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Go Figure! Movie About Three Black Math Whizzes Ruling Box Office

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by G. Brown

Anybody who put money on perennial Hollywood poster boy Ben Affleck to beat Taraji P. Henson at the box office probably thought it was a sure bet. And that person lost a lot of money because he backed the wrong horse in this race–you should have bet on “Cookie”.

Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer star in “Hidden Figures” as three Black female mathematicians whose work at NASA helped land American astronauts on the moon during the height of the space race between super power nations.

The  movie based on a true story  is inspiring and inspiriting movie goers who for the second weekend in a row has helped the movie top the pack at the box office.  The true-story about space travel has beat out the former number one movie—a fantasy about space.  The latest installment of the “Stars Wars” franchise “Rogue One” was toppled by “Hidden Figures”. The movie also made casualties of Martin Scorsese’s “Silence”(earning just under $2 million this weekend) and Ben Affleck’s  gangster film “Live by Night”(earning $5 and half million).  Meanwhile, “Hidden Figures” was expected to bring in about $25 million its second weekend pretty much repeating its performance of $23 million opening weekend.

Henson says the movie shatters the argument that Blacks—especially Black women–can’t appeal to and hold an audience.  Henson says, “I have been told my entire career ‘Black women can’t open films domestically or internationally.’ Well anything is possible,”

Possibility‘ is the door  the success of “Hidden Figures” has opened for Black actors.  Typically, period pieces that take us back to the 50’s, 60’s or beyond focus on a dismal period of “slavery” and “racism” for Blacks.  While stories like “Birth of a Nation” are important, audiences may be tired of hearing how ancestors were beaten, hanged and abused because of their skin color. Even a story like Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” that tried to bring a little known part of history to the public  is still a repeat of the slave story.

“Hidden Figures” seems to break that stereotypical mold by giving us what “Women and Hollywood ” founder Melissa Silverstein calls “…a feel-good movie, an upbeat movie, a movie about STEM that stars three black women: This is like the anathema to what we think most Hollywood is…”

At a time when the sting of #OscarSoWhite and cries for more diversity still plagues Hollywood, “Hidden Figures” is one more wake-up call for Hollywood that times, audiences and box-office winners have changed.  The White male hero who is always the savior has played out–audiences have changed, culture has changed and its time for Hollywood to change.

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