Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson ought to be heroines to every young girl who dreams of a career in science, but even though Johnson is still alive, you probably haven’t heard their story–Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for this particular Mary Jackson as of the writing of this article (though I expect that will change, and quickly). Hidden Figures seeks to remedy that omission, revealing the contributions of three brilliant women of color at NASA who were instrumental in getting Alan Shepard and John Glenn into space thanks to their calculations. It makes objections to female Ghostbusters feel even more silly–in an age when sexism and racism were institutionalized and odds against them overwhelming, these ladies prevailed with sheer brain power.
Reflecting the movie’s dynamic, its biggest star–a white dude you might know by the name of Kevin Costner–takes fourth billing behind actual leads Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. The director is St. Vincent‘s Theodore Melfi, which means the film is likely to feature strong character work and not just be the obvious “big dreamer” formula. We know how it must end: Shepard and Glenn did come back from space, after all. But we’ve seen their story in The Right Stuff; consider this, perhaps, the prequel spotlighting the unsung, unseen heroes of that tale.
We talk frequently about encouraging girls in the STEM fields; it’s good to see Hollywood stepping up and demonstrating by example. Hidden Figures opens January 13th; let us know in comments if you plan on checking it out.
Featured image: 20th Century Fox