I saw Good Hair the night it came out, but I’ve been holding off writing about it because my feelings about it keep changing. I’m still not sure just what to make of it. It’s a really, really funny film, but it throws out all sorts of eye-popping numbers and images without really commenting on any of them or even bothering to ask any decent follow-up questions. There’s a scene in which Chris Rock and a chemist demonstrate that the active ingredient in hair relaxer is so toxic that it can melt a soda can in a few hours. Okay…so how much of this stuff is in the typical dose of a relaxer that goes on someone’s head? And what does this mean for the health of the hairdressers who handle it for a living? Neither gets asked. Indeed, the history is hair-straightening is never even touched upon (C.J. Walker’s near-total absence from this movie* is unjustifiable).
And then there’s the powerful segment in India — after software, human hair is the country’s biggest export — which also really unsettled Anna at over at Jezebel.
I will give Chris major points for the segment in which he goes to India to see how the human hair used in weaves is obtained. The resulting footage was damning: Human beings in a third world country reduced to their body parts, which are then sold off so that comparatively rich women in the first world can use them as adornments. Ugh. Seeing those swaths of hair being sorted, laid out, combed through and spun into perfect bundles of shiny ebony silk made me sick to my stomach.
Again, Rock’s take on this segment is essentially “That’s crazy, right?” Why, yes! It is crazy! One might even venture to say that it’s unnerving enough to necessitate a change in consumer behavior! But the closest thing we get to any sort of critique from Rock on this or anything else is his cheesy dodge of a closing line, which goes something like this: “I guess when my daughter is old enough to decide whether to get a weave or a perm, I’ll tell her what’s on top of her head is less important than what’s in it.” And with that, me and the natural-haired woman with whom I went to see the movie rolled our eyes.
*The homie NiaTrue on Twitter reminded me that Walker’s great -granddaughter A’Leila Bundles makes an appearance in the movie, but they certainly don’t explain who she is or why she’s being spotlighted.
Tagged: Good Hair