Sunday, March 19, 2017

One giant leap for womankind (Hidden Figures)

Men are better at maths than women, white people have bigger brains than black people, women's place is in the home, the moon-landing was a giant leap for mankind.

These pervasive myths are so spectacularly shattered by the real-life-based box-office hit film Hidden Figures that one feels there is no going back to the bullshit now that that film has been seen by millions of people around the world. And the fact that it is such a box-office hit when no-one is murdered or even injured, there is no sex or nudity, and THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE THREE BRILLIANT BLACK WOMEN, is one of the most revealing and uplifting events of our times in that it speaks to the truth, I think, that people don't want to be lied to anymore and prefer a true story of courage and cleverness and justice won against impossible odds, to violence, sex, contrived macho heroism and lies. We get enough of the latter in global politics, after all.

The film is also highly entertaining and brilliantly acted, and was nominated for three Oscars, though it didn't win any. Who decides the Oscars again? (6,000 members who are 'overwhelmingly white men' appointed by invitation only).

But the truth that people of all walks of life are flocking to see, a truth hidden from any news, entertainment or media source for more than fifty years, is that three brilliant, black women, who all had children and were otherwise 'regular' women in the ultra conservative 1950s and early 60s, were instrumental in getting white men to successfully orbit the earth, then to the moon, leading the way at NASA in their pioneering computer programming, rocket engineering and, most critically of all, rocket science, the advanced mathematical calculations required to determine the trajectories for getting rockets and men up into space and back safely.

John Glenn even refused to embark on his mission to orbit the earth without the numbers being checked by the only woman and black person on the team of forty-odd mathematicians doing the sums to ensure he got up and back safely. Who knew? NO ONE - except for those involved, of course.

Behind every great man? Let's rewrite that: 'Behind every successful man there is a great woman'. Only in this film, the women are out in front, in the spotlight, claiming, at long last, the credit and glory they deserve, though only one of the three women is still alive to see it.

And let's not forget that their stories might never have been told but for another black woman - Margot Lee Shetterly - researching and writing the book Hidden Figures (2016) to finally bring them to light.

It's such an amazing and cinematic story but no storyteller, until now, felt it was worth the telling in book or film - the fact that the story was so well hidden, clearly would not have helped. And so often this seems to be the case with women's achievements throughout history. Most written history is the story of men, as if women weren't even there.

But something seems to be finally changing. Women have always been considered, at most, the second sex, at worst, barely human, with males given preferential treatment and access to privileges and power ahead of females from birth, in every country around the world. But as the message of this film is that when we come together simply as human beings we can reach the stars, literally, it might just be that we have finally been shown the error and harm of our ways so that we can go on from here with hope that we could actually make a world in which there is a whole lot more justice, happiness and peace. Awomen to that.

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