Hollywood, when a movie becomes as unexpected a success as “Hidden Figures” has, inevitably seeks out similar projects in an attempt to find the next new hit. So, it is not surprising that #jessica chastain, best known for her roles in “Zero Dark 39,” “The Martian,” and “Miss Sloane,” is developing and may star in “#mercury 13” about a group of women who went through the same tests that qualified the male astronauts in the early 1960s but were eventually denied a chance to fly in space. Not everyone is happy about the project, though.
“Mercury 13” tells the true story of William Randolph Lovelace II, a scientist who developed the battery of tests that qualified the original astronauts, who created an experimental project to determine if women could fly into space. 13 women, all of them accomplished pilots, passed the tests, some of them with higher scores than men who eventually went on space missions. The group petitioned NASA and the government to fly some of them into space, writing President John F. Kennedy, meeting with then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson and eventually appearing before a Congressional committee.
The upshot was that none of the women were selected as NASA astronauts. The social norms at the time would not allow it. NASA was on more solid ground by pointing out that to qualify as an astronaut at the time one had to be a test pilot with hours spent flying jet aircraft with an engineering degree, which none of the women had. Ironically, John Glenn, who played a heroic role in “#Hidden Figures,” is a little bit of a heavy in this story, testifying against women in space. The first American woman astronaut would not fly for another 20 years when Sally Ride made her first space shuttle mission.
Just as “Hidden Figures” combined the struggle for civil rights with the early space program, “Mercury 13” does the same service for the feminist movement, though without the happy ending. According to Heat Street, some people are not happy about it and have taken Twitter to express their ire. Some are actually of the opinion that the Chastain project is an attempt to steal a little thunder from “Hidden Figures.” The snarky tweeting indeed should be dismissed, even though one perpetrator is Jessica Valenti, a columnist for the UK Guardian, who tweeted, “They’re not even TRYING to be slick about it. So blatant.” Ironically Valenti calls herself a “feminist.” In short, some people live to be outraged no matter how absurd it is,