Who is surprised by Hidden Figures’ success, having earned the top spot at the box office two weeks in a row and making $48 million in ticket sales? Well, Hollywood is certainly scrambling after the public has shown up and shown out to see Black History on the big screen. Imagine that.
Hidden Figures is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same title. As the story goes, three black female mathematicians where diligently working in the background as NASA was anxiously attempting to be the first to place a man on the moon in the 1960’s. Now, their inspired-by-real life film is being viewed in theaters across the nation.
Hidden Figures was the must-see movie of the holiday weekend, leaving Live by Night, starring Ben Affleck and Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese trailing behind. Far behind.
Mic looked at the box-office grosses of the top 25 highest-earning films each year from 2006 to mid-October 2015 and concluded that “films with female protagonists grossed an average of $126.1 million, whereas films with male protagonists made an average of $80.6 million.” Despite this study of 133 films comparing films by gender, not race, you don’t need 30 hours at community college (a GED will do just fine) to see the films produced over that period of time were by and large made by and about wypipo.
(Photo: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images, 2017 Getty Images)
Don’t fret none. Yearly, the Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative examines inequality in Hollywood. This study put the 100 top‐grossing domestic films from 2007 to 2015 under a magnifying glass. This study broke it down for the people in the back who want to ignore the facts: 1. women of color are sorely under-represented and 2. being under-represented is sadly a Hollywood norm.
Remove a few key factors that may have led to the success of Hidden Figures:
The storyline: intelligent black women in STEM - science, technology, engineering or math careers before the hype (and hope) for broader employment opportunities and inclusion in the field of STEM became a thing.
The cast: Taraji P. Henson - Golden Globe winner, Octavia Spencer – Academy Award winner and songstress Janelle Monae – Grammy Award nominee. ‘Nough said.
The timing: in the midst of activists and legislators seeking social justice reforms for black people; premiering on the weekend we celebrate the life and legacy of MLK, Jr.; as the Obama’s, who many believed fulfilled Dr. King’s Dream, prepare to leave the White House and praised as “remarkable” by the FLOTUS where she personally hosted a private screening; and lastly, opening just before Black History Month. Describing a time such as this as being perfect would be an understatement.
Strip Hidden Figures of this trifecta of Black Excellence, there is enough scholarly research to support the notion that the public wants to see movies where women are the main attraction, a depiction that mirrors reality. Black people have continuously contributed to every profitable industry capitalism has birthed. Why be shocked by Hidden Figure’s ability to surpass its box office competition? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply get on board and give the people what they want?
*written for The GED Section
If you have seen the movie, leave me a comment below.