It takes courage to be the first, especially within a society suffers from racial discrimination. Being ignored, neglected, is nothing compared to psychological torture experienced by the victim. It’s only those who have experienced similar behavioral process who can understand the importance of non-primordial issues, character and meritocracy above everything. It takes sensible human being to promote equality in order to achieve greater good. That’s the story learned from Hidden Figures which is Kevin Costner’s latest movie visualizing the role of Katherine Johnson during NASA’s first space program. Among African-American women in the institution, Katherine was the one responsible to perform calculation of flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. Using 1961 as the time plot, Hidden Figures also tells the story another outstanding women who happen to be Katherine’s closest friends, i.e. Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The latter became NASA’s and America’s first female African-American aeronautical engineer, while Dorothy Vaughan is known as the first African-American Supervisor in the history of NASA and also Fortran specialist at that time.
Hidden Figures is opened by a friendly white police officer escorting Katherine, Dorothy and Mary to their office. However, the situation changes when those three black ladies immerse themselves into the professional realm. Dorothy (Octavia Spencer), for example, wants herself promotion, but Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst), her sensible supervisor, tells her there’s no position for colored skin in higher management. And, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), has to fight against racial discrimination which inhibits her to gain more engineering training within a white-male dominated institution. Meanwhile, Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) is being the only African-American woman in the Space Task Group headed by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Katherine is lucky to have rational boss like Al, despite the fact that she is surrounded by white male Americans who see her with discerning eyes when encounter her making coffee out of their thermos. She performs well in her work and being patient until one day Harrison launches his critics for having her absent for nearly an hour, leaving the office unattended without any notice. Katherine has nothing more to elucidate but saying that there is no toilet for colored skin within the building, so that she needs to walk 1 km away from the office only to make her comfortable. The incident is then responded by Al by crushing the toilet sign for colored skin on the next day in front of his colleagues, saying, “In NASA, we all pee the same color.” The movie is then continued with Katherine contributes to John Glenn’s first mission, insisting on joining Pentagon closed meeting. Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), the head engineer in Space Task Group, has already told her that there is no room for woman in the meeting; showing improved behavior from a man who formerly used skin color as the baseline to treat Katherine. It’s Al who then permits her to join the discussion, and eventually amazed by Katherine’s mathematical skill in determining landing orbit for John Glenn within the forum in real-time.
For a true story, Hidden Figures offers no boredom. Theodore Melfi has successfully directed cinema work of superb quality. It has balanced composition, normal human touch and drama. He doesn’t manipulate color skin to evoke viewer’s emotion. Instead, just like what Al Harrison promotes, Hidden Figures tries to put higher importance upon skill, character, and ability above shallow variables like skin color using rational and sensible approach everyone may accept. This movie is important to unearth and to liberate those who see themselves merely based on primordial and discrimination issue. If you seek freedom, then you should watch this movie.