How is diversity in romance handled onscreen? We turn to Piper Huguley as she talks about one of her favourite diverse stories onscreen, Hidden Figures.
Hidden Figures is a rare movie that had everyone, regardless of color, standing and applauding as the credits rolled. What moviegoers saw in Katherine, Mary and Dorothy’s story of struggle and triumph moved them in a way that I don’t ever recall seeing in a story about real-life Black woman, as infrequent as they are. In the wake of the success of Hidden Figures, few talked about that special ingredient in the secret sauce of the movie: romance.
Yes. Hidden Figures IS a romance and I find it fascinating that not many people discussed it. Think of Katherine’s meeting with the fine military man Jim Jackson (‘cuse me while I fan myself). This meet cute is straight from a romance novel, as is his marriage proposal, aided by her children. It’s a romance plot straight from any Harlequin Heartwarming or Love Inspired novel, except the characters have brown skin. It’s like a back cover blurb:
The real-life Katherine Jackson never thought she would find love again after being left a widow with three young daughters. She was far too focused on her career as a human computer, working for the government. After church one Sunday, her friends force her to speak to a handsome, but arrogant, military man (cue fans) who insults her intelligence. Will these two opposites find happiness?
Jim spends a good portion of the movie making up to Katherine for his arrogant assumptions, as any good alpha male hero would. When an appropriate length of time passes, he enlists the aid of her adorable daughters to propose to her at a warm, welcoming, family dinner. He brings forth a large diamond ring (a surprise for her to discover) and she puts it on, saying that she will marry him. HEA. Pure Romance.
That would all be soul satisfying enough if the movie didn’t also feature the married people romance, a trope that I’ve written myself, in Mary’s story. It’s amazing to watch the journey of feisty Mary and her extremely supportive husband (let’s a moment of silence to be awed at the male beauty that is Aldis Hodge). I mean, what about that part of the movie when he brought up his concerns for her going into that all-male night course (because he cares) but then supports her anyway? Where’s my tissue box? Hidden Figures has it all.
Not much is shown about Dorothy and her husband because in real-life, theirs was not a happy union. But they do show this successful Black woman as a married woman. He is part of the family. He’s there at the birthday party. Nothing is said about him, but he is there. What other movie has shown biopic Black love so positively? (Go ahead. I‘ll wait.) The biopics featuring Black females are way too few to mention, but when you see them, the relationships are either abusive, domineering or both. So if you haven’t seen this feature film darling and you want to see a historical romance featuring African Americans, I recommend you choose Hidden Figures, the movie where historical Black love is on full display.