Does “Hidden Figures” Trivialize the Black Experience?

Hidden Figures.jpg

I’ve been seeing a deluge of posts online about how great Hidden Figures is. I like the movie, but it’s by no means as terrific as people say, in my opinion. Yes, it’s a good thing that this story has come to the surface, giving due recognition to these important people. But…

Full disclosure: I’m not black.

However, I do believe the film trivializes the African-American experience in the 1960s. There are nearly no hurdles for the women in the film to overcome. How can that be? They’re black in the 1960s South! Every obstacle is cleared in the same scene in which it’s presented. Three examples (minor spoilers ahead):

Scene 1—Cop approaches three black women fixing their car on the side of the road

Cop: “What are you ladies doing here?”
Woman: “We’re just three black women fixing our car on the side of the road.”
Cop: “Are you talking back to me?!”
Woman: “We work for NASA.”
Cop: “You’re great! Want a police escort to work?”

Scene 2—Black woman wants to study at an all-white college

Woman: “I’m a black woman, and I want to study at an all-white college.”
Judge: “You can’t go there. You’re black.”
Woman: “But you can be the first to allow it.”
Judge: “OK! You’re in!”
Woman: “Yay!”

Scene 3—White boss finds out for the first time that black woman has to walk half a mile to the colored bathroom

Woman: “I have to walk half a mile to the colored bathroom.”
Boss: “From now on, all bathrooms are integrated.”

I get that it’s a movie and things need to move along swiftly, but in this movie they don’t need to. There are three subjects, and each has a movie in her. The filmmakers could have focused on one woman, giving her story the time and depth it needs. Instead, we got a survey of three women’s lives, and all that was compromised was the actual struggle. Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

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