HIDDEN FIGURES is a high concept film, but not unbearably weighted. Instead, writer Director Theodore Melfi’s exquisite ensemble animates this inspirational focused story with humor as well as purpose. These are after all the things daily helping people survive oppression. Among the actors are Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. For my money — it is a Peace Genre film.
HIDDEN FIGURES is important because it speaks to the lives of ordinary working people. In this case in a Black American community. They are not the most deprived, not the wealthiest. Depicting social and environmental justice only in the context of brutality desensitizes viewers to the subtle degradation which wears away at a persons potential. Violence brings in the box office, but where are the rest of the stories? Is the only drive for a better life defense of ones lowest level of the Maslow Scale — food and shelter? Evidence suggest otherwise and so does HIDDEN FIGURES.
There is an on going dialog between film and social responsibility. Part of this dialog is stimulated by the technology of the art of film and the function of the brain. Our movie memory seems to go where our actual memory is stored. Over time our life understanding seems blurred with the stories and films we have seen mixed with those we have lived. That’s how film works at its best. We know what resonates consciously but we are less sure of the unconscious.
How is Hidden Figures good for understanding Bioethics? The tendency is to focus on the justice or injustice issues raised by the film and its times. The more bioethics relevant dialog occurs around beneficence — in the use of science and technology and film. Beneficence is, for simplicity sake — doing good with what we know, knowing what we do not know, and expanding knowledge through research. More concisely, beneficence is equivalent to scientific integrity. The film’s plot quickly ranks scientific beneficence concerns over autonomy or justice.
The main character runs the risk of loosing her job and castigating other sisters in the workplace, by expressing her considerable mathematical capacity. The choices she makes are moral choices driven by good science. Just as in all applied bioethics, like clinical medicine, understanding the obligation to do good with science, including the science of film, yields decisions which also come closer to achieving autonomy and justice.
Hidden Figures adds grist to US Congressional Caucus on STEAM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.) The hop is this initiative will create the next generation of brilliance in pure and applied scientist — one with consciousness at the forefront, and improved representation across race, class, gender and culture. Most importantly, Hidden Figures supports scientific exploration in service of honesty. Enough well developed minds may eventually help us understand — the full potential of the art and science of film.
Support Hidden Figures and other films in the peace genre by seeing it in the theater rated PG, Christmas Day 2016, in 13 cities. The full roll out will be in January 2017.
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Williams, S. Justice, Autonomy, and Transhumanism: Yesterday. In: Colt H., Quadrilli S., Friedman L., Editors. The Picture of Health. New York: Oxford University Press. 2011. p. 84-89
Williams, September. “Bioethics at the Movies.” Review of Bioethics at the Movies. ed. Sandra Shapshay. The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. vol 7 Issue 3, pp 329-331.
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