Friday, February 19, 2010

Released this week on DVD: "Good Hair"

Grade: B

Many African-American women endure a multitude of sins, near literally it seems, to achieve fresh, fly hairdos. That's not me saying that -- it's all laid out in the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair.

But before I go any further, I guess I should explain what, according to Rock, "good hair" is. From what I gather, the term "good hair," old jargon in the black community, describes hair that's like "white hair." Actress Nia Long uses the expression "the lighter, the brighter, the better" to describe the often long, smooth and straight hair associated with "good hair."

One of Rock's daughters asked him why she didn't have "good hair," and Good Hair was born.

A woman's hair is her crowning glory, St. Louis native Maya Angelou points out. And that pursuit of "good hair" for black women and even some men -- Michael Jackson, Prince and the Rev. Al Sharpton aren't spared -- is portrayed as funny as it is near tragic. Rock shows us what's really going on with the "relaxers," a common chemical process sold over the counter that straightens coarse or curly black hair. It's seen as the road to "good hair," just don't get a smidge of the relaxer, made up of sodium hydroxide, in your eyes or on your scalp or risk blindness and burning.

A safer solution for many are weaves, though they are much more expensive. We're shown the silky locks that come in plastic bags at the neighborhood beauty store for weave usage once flowed down the backs of Indian women whose heads are shaved as sacrifice. And that's when the hair isn't stolen off Indian women's heads while they sleep.

We learn that Asians pocked most of the money in the black hair business, and that the colorfully hot mess that is the Bonner Bros. Hair Show brings in $60 million to Atlanta's economy. The behind-the-scenes of the hair show might've made an even more entertaining movie.

Some of this, a lot of this, is preaching to the choir. But it's still pretty compelling no matter what perspective you're coming from.

Rock misses the boat in deciding not to relate Good Hair to non African-Americans more. He only fleetingly mentions that white women are getting weaves and extensions more than ever.

Rock tries to sum it all up when he says he'll tell his daughters that the stuff on top of their heads is nowhere near as important as what's inside their heads. But that, paired with a closing quote from Ice-T saying women should do whatever makes them feel good, makes one wonder which is the overriding message.

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