Representation in film matters

Madelyn Starks, Staff Writer

In the movie “Hidden Figures,” directed by Pharrell Williams, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe star as Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

The three brilliant and courageous African-American women worked at NASA, who aided in launching the program’s first successful space missions.

Katherine Johnson calculated the trajectory for the first moon landing, as well as for the Alan Shepard and John Glenn orbital missions. She also constructed a backup plan in order for astronauts to use the stars if a spacecraft’s computer went down. The Apollo 13 astronauts used this method to safely get home.

Mary Jackson was one of the first women of color to become an engineer and helped other women succeed in STEM careers.

Dorothy Vaughan was a mathematician who calculated how to use the first IBM Data Processing Machines in the space program. She also was the first African American manager at NASA.

Based on a true story, this movie portrays the importance of representation of minorities and women in white, male dominated fields.

Based on the historical background of the time, mass media in the 1950s and 1960s created false imagery to portray minorities and women as inferior, in all aspects, to white males. Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson were brave enough to break those stereotypes and pave the way for others, like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Christine Darden.

It bothers me that I did not hear about these three extraordinary women until this movie. It is important that we incorporate more diverse historic events into our primary and secondary school education and that we support these movies that make a difference.  

Spencer and schools across the country are buying out showings of this movie for those who cannot afford to see it. They understand that this movie is so important for minority little girls, because it gives them a visual picture that they can obtain so much more.

It evokes what Hillary Clinton said during her concession speech, “To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.”