Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures”

Melfi’s movie is based on a true story and focuses on three black women who broke tradtional gender and racial barriers working at NASA to send John Glenn to the moon. Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monae) were the focus of the film.

My favorite character was Katherine (depicted below). In the room where she was working, all the other men had on similar white shirts and ties, which helped to create a contrasting look between Katherine and them. My favorite part of the movie was watching Katherine’s character have to walk half a mile to go to the bathroom. The only colored bathroom was in a different building. It is not something that many would think about, and was surprised watching it on the screen. Katherine had to walk far just to go to the bathroom and eventually, her boss Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner), asks her why she takes a long break every single day.

Octavia Spencer’s character, Dorothy, was also good to watch. She acted as a supervisor for the colored computers. (Before digital computers, people who did calculations were called computers). She worked hard to get her people to work on the IBM computer that was being developed. For me, an interesting part of the movie was when she tried to go to the library to get a book on the computing program used by the IBM, but was turned away because she was colored and the book was in the white section.

Mary Jackson’s character was my least favorite. I felt like she was often the least important of the three and that she deserved more screen time and more of a development. She ends up winning a court case to study at an all white school so that she could become an engineer at NASA.

Overall, I think this is a movie that everyone should see. I love how it was based upon real people and real events because, as the title implies, not many people might have known about these women before watching the film.


Women in Cinema

In many films, even today, women are underrepresented. For instance, films that portray women do not give them as many speaking lines as men. Carpentier, in her article, discusses how in the movie, “Mulan,” the dragon had more speaking lines than Mulan. Clearly, Mulan is the most important character in that movie, but because she is a women she is not given as much attention. This is largely becuase most writers and directors are male.

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Films that do feature women with large speaking roles are largely known as “chick flicks.” In other words, movies that are enjoyed by both men and woman must have predominantly men speaking characters, but if the movie focuses around women, then the movie is for woman only. Budd Beotticher remarks that the role of women in a film is to represent something for the  male character. Does she inspire love in the man? Does she inspire him to act a certain way? In every instance, the man serves at the end goal. In fact, Laura Mulvey, in her article, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” argues that directors position women in shots to serve the purpose of having the man be the end goal, but women the visual support.

Most people are not surprised when they see women without large speaking roles in cinema. In fact, many people criticize movies when they show a strong female role. For instance,  when the new Star Wars film came out, many people complained that Rey was the focus point of the movie, because for many it was unbelievable that a female character had an integral role in the film.

Even though women are underrepresented from both an acting and directing standpoint, there are a many actors/directors/writers that stand out. Here are two that stood out to me:

Euzhan Palcy, writer, director and producer from the French West Indes.Euzhan Palcy

Alice Guy, first female director.