Lunchtime Notes: Hidden Figures

This post was written in approximately 15 minutes during my lunch hour. Please forgive typos and rambling and disconnected thoughts. 

I was sitting next to my sister-in-law, a badass Naval officer, during the previews for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. The previews were odd – lots of loud, extremely violent graphic novel adaptations, and I was perplexed.

Then, a preview popped up for a movie about the space program, and I perked up. I LOVE SPACE, and by association, the space program. I’ve read a bunch of stuff about it; Apollo 13 is one of my all-time favorite movies. John Glenn died recently, and I joined the parade of tweeters expressing my respect for his contributions.

I sat up in my chair as the trailer for Hidden Figures played, and sent an incredulous glance over to my sister-in-law, who smiled knowingly at me. She, it seems, knew about this movie. I had no clue.

It’s a story about 3 African-American women who worked behind-the-scenes to get Colonel Glenn into, and safely home from, space.

I haven’t seen it yet, FYI.

My first thought, as I watched it, was “If it doesn’t suck, this movie will be my new Apollo 13.”

My second thought was “HOW THE HELL HAVE I NEVER HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE?”

Apollo 13 happened to be on TV later that week, and I watched it with joy, as I always do. But I also saw what I’d always casually noted, but never really reflected on; there were no women in rooms where the behind-the-scenes drama played out. We saw women at home waiting anxiously by the TV, and the occasional female reporter. There were no people of color in the rooms, either. We saw one, in the press room.

Millions of white kids like me grew up idolizing the space program, and we never knew there were a bunch of women, and women of color, behind the scenes. Of course there were. Of COURSE we should have known about them. We should have learned about them in school. Barring that, we should have ASKED about them. But of course we didn’t.

If you want evidence of institutionalized discrimination and patriarchy, this is it, folks.

I can’t wait to see this film. I hope it lives up to my expectations as a movie, so I can be sure it’s one of those movies my niece is forced to watch with me when it comes on TV in 10 years. 🙂

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