Trading in her leopard fur coats and gaudy jewelry for black, cat-eye glasses, pinned-curled bangs and knee-length patterned skirts, Taraji P. Henson stars as unsung space shero Katherine Johnson, the Black woman who helped send John Glenn into orbit in the critically-acclaimed film Hidden Figures.
.If you haven't seen it already, I only have one question: what are you waiting for?!?!
Set in segregated 1960s Virginia, Hidden Figures tells the epic story of the three Black women who worked at NASA as “computers” in the early days of the space program. Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film also stars Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as supervisor Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as engineer Mary Jackson.
The long overdue story of this incredible trio who helped position NASA as a major force not only features some hilarious one-liners and incredible history moments, but also exudes a certain feeling of accomplishment and strength making it a film every woman should see. Still not convinced? Here's four more reasons why.
1. Three Words: Last Year's Election
No matter their political affiliation, many were left dumbfounded after last year’s Presidential race when yet another unqualified man beat a more than highly qualified woman for the position of Commander in Chief. While devastating, this is an occurrence plenty of educated Black women, unfortunately know all too well as we’re consistently being passed over and prevented from advancing in every industry from entertainment to STEM despite being the most educated group in the US.
But, with Hidden Figures we get to see how three amazingly skilled and highly educated Black women completely shattered the glass ceiling and rose to the top of the space industry, solidifying their place in history despite initial pushback from the NASA “boys club” and the rest of the country due to their gender and race.
2. Black Women Are Still Underrepresented in STEM
Despite the incredible strides Black women have made in STEM industries—which is the basis of this entire film—minority women still comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers in this country. According to a 2015 National Science Foundation study, women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce—with only
11% being women of color. Fortunately, with the influence of this film and organizations like Black Girls Who Code we’re sure more little girls of color will be reaching for more science books and calculators.
3. The Leading Ladies Break Down Major Barriers
Mainstream TV hasn't really embraced black leads, especially female ones. Remember #OscarsSoWhite? But, with not one, but three Black actresses leading the all-star cast this time around, this is exactly the representation we’ve all been waiting for. With only 27% of female characters on screen being played by actresses of color, and with sometimes less than stellar portrayals of us on reality TV, films like Hidden Figures are needed because they show the diverse make-up of black women. This film is the first step in dismantling the “all black women are ratchet” stereotypes that sometimes plague us and show that we come from all walks of life, with various gifts and talents to share.
4. Sisterhood Is At The Forefront Of It All
Henson, Spencer and Monae are three powerful actors that just add to the excitement many women have for the film, which seems to be a rare example women of brilliant, ambitious women shown as allies on-screen. Too often we see black women depicted as competitors and enemies and it's about damn time to see them working with each other on-screen rather than against.
"You see women [in the movie] come together and support each other,” Henson told The Hollywood Reporter at the Toronto Film Festival last September. “Not cat-claw, fight [and] hate on each other for one role. But when you embrace each other and you stick together — look what these women were able to accomplish. The power in women sticking together — we will change the world. Until we get that we are going nowhere.” And I couldn’t agree more Taraji!
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox