In any otherwise caustic review in “The Weekly Standard” by John Podhoretz of “#Hidden Figures” which snarks about how fictional elements were used to make it a feel-good flick, a fascinating insight arose. The secret to its popularity is that both sides of the warring political provide found things to appreciate in the movie.
“There's no question that America's moviegoers could use a little unifying uplift at the present moment. On the one hand, this is exactly the coda to the Obama years that Barack Obama himself would have wanted. And on the other, it hearkens back to the very time that Donald Trump tries to evoke when he says he wants to make America great again.”
The notion is worth exploring.
The one nasty aspect of the now defunct Obama administration is that race was too often used as a weapon to divide and conquer people. Accusations of racism became a means to shut down debate and to shame the former president’s critics into silence. The racism depicted in “Hidden Figures” was depicted as not only wicked but stupid. The bigotry that stopped the three women characters from performing their best to help put Americans into space was, in the course of the movie, swept aside. The dramatic scene where Kevin Costner’s character removes the bathroom sign never happened, but was symbolic of how a barrier in the space race, set up in the wake of the Civil War, has to be overcome and removed for the race to be won. The movie also emphasized how education and individual achievement rather than political activism were the most potent weapons against racial injustice, a very unObama approach.
The review is on more solid ground when it suggests that “Hidden Figures” is a look back at American greatness. Nothing illustrates American exceptionalism then men riding rockets into the heavens, pushing back the envelope, developing the art and science of spaceflight culminating the first footsteps on the moon. Indeed, the movie cries out for a sequel taking the story of the three women to the flight of Apollo 11 and the contrast between their story and the growing discontent that occurred in the African American community against the space program.
The fact that “Hidden Figures” came out at the dawn of the Trump era is a happy accident. The new administration is contemplating jump starting the space program for an early return to the moon, with a lunar orbital mission as soon as three years hence. If the movie brought Americans together, for reasons perhaps more complicated than the review suggested, how might a real live program of space exploration serve the same purpose? No one can deny that a divided American could use something to rally around and American astronaut boots on the lunar soil might serve that purpose. #trump supporters together