Getting Up And Over Social Barriers: Hidden Figures

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Movies have often been seen as a source of entertainment, a place to turn to when one is bored or when one is looking for some sort of catharsis. This has led to the movie industry to skyrocket in terms of production and revenues but is movies just that, a form of entertainment, or should movies be manipulated to play an educative and informative role in the audiences that they have managed to captivate with their entertainment? When one ponders over the evolution of the movie industry, it is difficult to ignore the fact that movies seem to mimic our everyday lives to the extent that people can relate to what they see in movies. 

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People’s lives have been changed dramatically by the movies they watch. Take for example the ‘true man show’ (Weir, 1998), a movie that was so powerful in its depiction of the irony that is the media and hence changed a whole society’s outlook on the power the media holds another good example is ‘crash’ (Higgs, 2005), a movie that broke racial barriers and racial stereotypes. Vernon E. Jordan Jr., a renowned civil rights activist in the U.S.A postulates that movies can be one of the most powerful weapons in our world today in his article ‘The Power of Movies to Change Our Hearts’ which appeared in the ‘New York Times on February 18th, 2017 (jr., 2017). 

Indeed, over the past century, there has been a seminal shift towards the inclusion of movies that do more than just entertain. This may be in line with research conducted in 1972 by the Surgeon General’s Office of the United States National Institutes of Health whose findings alluded to the idea that there is a causal link between the exposure of young adults to televised violence and their subsequent aggressive behavior. This meant that violence on television or in movies could stimulate or influence some children to participate in aggressive or violent behavior. This study by Surgeon General’s Office provides adequate evidence of how movies can indeed influence the change or forming of young people’s characters. To further reinforce the notion that movies are some kind of natural mirror into reality Nol Carroll an American philosopher and a major proponent of the cognitive film theory, insinuates in his book, ‘The Power of Movies’ [page 79] (Carroll) that the characters in movies are brought out in a way that the audience can easily relate to. 

He further reiterates that these characters lead us to empathize with them and even be them in real life. With this in mind, it has become interesting to note how Hollywood movies have taken the entertainment world to another level. There has been a seminal shift from movies like ‘Pretty Woman’ (Marshall, 1990) where the lead character played by Julia Roberts reinforces the notion that all a woman needs is a pretty face and she can bag her man to movies like Black Panther that had the power to have a whole race realize their worth. This shift has clearly proven beyond reasonable doubt that indeed movies are so powerful they can affect change in perception and even break stereotypes. 

Being a movie fan, I have taken a keen interest in looking at how movies emanating from Hollywood would be beneficial to the younger generations, especially to young impressionable girls. I wanted to focus on how the language used in such movies could make it easy for girls to recognize their self-worth, to give them role models who would encourage them to see themselves as more than just beautiful but also intelligent. Granted books do so but sometimes there is power when something is coupled not only by words but also by images hence my question, “How effective is the language in the movie Hidden Figures been in breaking gender stereotypes? 

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