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The “Hidden Figures” Movie by Ted Melfi

Hidden Figures is a 2016 American drama film based on actual events. It tells the story of three African-American women who played a significant role in developing the American space program. The film shows the problems they were facing in segregation in the 1960s and how they fought for their right to work on a space program on an equal footing with white men. Hidden Figures is a serious film that shows how terrible racism is and how it is necessary to build a fair and equal society without prejudices.

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The film follows the stories of NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan and an engineer Mary Jackson, with Katherine Johnson being the main protagonist in the story. At the beginning of the movie, the characters work at positions that are less than what they deserve. However, throughout the film, they work hard to show everyone that they are capable of doing their job and everyone else does and even better – by offering original and ingenious solutions.

Katherine Johnson is an intelligent and diligent employee who cares and provides for her children, kind to her friends, and shy and insecure in her romantic relationships. These features make her a character the audience can sympathize with. She is in conflict with the world around her trying to repress her ambitions and put her in her place, but she does not give up and continues her struggle. The character’s clothes also represent this clash: she wears different dresses every time she goes to work, unlike her male colleagues, who wear the same white shirts and black ties throughout the movie. The protagonist represents the feminist and antiracist ideology that the authors try to convey. They do it successfully by creating a character whom the audience would feel empathy for.

The most dislikeable character in the film who tries to humiliate the protagonist is Paul Stafford’s engineer. In the beginning, when he interacts with her, he makes it clear that he will never take her seriously and that she is not qualified enough to assist him. When she proves that she is good at her job, he asks her to aid him, but he remains prejudiced and asks her to remove her signature from the report she helped write (Hidden Figures 01:17:32-01:17:45). Stafford is shown as a passive-aggressive, toxic, sexist, and racist person who is afraid to lose his position as the chief consultant for the program. However, at the end of the movie, he understands that he was wrong and brings her coffee as a sign of reconciliation. The fact that the character who represented racist and sexist ideology has changed for the better expresses the idea that society can also evolve and eliminate bias.

The film states that the presence of these women in the space program was necessary because their work made orbital space flight possible. It can be seen in the scene before the culmination when everything is ready for John Glenn’s flight, but the ground control understands that a human should check the computer data, and Katherine Johnson can do it (Hidden Figures 01:39:37-01:39:52). Her calculations are correct, and, as a result, the astronaut returns safely. The ideology that the protagonist represents is feminism: when progress is stuck, women offer a solution to the problem that skeptical men are bound to agree with.

Hidden Figures encodes the audience to endorse feminist and antiracist values. It is based on actual historical events and shows the lives of real people who worked hard and helped achieve progress everyone can observe today. The movie successfully promotes this ideology by creating characters with whom the audience can sympathize and showing the meaninglessness and inhumanity of racism, symbolically and literally. Hidden Figures is an outstanding example of how cinema can influence minds and promote ideas.

Work Cited

Hidden Figures. Directed by Theodore Melfi, Twentieth Century Fox, 2016.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, September 12). The “Hidden Figures” Movie by Ted Melfi.

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