"I'm a writer living in the Perth Hills with my relentlessly fun seeking children.
Published February 15th 2017
Women on the ground who put men on the moon
Hollywood tackles the life affirming stories of Katherine G Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who were gifted mathematicians employed by NASA in the 1960's. These women were known as the human computers that helped America win the space race, to put a man on the moon. Whilst it may have been a small step for man, the irony was that without the tenacity and brilliance of the women in this story, the astronauts might never have got off the ground.
Hidden Figures (pic Wikipedia)
Women in the Science Shadows Whilst Hidden Figures is based on a true story, it is not a unique one. Women have been involved in calculating complex equations for centuries. This screenplay could have easily been a movie set in 1881, made about Edward Pickering's group of female assistants known as the 'Harvard Computers', who catalogued complex star data for 25 cents an hour. There are women hidden in all areas of science history and shining a light on any of them, is a step in the right direction.
This time it's the Afro-American women of the 1960's who are shooting for the moon, in this movie about the sheer triumph of will over prejudice, racism and inequality. This is a story that speaks to the human spirit of perseverance and hope. Hidden Figures is an eloquently told story. The three women at its heart are intelligent, sassy and inspiring, all with different points of view.
'Harvard Computers' Edward Pickerings female assistants (pic Wikipedia)
It's a tale that can move you to tears or cheers, as they negotiate every hoop and hurdle in an unfolding drama, set against a backdrop of post war America. NASA is portrayed as an organization that feels that women have no part to play in science and women of colour have no role to play in society. The movie covers a lot of ground as it follows the three women in their attempts to function in a man's world of, 'one step forward, two steps back'. All the female leads are perfectly cast. Taraji P Henson is wonderful as the child prodigy, Katherine G Johnson, who has grown into a shy mother and widow, a role she plays in perfect contrast to Janelle Monae's character, Mary Jackson, the ambitious and clever woman intent on forging a career and challenging the status quo to get her degree. Dorothy Vaughan, portrayed by Octavia Spencer, seems to capture the essence of the quiet tolerance of segregation, that must have been endured by many, as long as it means she can get the information to work NASA's IBM super computer.
The Book of the Film (pic Wikipedia)
Hidden History All the ladies are performance powerhouses, but it doesn't mean the men don't put in a sprint to catch them up. Kevin Costner is the perfect amalgam of every corporate man who has held up a glass ceiling and the interactions between him and Katherine are always engaging.
If you're a person who is keen on your historical accuracy, you may have to look away in a few places. On its release, there was a tirade of voices questioning everything from the properties of the heat shield, to the actual distance of the 'coloureds' bathroom. If that doesn't bother you and you're more interested in the human condition, get set to watch a wonderful feel-good movie that both uplifts and sobers your senses.