If you want to see Good Hair and you don’t live in a predominantly Black neighborhood you have to go to a predominantly Black neighborhood. This review will reflect my “Black Experience” (Version 2.0 – I took Intro To Black Experience when I taught Head Start in Milwaukee in 1990).
The film was bookended by THE hair convention. It’s the Comic-Con of Black Hair. It’s called Bronner Bros. International Hair Show and it culminates in a Dance With The Stars, America’s Got Talent over-produced competition to see who can cut hair while doing some crazy physical feat. I’m not kidding, roller skating while hair cutting would not have been out of line.
I really like Chris Rock. He’s smart, funny and irreverent as hell. And he always seemed pretty sane. I even saw him in the horrible remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan – and he is not a good actor. But I saw it because I love Chris Rock. Even though I knew it would suck because it took place in the “world of standup comedy” and Warren Beatty had already nailed the remake, Heaven Can Wait, in 1978.
His daughter asked him, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” I felt him trying to show us that the question itself is the problem. It’s a historically horrible subject that black women (and men) have been dealing with for centuries. He went to the source of weaves and wigs. He went to India, he talked about Malaysia, and we glimpse the billion dollar industry in Asia and America. It makes very few Black Americans rich but employs tens of thousands of them here in the United States.
The main point of the documentary, which should come as a surprise to no one, is that “good hair” seems to be “white hair.” I’m sure there’s more to the term, but from a white layman’s viewpoint – straight, wavy, and often colored blond or red – is “good hair.” The slaves have been freed, some genuine strides have been made in civil rights, mainstream media America can finally admit to the cannibalizing of all things from Black American Culture – we can mock the suburban white kids with the saggy butt pants and the baseball caps, but Black women still spend thousands of dollars on hair to look “whiter.” (Unless I’m missing something here – feel free to email me).
I’ve heard people say that the movie wasn’t serious enough. That it didn’t go deep enough. Perhaps that’s true but I feel that he’s trying to seriously show us something without getting accused of preaching. He talks to everyone. Disney starlets, old school rappers, menfolk sitting around the barber shop, fancy hairdressers, working class hairdressers, a half dozen beauty supply shop owners, Indian hair mules, Indian black-market hair dealers, Rev. Al Sharpton and Maya Angelou.
He is obviously trying to make us see the flaws of the idea, without yelling at us, which encourages toddlers to get their hair straightened with dangerous relaxers and chemicals.
You could tell that Chris Rock was torn by the fact that a lot of people’s livelihoods are at stake, and, obviously, all the women in his life use these products. Also apparent was that he wants his daughters to love themselves for themselves while trying to accept that they won’t. They’ll be sucked in. Like women of any color get sucked into the “you are not enough” sales technique to encourage spending beyond our means on clothes, hair care and body sculpting. It must be nice for the folks interested in profit margin that it’s taken hold in men’s psyches as well.
We’re all sucked in. As I was sucked into this movie. It raised as many questions as it answered for me and I left the theater thinking furiously of the half dozen copies I need to buy for friends and family. Not the least of which was my hairdresser.