had to do it with a bathroom a half of a mile from their desk and in heels (undoubtedly what was strictly considered to be “professional” at the time). And in telling such a significant story, these elements cannot be ignored, so their inclusion was not surprising. Nonetheless, it was concretely effective.
The film itself, following the success of these incredible women, is a victory. Most substantially, its box office trend relays an important message to Hollywood: people want to see honest tellings of the stories of minorities and women. It cannot be denied. Hidden Figures is the satisfying answer to audiences’ desire to peek into these conflicts and triumphs. Hopefully, Hollywood will take a hint, and Hidden Figures will be the catalytic introduction of a very fulfilling trend.
by Olivia Kelliher
Olivia is an 18 year old from the US, originally from Chicago but currently attending film school in Boston with hopes of becoming a screenwriter. One day, she hopes she will write a film so insightful that her parents will think maybe letting her live a thousand miles away from them as a teenager was worth it. She likes movies with lots of words or at least a few words that mean something. Whip it, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Beginners, and A League of Their Own are some of her favorites.