Hidden Figures: Take-One.TV video discussion starter

Hidden Figures tells the true story of African-American women who played a vital role at NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

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Discussion questions:

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  1. Given that the true events in this film happened in 1962, why has it taken so long for their stories to be told?
  2. Al Harrison, the project leader played by Kevin Costner, says ‘We all get there together or we don’t get there at all.’ To what extent is that true in our society?
  3. Theodore Melfi, who directed the film, describes the women as ‘the heroes behind the scenes’. In our society, in what ways does the value placed on people in the media affect how we value those whose back-room roles are hidden?
  4. Kevin Costner, who played the project leader Al Harrison, says ‘It’s a story of three women whose God-given abilities were allowed to flourish’. How might the belief that all abilities are ‘God-given’ make a difference to the way in which we value them, and allow them to flourish?
  5. These women’s roles are only now publicly recognised because they were portrayed in a film. It could be argued that this reinforces the assumption that abilities are only valued if they are depicted in the media. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Additional resource for churches and RE teachers:

This Bible Brief explores a biblical perspective on the issues raised in this discussion starter video.

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    “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

The very first time that people are mentioned in the Bible, the text tells us that women, as well as men, are created in God’s image, equal in dignity and worth.

‘A story of three women whose God-given abilities were allowed to flourish’ Kevin Costner (who plays Al Harrison)

  • “She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable… She is clothed with strength and dignity… when she speaks, her words are wise” (Proverbs 31:16-18, 25-26)

The book of Proverbs gives a whole chapter to describe someone who is often referred to as ‘the virtuous woman’. She is not a subservient person. Rather, she is a strong, successful, dignified businesswoman who speaks words of wisdom.

‘These women were the heroes behind the scenes’ Theodore Melfi (Director)

  • “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

For many years, men degraded women. But Jesus was dramatically counter-cultural as he restored their true value. Here we see him affirming a woman’s right to learn from a teacher, rather than being stuck away in the kitchen. Elsewhere we see Jesus highlighting women as examples of generosity (the widow’s mite) and persistence (the persistent widow). He even shocked his listeners by referring to ‘daughters of Abraham’ at a time when it was only men who claimed that heritage.

‘If God has something for you, no man can take it from you’ Taraji P. Henson (plays Katherine Johnson)

  • “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

When Paul refers to how the gospel restores subservient people into their proper place, he includes women alongside Gentiles and slaves. Opposing the cultural norm, he affirms God’s original creation plan that men and women are equal in dignity and worth.

‘We all get there together or we don’t get there at all’ Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner)

See also: Movie Moments article on this film