Hidden Figures is one of the bright spots in the Oscars race that has both responded to last year’s diversity controversy but also seen two men accused of assaulting women be nominated in major categories. The film, which stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, and Janelle Monae, tells the true story of the unsung black female mathematicians who proved crucial in NASA’s earliest years. It’s a box office hit, more than tripling its budget in ticket sales and provided a feel-good story for Hollywood.
But for all its financial and critical success, the film won’t be a total victory unless it gets seen by the audience for which it was intended. Star Taraji P. Henson has been outspoken about the need for young black girls to see the movie and be inspired to pursue careers in the sciences. With that in mind, a new crowdfunding campaign is working to make that happen.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles based TV writer Tess Rafferty created the “Let’s Send Kids to Hidden Figures” campaign after seeing the movie herself and has raised nearly $5000 to send kids in underfunded school systems on field trips to see the film. After setting an original goal of raising $1400, Rafferty quickly realized the bar could and should be set much higher.
“I put up the GoFundMe before I went to bed, and it was fully funded when I woke up,” she told Inverse. So far, she has sent three different groups in both LA County and Virginia to see Hidden Figures completely free of charge, down to bus transit and snacks and continues to work with nonprofits and public schools to continue sending groups for as long as the movie is in theaters.
Rafferty is a writer by day, and her work has become more political of late. She sees the Hidden Figures campaign is not just an investment in making sure youth see themselves represented onscreen, but that Hollywood remains accountable for doing so.
“The truth is that movies about women or people of color aren’t gonna get made if they don’t make money,” she said. “It occurred to me that I’m not supporting a movie as great as Hidden Figures by watching it at home. Kids [should see it], I thought — girls especially, and it’s not like boys can’t benefit by seeing strong female role models or people of color on the screen. It’s important for little girls to see that you can excel in engineering and math, and you can have these roles.”
Of course, she is helping pad the bottom line of 20th Century Fox, the studio that released the film, which in and of itself proves to the industry that making films like Hidden Figures is indeed a lucrative proposition.
Hollywood improved, at least on the surface, this year, with more films with people of color — including Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Fences — earning Oscar nominations and SAG Awards. While this is encouraging, industry members like Rafferty are committed to increasing representation and mainstream acknowledgement further by empowering people with films like Hidden Figures and ensuring that such projects make enough money to justify further investment. There’s no more important time to do so, she thinks, than in the fractured political climate that’s fracturing even more during the early days of the Trump presidency.
“We have an administration and a president who are sending such a negative image of how we view women in this country, and how we view people of other races as well,” she said. “Its important for young kids to see that not everybody thinks like this, and you don’t have to feel trapped by what these people are telling you.
Rafferty’s campaign is still open on GoFundMe, and she plans to organize groups across the country for as long as the film is in theaters, then use the remaining funds to purchase copies of the book on which the film is based for school libraries.