Cinema has a long and rich history of showing us the small and large moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Some films that come to my mind are "Malcolm X," "Selma," "Cesar Chavez," as well as movies like "12 Years a Slave" and "Milk." Prejudice and racism often exist out of sheer ignorance to the other side. If you haven't spent much time with minorities, migrant workers, or members of the LGBTQ community, you are more likely to find yourself operating under false preconceived notions. Art, in this case, cinema, possesses the power to introduce you to a world and stories you knew very little about. Art can strip away the ignorance and introduce you to commonalities while positively highlighting the differences.
"Hidden Figures" joins the ranks of great Civil Rights Movies by exposing the audience to a story very few of us knew; the battle for equality in the workplace. The story centers around brilliant African-American women who work for NASA. On a daily basis, they find themselves judged by their skin color and not the knowledge they possess. As the Russians pull further away from the US in the race to space, NASA finds itself in a bind. The agency needs new eyes and unparalleled intelligence. Here, one of our African American women steps forward to do the impossible. She enters a world dominated by white men and asks to be judged by the content of her work not the color of her skin.
I write this review as a white, middle class, graduate level educated, gay man. Never in my life have I felt bullied, harassed, or put down for my skin color or my sexuality. I live a life of privilege. With this in mind, I do see a common theme in all of these movies; proving people wrong. The Civil Rights Movement to me can be summed up by people doing the impossible to prove others wrong. The movement was about ordinary people rising above their circumstances, summoning tremendous courage, and envisioning a world much different than their own. In "Hidden Figures," this means doing the math and getting a man to safely orbit the earth. Once the act is accomplished, everything, and I do mean everything, is changed.
Finally, one of the most fantastic quotes in this entire movie is this, "Act right. You are right." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked the world to judge him and others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. All human beings should be judged by their intentions to do harm or good. Nothing else matters to me and nothing else should matter to you. After watching this film, this idea has been further cemented in my mind.
Be good to each other,