The Heavy Reliance on Racial Undertones Makes ‘Hidden Figures’ Tedious

Also, Janelle Monae should’ve garnered the nomination, not Octavia Spencer

Spoiler Alert!

So, what do you on President’s Day in rain-soaked LA with a friend you don’t see often enough because Los Angeles is wide enough to keep you both apart?

You spend $20 bucks at the Grove to see a film that you’ve heard and read about — so much so that your expectations are at an all time high.

The enthusiastic reception to Hidden Figures has been infectious as the residue seeps into critical-acclaim and award ceremonies.

I liked Hidden Figures for its historical relevance and the surprise upbeat performance by newcomer Janelle Monae who is rightfully making the transition from music to film.

I didn’t love Hidden Figures because the whole time the mostly White audience roared with laughter while I cracked a guarded smile at awkward scenes like the one where Al Harrison, a fictional character dutifully played by veteran actor Kevin Costner, stoically inhabits the “White Savior” role by dramatically destroying the “Coloreds Only” sign hovering over the bathroom — I felt like I was watching something that didn’t warrant the big screen treatment.

Could this have been a more fulfilling experience if I had been tucked into my luxurious couch with a glass of wine as I took in the offerings of a well-packaged documentary courtesy of HBO or Netflix? ‘

The answer of course is — yes.

However I do recognize how imperative it was to shape up a decent script about three remarkable women of African-American descent (Katherine G. Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson) who break barriers and achieve the unfathomable due to their heightened intelligence — despite the insurmountable odds that threaten to impede their assigned trajectory.

It’s the stuff that studio execs salivate over during lunch meetings in Beverly Hills as the sun hits the page and the sky starts pouring out dollar signs — as they realize that they have a surefire hit on their hands.

Like the equally validated, Precious, there is a lot of meat to carve out for audiences that are hungry for something juicier than an oxtail. The bait is always racially charged. It’s the equation of how bad it was then compared to now.

Except, for non-Black viewers it may be exceptionally sweeter to watch Katharine Johnson played by an energetic Taraji P. Henson run across the landscape of the NASA campus in a quest to pee at her designated bathroom — and then be grilled for it by her clueless White boss — who becomes a superhero as he releases her from her tiresome trek.

Hidden Figures relies heavily on the racial elements of a turbulent time in our past for the sake of legitimizing why this film has to be logged as one of the greatest of it’s time.

Again, it’s not a terrible waste of time, but it certainly cost me more than I was willing to shell out — even if it was a shitty day outside.

You can only cram in so much in a couple of hours so of course the script has to move along. It must be loaded with the imperative scenes that pay homage to an era when the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak.

Hidden Figures did its utmost best to uphold the responsibilities of wedging in notable footage of the space launch, splicing images that recalled the weightiness of events while forcing musical themes that resonated loudly — and sometimes drowned the dullness of certain scenes that needed to be activated.

At the end of the day, my summary is calculated from the fact that most of what makes Hidden Figures appealing to the masses was concocted for the purpose of endorsing why milking the race card works every time.

Most of the investors, who gave into in this venture, did so not to tell a story they were passionate about (although, I have to believe that it was part of the deal) but mainly because it’s the goldmine of Tinseltown.

The Academy loves stories about Black people who survive being Black when being Black is a fucking buzz kill. The timing is impeccable because being Black is still a buzz kill.

The White Saviors in the form of Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst provide the usual fodder that give White audiences permission to relax in the knowledge that despite how bad things were— Black people didn’t have to choose whether to sink or swim.

Black audiences get to see their heroines rise up on the anchors of their intelligence which couldn’t have shined through unless they had the torchlight of their White mentors — who bravely thwarted the intense climate of bigotry to consciously emancipate their less-than fortunate mentees.

I don’t hate Hidden Figures, and I truly appreciate the blatant messaging, but there is no doubt that this film wasn’t a gripping piece of storytelling that left me numb with awe.

It was just a play by play of real life events that contained special effects that were needed to propel the themes of racial discourse that deserve to be dramatized, but inevitably felt like a waste of time and only left me thirsty for the real thing.

I also don’t understand how or why Octavia Spencer who is a fine actress but didn’t have the capacity to display that this time around secured a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination while Janelle Monae was left in the dust.

In my opinion, Spencer didn’t do very much except scare voters into complying with the #OscarSoWhite mandate.

The film had to be nominated at all costs and an actor had to be added to the mix. Spencer is a well-respected actress so whether or not she deserves it — she will be recognized.

Monae deserved the nomination for her refreshing turn that helped to give the film the originality and soul that it lacked throughout most of its run.

I’m glad the incredible story of these distinguished women has finally seen the light — I just wish it wasn’t regulated to the over-wrought delivery of Black people fighting against the system and then seemingly finding the light at the end of the tunnel — on the backs of White people who are written as decent and selfless in their pledge to Do The Right Thing.

And just like that! Mankind is saved and tomorrow has a brighter tone.

Well, this is tomorrow and I don’t know about you, but I can’t see straight. Maybe we need a script for that.



Juggling Wordsmith. I have a lot to say!

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