Historical Inaccuracies in Hidden Figures

I missed the boat when Hidden Figures was first in theatres, and finally caught up with it when I picked up the Blu-Ray in July.  I really liked the movie!  The cast was really good, and even though I recognized a lot of the bigger names, they took a back seat to the persona of the characters they were playing.

One of the bigger nitpicks in this movie – and 2012’s Argo – is that it’s historically inaccurate.  Critics of the film complain that in Hidden Figures, it’s silly to show Katherine Johnson racing the clock to complete some calculations so that John Glenn’s historic flight can take place.  Other complaints were that the issue of segregated bathrooms was partially invented by the movie to create a challenge.

I’m okay with all of that.  I am aware that I am watching a movie, which has to contain certain elements in order to function as a movie.  I feel that the purpose of movies such as this are to show people an overview of what happened – as long as they are sticking mostly to the facts of the life they’re telling, it’s understandable they take some liberties.  One of the functions – at least that’s my belief – is that they jump start curiosity and get people to look up the full story.

That’s exactly what I do, almost every time I watch a movie based on actual events.  I look up what really happened.  I don’t mind learning about several inaccuracies along the way.  It’s only really a problem if the movie creates falsehoods that obscure the real story.  In writing that, I realize that technically Hidden Figures and Argo create some falsehoods – but the difference is that they do so to raise tension for a story, but are still telling the underlying truth.

I can think of similar movies that probably have many historical inaccuracies, but still work.  Apollo 13, for one.  42.  The Blind Side.  Moneyball.  Coach Carter.  The Martian.  (I kid).  If you look up the events they’re based on, you often find paragraphs that go something like, “In the movie, this event happened, but in reality…”

Why is this a problem?  A lot of these movies are made for a dual purpose – entertainment as well as education.  But in order to get made, they need to bring in money, so they need to bend the truth a little bit in order to be successful.

There will always be little embellishments of the truth in movies based on true events – life is never as perfect as a 3-act movie will have you believe.  Just sit back, enjoy it, and then relish in the fun of reading about the true events afterward.

Google can read my mind.

Google really blows me away sometimes, and I honestly feel like it (the search engine) can read my mind.  Logically I know that it learns based on my search history and browsing habits, but I’m still blown away by the results I get from daily use.

As an example, for some reason I was trying to think about a cartoon I watched when I was in high school or university.  I knew the title of it was in the back of my head somewhere – it had something to do with a “six”, and the lead character was a genetically engineered heroine (or a robot, I can’t recall exactly).  When I couldn’t think of the show name, I turned to Google.

teletoon cartoon about genetically modified heroine
teletoon cartoon about genetically modified heroine

So I typed “teletoon cartoon about genetically modified heroine” – because that’s the best way I could think of to describe the show.  I expected I might get some results at the top close to what I was looking for, but what absolutely surprised me was that the first result was exactly what I was looking for.

The Wikipedia entry for "Cybersix" was the first result!
The Wikipedia entry for “Cybersix” was the first result!

I’m not going to be talking about the show today, but I highly encourage you to read about it.  The point is, I was looking for the Wikipedia entry for this show, but I couldn’t remember the name for the life of me.  Based on that vague search term I was able to find exactly what I was looking for.

I’ve done this with other search terms too.  I can’t remember them all right now, but the result is the same: I type in some broad search terms, indicating about as much as I can remember, and Google is able to serve up what I’m looking for.  Sometimes it’s not perfect, but more often than not it works.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve discovered today (and during the process of setting up this blog) that keywords are really important online if you want to get your stuff found.  It’s basic knowledge, but it still surprises me every day.  I can’t wait until Google’s Assistant is fully baked into my phone, instead of just on Allo.