November 30, 2010

Good Hair

Good Hair is a documentary by Chris Rock about Black Hair. It’s an open secret, not really acknowledged, not ever denied, that black women have the curliest, roughest, hardest hair to manage. Hence, they either use all manner of chemicals to naturalise/perm/straighten it or else, they wear a Weave. This is someone elses’ hair which is hooked onto their own, in the same vein as extensions and wigs.

This documentary however, doesn’t go into any of the technical aspects of the process but takes a more conversational, sociological approach. It starts when Chris Rocks’ daughter asks him why she doesn’t have Good Hair and it concludes with him saying, what’s under your head is much more important than what’s on it.

Fair enough. The documentary also covers hairstylists, celebrity body image, where the hair actually comes from – tonsure in the Tirupati temple in India and the dynamics of the hair product industry as well. It’s a well constructed documentary and easy on the viewer, a pleasing watch as it isn’t overreaching in any way. It doesn’t try to take on any Big Black issues, but it does take the camera to the heart of “ordinary folks” sitting, chatting about issues like image, body, what it means to be Black etc, which is far more of a valuable insight than any magazine article.

Incidentally, Michelle Obama, who everyone turns to, to idealise, has naturalised her hair. It is not “nappy,” the coloquial term for untouched/unpermed hair. Her kids however, have sometimes been photographed with curls (which is their hair in the natural state) and sometimes, like the inauguration, with straightened hair. A temporary perm or hot iron can also have this effect.

Like the very cool Tracy Thoms remarks in the film, it is considered revolutionary to allow her hair grow out in its natural texture. Keeping hair natural, is now actually emerging as a counter culture, with websites like this one -

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