Hidden Figures: Unveiling the Unsung Heroes of Space Exploration

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Hidden figures is a movie by Theodore Melfi that talks about the exploits of three women who were not known to the world, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who each provide important roles in the field of mathematics, computer programming, and engineering respectively. These women were present and helped during the launch of astronaut John Glenn into space. This was a stunning achievement that traversed race and sexism and turned around the space race.

The Plot

The plot of the film revolves around Jackson, Vaughan, and Johnson, who tirelessly do work on the compilation for the propulsion and arrival of Glenn’s 1962 undertaking as the initial American to orbit around the Earth. The movie begins with them getting roles as the ‘women of color’ in the Negro section of NASA as support personnel often do in those situations (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 104).  The year is 1961, and women especially African American women, do not have a place around areas that are male dominated, so the segregation is to be expected. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that their colleagues are initially demeaning and dismissive to them when they start work.  They are initially given the mundane job of double, triple checking figures and simple accounting, a position that happens to be way beneath their abilities.

However, their unique abilities in mathematics, mechanical engineering and computer programming come to the forefront when NASA Project Manager, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) requires their expertise to successfully launch it space missions. This story is about their rise from the ‘typing pool’ existence to becoming key figures in the space program. It is a heartwarming story that deals with prejudice, racism and ignorance. They triumph over adversity to become the leaders in their field at NASA for the duration of the Space Program.

Thematic elements

During the context of film analysis, the theme that is often portrayed does not only cover the adjoining central concern of the film, but it also seeks to address the greater force that consolidates the work. It is often as Sidney Lupet, the director has noted, ‘What factors the movie will follow and also be about is often determined by how it has been cast, how it also will establish its merits, how every editing in it will go, how its sound and music will be scored, the different mixes that shall be used, how the openings and closings will resemble, and not forgetting the studio that shall release it. What it is all for will determine how it is to be made and pan out.’ (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 20).  Therefore, a film maker may decide to focus his or her attention on one of the four major elements of theme and that is the: overlying plot, mood and emotional effect, character of the participants, and style and or of texture. Theodore Melfi blends all four of the thematic elements in sync during his movie.

Focus on plot

Despite how movies focused on plot operate, what with their insistence to be able to flee the ennui and flavorness of day to day life, so that the exertion becomes memorable and leads to high octane drama, ideas, and poignant effects are subordinate to events. (Petrie, Dennis W.,Joseph M. Boggs 23) Hidden Figures builds up and focuses on the outcome as all-important because the movie is about three historical women, African American women who break the stereotype present in society then to be able to facilitate the first man around earth’s orbit.

Focus on mood and emotional effect

In most of the blockbuster summer movies, the director often creates a highly unique mood or tempestuous effect. In those films, it is always clear what singular mood or emotion dominates throughout the movie or to view each tranche of the movie as a stride leading to a single high powered emotional effect. (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 37)  However, despite the plot point still carrying that ever so important punch in such a movie, the events that transpire in the course of the feature length are still marginal to the moving response they make. In Hidden figures we come to sympathize with the plight the women face around their workplace. A good example is when Katherine meets the National Guard colonel Jim Johnson while she is attending a barbeque and tries to strike a conversation before being immediately shut down when the lieutenant voices his skepticism about women’s mathematical ability. Theodore Melfi continues to create similar moods in the feature length of the film

Focus on participants and character

There are films that through the combination of both action and dialogue accentuate on the clear representation of a singular unique character. Despite plot progression still being ever so essential in such films, what unearths is salient predominantly because it aids us in comprehending the character being elaborated. The vital appeal of some of the persona Theodore Melfi helps bring out in his film is that he does not prioritize on constructing any singular emotional effect but rather sees fit to bring in together two varying emotions during the same film. Katherine Coleman in film is portrayed as fiercely independent and not one to allow herself to be demeaned by the segregation present (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 104). For example, she never wants to use the colored bathrooms.

But this does not deter her or make her lose her sparkplug personality and charm with everyone she comes into contact with. Dorothy Vaughan who is portrayed as strong minded is also shown to be a worrying individual when she decides to teach herself the programming language FORTRAN so that she is not replaced in her role by electronic computers. Mary Jackson is portrayed as frustrated but a bright woman when the job she landed at Langley does not distance her from the discrimination she suffers at the hands of her white colleagues. However we are shown that she is a very vocal character about her frustrations and this willingness to speak out propels her up the ladder at work.

Focus of style and or of texture

There is often a distinctive shape, texture, or style that pervades the film and helps bring most if not all the cinematic components woven together into one opulent tapestry. The action coupled with the characters often have varying importance past the surroundings of the film itself — a relevance that aids in clarifying some parts of life, the human condition, or experience (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 104). They say in historical films the devil is always in the detail and this film portrays society black and white like it was present with us. Theodore Melfi helps bring about clearly the tone of sex and race in the film. Segregation which is a big plot

Dramatic effects and fiction

The film, putting in a plethora of the dramatic effects and fiction, is most often the premise and starting point during any movie or screen play production (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 104). However it goes without saying that even an alluring structure and well inscribed screenplay is little more than an unclad skeleton for a film. The motion picture clearly understood this aspect of visual delineation or face of the film clearly denoted periods the film claimed to be set in. The props and stage set were also notably accurate as a background check needed to be done to get them right and no doubt the team behind the cinematography did their homework well.

Its effects and settings

Setting of any film is place and time in which the motion pictures story occurs. Despite the setting at times seeming self-effacing or not important, it is always an important constituent in most stories and forms a crucial addition to the total effect or theme of a movie. The setting for the film depicts a time when women were not known to have any major achievements in the field of science, so the premise already held a challenge for the three main protagonists (Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs 104). It is further strengthened by the fact that our three main heroes happened to be African American and America was still segregated then. The setting already made the effects out rightly visible from the start.


Hidden figures was an overall enjoyable film. It was informative, educational and brought about the plight of the issues of sex and race of the time back then quite vividly. Through both the actions of these bright forgotten heroes of the past and a few others detailed in the film, segregation was lifted, if only by a little bit.

Works Cited

Petrie, W Denis., and Joseph Boggs. The Art of Watching Films. McGraw Hill Education, 2018.

Il diritto di contare = (Hidden figures) [Video file]. (n.d.).

September 25, 2023




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