I have Hidden Figures in my book stack right now and I can’t wait to catch the film now with my daughter after reading this review from Mary today!
From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
The first time I saw a preview for Hidden Figures, the movie based on true events in the lives of three African-American women working at NASA in the early sixties, I cried. And I don’t just mean a tear or two slipped down my face. No, I sobbed. LIKE A BABY.
The same thing happened the next five times I saw a preview, too. Clearly this was a story that moved me, and I couldn’t wait to see it. Even more, I couldn’t wait to take my nine-year-old daughter to see it.
I’ll admit, when I showed her the preview a couple months ago, she did not understand what the movie was about or why I wanted her to be excited. And, though, we talked about it a little before seeing the movie last weekend, she still went into it with a lot of questions.
Questions like, “What is NASA? Are they the best at making space ships?” and “Why are they calling her a computer when she’s a person?” and “What is that?” (It was a typewriter. A TYPEWRITER, you guys!)
But her biggest and most frequent question was simply, “Why are they being so mean?”
Over the past year we’ve had quite a few discussions about racism and civil rights, both in our country’s history and in current events. I’ve tried desperately to keep up with my daughter’s compassionate, curious nature as she asks questions that I don’t always know how to answer but know are crucial to helping her grow into a kind, educated person who makes a positive difference in her world. We’ve read some books and watched some videos, and I just knew this movie – thankfully rated PG – would allow us to take our conversations to a deeper level as we learned, together, about a previously unknown part of our nation’s story.
I’m so happy to say that I was right. (Let’s face it; I’m always happy to say I’m right – but even more than usual this time!) Hidden Figures was an outstanding movie.
The writing and acting were fantastic, with realistic dialogue that included both humorous banter between friends and family and sharp, nuanced conversation between races and genders. (And the wardrobe was gorgeous. It’s possible that, in addition to her more serious observations, my daughter also noted how pretty their clothes were!) It was funny and heartwarming throughout, but also intense and heartbreaking.
Unsurprisingly, I also cried LIKE A BABY more than once.
I cried when the women were talked down to and disrespected purely for their gender and the color of their skin, when their lives were made unnecessarily difficult and yet they just kept on going. I cried when I leaned down to explain to my daughter the significance of a white woman calling a black woman by her first name while the black woman called the white woman Mrs. with her last name. I cried when the characters didn’t GET IT, and I cried when they did. I grinned so big when people simply treated others like humans, and I shook my head and said, “No freaking way!” when they treated others like less-than-humans.
But you know what? I didn’t cry one time in the car was we drove home after the movie – or as I answered question after question after question at bedtime that night. I didn’t cry when my girl asked, again, “But why did they have to be so mean? Why would they do that?” Because those conversations are exactly what I hoped for when I decided to take her to this film. Even though we don’t have answers for all of those questions, the fact that she’s asking them and we’re discussing them is a big deal.
The most important takeaway for my daughter (and for me) was absolutely an eye-opening education about these women, about the racism and sexism they faced, and an appreciation for the way they fought against those challenges. We also talked about our own racist tendencies, prejudice that we hate and want to deny but must acknowledge exists.
And aside from the global implications of this movie and its themes, I’m also hopeful that my daughter learned – from a source other than her parents – that she can do hard things. I hope she can apply what she saw to her own life and acknowledge that life is hard, but just like the women working at NASA fifty years ago, she can do hard things.
On our ride home following the movie, I asked my daughter a few questions so I could share her perspective with you. Here they are, along with her answers:
Me: I’m going to ask you some questions about the movie, so I can write a blog post about it.
Her: Cool! I’m being interviewed! Wait, do you have a secret camera recording this?
Me: No. … Moving on … What did you think about the movie?
Her: It was good! I liked it a LOT. (*sings* I don’t like it. I love it!)
Me: What was your favorite part?
Her: They were so smart! And they fought for the right to be equal. And that one guy was really nice when she told him how far away her (colored women’s) bathroom was. I liked it when they said funny things, too. Oh, and John Glenn.
Me: Why did you like John Glenn?
Her: Well, he was really cute, but I guess that’s not the point. (KILL ME NOW, FELLOW MOMS. Although, she wasn’t wrong.) I mean, maybe it’s part of the point…
Me: Was there anything you didn’t like about the movie?
Her: I didn’t like how mean they were! And it was kind of scary. I mean, the going to space part. (Like mother, like daughter.) And the kissing parts.
Me: Are you glad we went to see it?
So, there you have it. My daughter and I both highly recommend seeing Hidden Figures – and taking a young person along with you!
MOVIE SYNOPSIS from 20th Century Fox, via IMDB.com: As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.