Firstly, I thought it was weird that 20th Century Fox made this movie. Then I remembered how the crew at The Simpsons said Murdoch doesn’t really care what the entertainment division does, as long as its profitable, thus it can contradict his propaganda-hate machine posing as news.
As for the movie, it was great. You watch the lives of three Black women who made major contributions to NASA at a time when Civil Rights were still contentious despite the Topeka v. Brown decision banning the Orwellian separate but equal policies of the South. (Being a Yankee, sadly, my area had equally cunning and cruel tactics, ergo, I know the South isn’t the only part of America that’s guilty.)
I’ve said it many time about films “based upon a true story,” the History Channel needs to prepare an episode of Hollywood Versus History to point out where Hollywood modified the truth to make a more effective narrative. The Texas Standard on KUT did have a short story backing the validity of the three women’s careers.
- Katherine Goble-Johnson: Originally brought over to the rocketry team as a calculator. Her math and geometry skills became critical to John Glenn’s orbital flight and the moon landings.
- Dorothy Vaughn: The acting head of the “colored calculators.” Her initiative to learn Fortran earned her the prestigious position of being the first woman supervisor at NASA. Without Mrs. Vaughn, it would’ve taken much longer to figure how to utilize the IBM computers NASA bought to do calculations…at a roaring 24,000/sec.
- Mary Jackson: She went on to become an engineer but her real victories were against the asinine discrimination policies of Virginia, namely, educational opportunities to get there. Mrs. Jackson is younger than the other two so she could be more assertive in knowing her rights.
In Hidden, you’ll see their struggles at work and elsewhere. As a Lefty it was angering because these women and their fellow calculators were just as important as the engineers, astronauts, etc; in making NASA function. The only way some of the bigots would give them a pass was when they feared the Soviets more. Not all the Whites are “evil.” Much like The Right Stuff, John Glenn is made more heroic; he insisted on meeting the Black calculators and wouldn’t go on his historic mission unless Mrs. Goble-Johnson’s math was involved. The other White knight is Director Al Harrison. However, I disagree on him being their “hero,” I think he was more of a pragmatist. His job was to beat the Soviet Union in manned spaceflight and he did whatever it took; the color barrier is an impediment he quickly realizes when Mrs. Goble-Johnson has a dramatic meltdown.
Is it entertaining? If you enjoy stories about the triumph of the human spirit, sure. If you’re a fan on historical flicks, sure. Beyond those, probably not. I plan to get the book as my little effort to participate in Black History Month but the movie should be added to the catalog of Black History alongside the Tuskegee Airmen.
Alamo Extras: I arrived under the wire to see this. My seat neighbor said I didn’t really miss anything, Alamo went with generic pre-show stuff, nothing pertaining to Math, Space, Science or Black History.