Of Blackboards and Bathrooms: Space as Metaphor for Power Relations in Hidden Figures (2016)
Keywords:US American Popular Culture, Women in STEM, Intersectionality, Gatekeeping, Spatial Analysis, Hidden Figures (2016)
This paper examines the film Hidden Figures from a critical perspective which combines concepts of intersectionality, gatekeeping, and spatial analysis. Through its depiction of the space race in 1960s America, the film superficially focuses on outer space. Nevertheless, much can be gleaned about the inclusion and exclusion of groups and individuals within the inner space of the NASA campus. The analysis thus centers around two questions; the question of who cannot access spaces, privileges, and knowledge, as well as the question of who can. In emphasizing the role of gatekeeper, more attention is afforded to the male characters in the film, which have received little previous regard in comparison to the three Black female leads. In this paper, I argue that the White men’s range of movement and their degree of belonging at NASA stand in crucial relation and opposition to the Black heroines. Three characters have been chosen to exemplify this point; Katherine Johnson, Al Harrison, and Paul Stafford, who interact with one another in a triangular relation of inclusions and exclusions. Five locations have been selected to illustrate their interplay in terms of power and space; the West Computing Group, the Space Task Group, the bathroom, the hallway, and the home.
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