The new movie Hidden Figures is now open in theaters nationwide, and I urge all parents out there to take your children to see it. It is a wonderful film with a wonderful message, not to mention a great endorsement of all things related to STEM.
Hidden Figures brings us to Langley, VA in the 1960s, just as NASA is preparing to launch its first Americans off of the planet and into the unknown. Under much pressure from the space race with the Soviet Union, NASA’s teams of engineers and scientists are working with intense fervor to not only put the astronauts into space, but to also bring them home safely. In this pre-computer age, the mathematicians at NASA are doing complex calculations using only their brains.
While we might expect a room full of white, male mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, a brilliant African-American woman who is forced to work in a separate building with the other African-American women at NASA, is brought onto the team. Played with guts and humor by the amazing Taraji P. Henson, Katherine brings her intelligence and winds up saving the mission in sending John Glenn (played with handsome charm by Glen Powell) into orbit... and back.
Oh, did I mention that Hidden Figures is based on a true story? Katherine, along with her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan (played with a quiet authority by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (portrayed by Janelle Monáe, who with this role as well as her performance in Moonlight, is proving herself to be quite a talented actress), were real women who contributed greatly to our nation’s space exploration program, even in the face of institutionalized racism. It is incredible to see how these women were agents of change both at NASA and in the world. From the de-segregation of bathrooms to fighting for the right to attend classes at an all-white school, their efforts were of paramount importance, and it’s a good reminder for all of us of how things were not all that long ago.
Hidden Figures is steeped in science, technology, engineering, and math, so anyone that’s interested in STEM would love that aspect of this movie. Additionally, it’s a film that shows you can achieve greatness if you work hard for it and stand up for yourself, and that’s a beautiful message for everyone, especially our kids.
Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) is now playing in theaters. http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures
Jennifer Niederhoffer is the founder of Impress Media, an independent lifestyle & entertainment public relations and editorial services firm. You can follow her on twitter @impressmedia or @themommysreview.