Taraji P. Henson Hidden Figures

Taraji P. Henson

photo: Instagram/hiddenfiguresmovie

"Hidden Figures" is the number-one movie in America. The inspiring biopic raked in $22.8 million its first weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie's impressive opening bested "Rogue One," the newest installment in the "Star Wars" franchise, which made $22.1 million in its fourth weekend.

For Taraji P. Henson, the box office numbers prove an important point about the appeal of quality movies to underrepresented audiences.

In an Instagram post about the movie's box-office success, the 46-year-old actress said that she's been told Black women can't lead blockbuster films. "Hidden Figures" proves those studio executives wrong.

"I have been told my entire career [that] 'Black women can't open films domestically or internationally,'" Henson wrote in her Instagram caption. "Well, anything is possible." 

While Hollywood has made strides to be more inclusive, Black women are still underrepresented on both sides of the camera. For instance, a study conducted by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that Black women comprised just two of the 407 directors who released major movies and shows in 2014.

Similarly, Julie Dash, the first Black woman to direct a nationally released movie, told The Huffington Post that studio executives have told her that movies about Black women in science and technology would "confuse the audience."

Those narratives are what Henson appears to be pushing back against in her Instagram post.

The Golden Globe-winning actress said that audiences of all races, ages, genders, and religions will come to theaters to see quality films.

"Most importantly, this proves that people like good material," she wrote. "[It] has nothing to do with gender or race."

She's right: A snowstorm blanketed the East Coast during the movie's opening weekend. Furthermore, as Variety reported, "Hidden Figures" played on 2,471 theaters nationwide while "Rogue One" played on 4,157 screens. A biopic about three Black women at NASA helping the United States win the space race still performed better than a "Star Wars" film. 

It's a tremendous feat that wasn't lost on Henson or her co-stars, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

Monáe, who plays aspiring engineer Mary Jackson, wrote on Instagram that it has taken far too long for this particular story to be told.

"The force was with us," the singer-turned-actress wrote. "It took over 50 years to tell the story of these three brilliant African-American female protagonists." She then thanked Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of the book that the film is based on; moviegoers who braved storms to see it; and those who encouraged the friends and family to see the movie.

Similarly, Spencer, who plays mathematician Dorothy Vaughan, posted an inspiring message about the importance of the film.

"Thanks to everyone who saw the value in seeing this story told and finally giving these heroines their due!" she wrote on Instagram. "The force was with US! Thanks for supporting us and them!"

"Hidden Figures" is an anomaly in Hollywood, but it shouldn't be.

There are hundreds of untold stories about Black heroines that deserve screen-time. Maybe "Hidden Figures" just left the door open for others to come through.

Main Image: Instagram/hiddenfiguresmovie