Hidden Figures


discrimination theme, mild bad language

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures follows three African-American women who worked at NASA in the late 1960s. Despite being immensely skilled mathematicians and engineers, the women have to battle gender and race discrimination to ensure their invaluable contributions to the Space Race are recognised.

Key classification issue: discrimination

At PG our guidelines dictate that discriminatory behaviour should be clearly criticised. In the film, for example, there is a sequence in which one of the women, Katherine Johnson, is challenged by her manager for being away from her desk for too long. She reveals that, due to segregation, she has to walk long distances to find a toilet that she, as a Black woman, is allowed to use. Learning this, her manager desegregates the toilets, setting an example for his predominantly white team that Katherine is not to be treated differently.

We also consider a film’s setting as part of our classification decision. Our research has shown that people recognise behaviours were different in the past and a historical setting provides valuable context that can, in some cases, enable a film to be passed at a lower rating. Hidden Figures takes place in the 1960s and enables younger viewers to learn about what women of colour experienced at that time.

The historical context also reframes how certain terms are understood. The film features use of the terms ‘coloured’ and ‘negro’; discriminatory uses are clearly criticised, but others are presented in a matter of fact way that reflects how those words were used in 1960s America. Given the historical setting and condemnation of derogatory uses of the words, in this case they are containable at PG.

Although discrimination occurs, the stronger moments are interspersed with scenes focusing on the women’s successes through their extraordinary ability and determination. Their story is ultimately an inspirational one of triumph in the face of adversity, and with such positive messaging, a largely gentle and playful tone and clear criticism of historic discrimination, we classified the film PG for discrimination theme, mild bad language.