Theodore Melfi, 2016
NASA employees work twice as hard.
In the 60s, the Soviet Union is winning the space race with Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin. US government puts the pressure on the Space Task Group conducted by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) and his chief engineer chef Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons).
The guys miss mathematicians. They hear about Katherine Globe (Taraji P. Henson) who works in the segregated division. She officially joins Al Harrison’s team. Things are about to change. Inspired by Katherine’s achievement, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) starts to fight for recognition against her supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst). Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) will fight to go to white school so she can get the engineering degree she lacks. Nothing comes easy though.
Every time we get a chance to get ahead they move the finish line. Every time.
People look at them sideways. Everyone are making it difficult. Not only are they black, but they are black women. They suffer from racism and misogyny within their own community. Even Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali) who’s attracted in Katherine is disrespectful with her.
They let women handle that sort of…?
The three friends will fight hard to get the respect and the honor they deserve. Katherine will impress Al Harrison himself and make her way to meetings that were only allowed to men. Mary finally goes to white school’s night classes and gets her degree. Dorothy will learn how to code to make herself indispensable.
Astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) goes to space thanks to those countless team efforts.
Hidden Figures is about fixing things.
The worlds is unfair in the sense it can always be improved. There are things that clearly seem wrong with society and it’s a matter of finding the solutions. It’s almost mathematical. What does it take? How do Katherine, Dorothy and Mary succeed?
They give an impulse. They deeply want to change things. Facing their own problems, the three women do not drop because that’s the way it is. They believe there is always something that can be done.
Just ’cause it’s the way, doesn’t make it right, understand?
Mary never considers herself as a victim of the system, even though she could. To the judge who examines her request, she stands her ground. She does not anticipate what he could say. Instead she carefully explains why she believes she should have the right to go to school. And she finds the right words so she is able to create a precedent.
I plan on being an engineer at NASA, but I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school, and I can’t change the color of my skin. So I have no choice, but to be the first, which I can’t do without you, sir. Your honor, out of all the cases you gon hear today, which one is gon matter hundred years from now? Which one is gon make you the first?
Mary is not impressed by the authority – of any kind. She has the guts to face the racist policemen in a way that’s not offensive, which is a performance – all things considered. She turns the situation upside down and she’s making the impossible happen.
Oh, I’ll tell you where to begin: Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down a highway in Hampton, Virginia in 1961. Ladies, that there is a God-ordained miracle!
Her attitude and mindset is actually what’s going to inspire Katherine and Dorothy. The three work together. Only teams make things change, never just one person (cf Moneyball). Katherine, Dorothy and Mary challenge and support one another. They need each other. They feel stronger together. They are unstoppable.
To make things change one needs talent, character and an open mind. The three women are extremely creative. They literally think out of the box even though they have to deal with numbers, data and rules. To invent the world of tomorrow or send someone to space, one has to think differently.
We are living the impossible.
To make a change, one also needs to shout. Katherine would not get noticed by Al Harrison otherwise. She has to make waves. Because there’s always something or someone slowing us down: Vivian is hiding Dorothy by keeping her in the basement. Katherine is being slowed down by Paul Stafford because he feels threatened. Nothing is ever given. Katherine has to go get what she wants. She has to express it in a way that no one can ignore.
There are no colored bathrooms in this building, or any building outside the West Campus, which is half a mile away. Did you know that? I have to walk to Timbuktu just to relieve myself! And I can’t use one of the handy bikes. Picture that, Mr. Harrisson. My uniform, skirt below the knees and my heels. And simple necklace pearls. Well, I don’t own pearls. Lord knows you don’t pay the colored enough to afford pearls! And I work like a dog day and night, living on coffee from a pot none of you want to touch! So, excuse me if I have to go to the restroom a few times a day.
Change can be obtained through revolutions, wars and blood. It can also be obtained politically by getting leadership to embrace and impose change. Katherine will find a powerful ally with Al Harrison. He has the authority to smash the sign on top of the toilets.
Here at NASA we all pee the same color.
He has the authority to invite Katherine to the briefing, disregarding the skepticism of the males in the room. He does it not because he likes her. He does it because he trusts her and she never lets him down. That gives him the chance to act in the name of something bigger that no one can dispute.
We get to the peak together, or we don’t get there at all.
When times are tough, it’s everyone’s duty to look up. We have to want to make the world greater, not great again. We have to believe boundaries can be pushed. We cannot let anything drag us down. We have to work hard together. We have to be smart. That’s how the impossible happens. We took off. We’re on a journey. We will not crash.
What could be fixed? How can we fix things? Do we believe we can fix things?
This publication reflects the views only of the author.