Why Movies like Hidden Figures are Empowering

I finally got a chance to see the new movie, Hidden Figures starring Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, and it left me with a feeling of optimism and hope. What makes this story more remarkable is that it is based on a true story and real people. There were three real African-American women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who worked for NASA in the 1960s that were mathematicians who made important contributions to the space program. It also made me realize that more movies like this need to be made and stories like these can empower generations of people.

#1 Stories like These Present Positive Role Models and Dispel Stereotypes

Most people say “Asians are good at math” as a popular stereotype. In this film not only are African-Americans good at math, but women are good at math. It was refreshing to watch the film where you see African-American women not relegated to the being the girlfriend, the wisecracking sidekick, maid, drug addict, slave or prostitute. They were the heroes of this film and they took pride in their work. Seeing someone succeed empowers you to feel like you can succeed too. There are fewer women than men who enter the fields of science and math but young girls of every color may watch this film and think that one day they too can work for NASA.

#2 Everybody’s Story is Worthy to be Told

Some people say there’s no creativity in Hollywood in storytelling. I think the problem is that they aren’t looking deep enough to find the stories. Most people know about John Glenn being the first man to orbit the earth but Hidden Figures spotlights the women that helped make that happen. There are so many unheralded heroes and inspiring people throughout history. Sometimes their stories are equally, if not more compelling than the people who get all the glory.

#3 You Can Succeed and Rise Above Less Than Ideal Circumstances

The other important take away from this film is that these women rose above their circumstances. They were African American women who endured the humiliation of being second class citizens during segregation and had limited access to the best education. Yet, they managed to excel in math and science, get a job and eventually rise in the ranks at NASA. Their path may have been a difficult one filled with obstacles and resistance but they ultimately succeeded. If they could achieve this, then it gives hope to others who may feel disadvantaged that they can achieve something extraordinary in life.