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3 reviews, 1 rating

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Good Hair
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by Rob Gonsalves

4 stars

Hair is money. "I'm in the wrong business," says Chris Rock when he hears how much money black women spend on their hair styling, braids, relaxers, weaves. In "Good Hair," Rock sets out to find out why. Short answer: Black women want white women's hair. Which leads to a bigger, more disturbing "why."

In his autobiography, Malcolm X talked about getting a painful, burning conk put in his hair during his gangster days. It was one more way, he said, that black people poisoned themselves out of self-hatred. Do the women in Good Hair hate themselves their blackness? That may be overstating it, but certainly the media glamorizes long, flowing, Caucasian hair and disregards natural "nappy" hair. In School Daze, Spike Lee staged a musical battle between the "Jigaboos" and the "Wannabes" over the virtues of "straight and nappy" probably the first time many white audiences were even aware of the conflict. If hair is money, hair is also identity.

Rock follows the money. He visits with various black entrepreneurs and manufacturers of hair products; he tracks the progress of four contestants in the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show, which seems to be more about razzle-dazzle than about actual hair care. He talks to various celebrities, female and male, about their experiences with straightening their hair, including, amusingly, Ice-T. Most revealingly, he takes a trip to India, where women shave their heads to offer to "God"; the hair is actually collected and sold at exorbitant prices so that women like Raven-Symone can have fabulous weaves.

Rock doesn't really editorialize; he goes through the movie with his brow creased in bafflement over why women do this to themselves (and pay money they don't have for thousand-dollar weaves), but he doesn't get angry on behalf of his sisters. This is alien territory for him, though his inquiry emerges from a genuine curiosity about why his little daughter came to him in tears one day because she didn't have "good hair." He says he'll have to add hair-straightening to the list of things he'll tell his daughters never to do. One way to accomplish that and he does, every day, he says is to assure them they're beautiful the way they are. But one father can only do so much, and what happens when they hit their teens?

Good Hair is an amiable and mostly funny spotlight on a part of black culture; if it isn't as indignant as some may wish, that's because, aside from his wishes for his children, Rock doesn't really resolve his feelings about the whole thing, which puts this closer to a true documentary than to the usual Michael Moore op-ed. He simply asks, What is "good hair" and why is it a multi-billion-dollar industry?

Rock doesn't pose the hard question to the ladies in the film Are you trying to be white? because the answer is complex; many non-whites, including of course the Indian women whose locks end up in weaves, have long, flowing, straight hair, and many whites have curly hair they wish was straight or straight hair they perm into curls. It's a puzzlement. Maya Angelou says it best: "It's hair. As long as it's on your head and not between your toes, it's okay."

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18153&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/05/09 10:21:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/02/11 millersxing Women whose hair is not of spun gold, Chris Rock offers you the reverse Rapunzel treatment. 5 stars
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  09-Oct-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Feb-2010


  DVD: 09-Feb-2010

Directed by
  Jeff Stilson

Written by
  Chris Rock
  Jeff Stilson

  Chris Rock

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