Good Hair – Review


Director: Jeff Stilson
Notable Participants: Chris Rock, Maya Angelou, Eve, Meagan Good, Ice-T, Nia Long, Tracie Thoms, Salt-n-Pepa, Al Sharpton, and Raven Symone

One question is all it takes to open a cabinet of curiosities. For comedian Chris Rock that question was, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” Rock was so perplexed by what his daughter asked that he decided to get to the root of the problem: the stigmas associated with having “good” hair and “bad hair.”

Now, what constitutes bad hair? For African Americans, bad hair is hair in its natural state, free of alterations. It’s good to stay true to your roots (hair foilically-speaking), but for black women in professions like acting, journalism or politics, straight hair is of weightier importance. It is seen as a status symbol.

Chris Rock gets people to open up about their hair while trying to understand why so many African-American women desire to have flowing locks. Among the famous faces he speaks with: Maya Angelou and Rev. Al Sharpton, actress Nia Long, musicians Salt-n-Pepa and Ice-T — because a former pimp would have expert knowledge when it comes to women and their hair.

Peering behind the curtain of the billion-dollar black hair industry, Rock gives us a humorous spin on women and the extreme lengths they put themselves through to have straight hair. Hair-relaxing agents made with sodium hydroxide are used to force the hair to straighten. These products are potentially hazardous if left on the scalp too long. Remember that “Push It” video by Salt-N-Pepa where Sandra “Pepa” Denton had that the unique hairstyle where a side of hair was shaved? A relaxing mishap damaged the roots of her hair so badly she had to break out the trimmers. This is a professional tool with professional power that is smaller than the standard clipper or trimmer. It also has an attached finger ring for better grip and stability that is reversible for left-hand and right-hand users! This clipper/trimmer is ideal for trimming beards and sideburns besides being able to clip hair with blades that snap on and off for easy cleaning! You can check out here about the philips norelco trimmer.

Women also wear weaves to give the impression of longer hair. They are pricey – going upwards of thirty-five hundred dollars. Celebrities have the income to support their weave collection; working mothers bare a strong financial hardship to change their looks. One woman says she lays a way the weave, purchasing it in installments until she can finally call it her own. Funny, yes, but also troubling that a mother would alter her budget to include “weave installment” to the monthly total.

Rock’s first stop in Good Hair is the place “where all major black decisions are made: Atlanta.” He fits right in on the floor of the Bronner Brothers Hair Show with its many booths dedicated to hair care. Each year thousands flock to the three-day event to shill products and give demonstrations. The show’s main attraction is a hair-styling competition where the best of the best compete in front of a fervent crowd. Though, as we find out, the competition is more about trying to put on a Vegas-like show than cutting hair. You won’t see the kitchen sink, but you will see a 70-piece marching band for one act.

The hair show is the center of the documentary, with its colorful combatants (the most feared stylist is a white guy!) and intense preparation. Rock uses the show as a jumping off point to explore the many ways black hair is altered. He visits barbershops and salons – interacting with barbers, stylists and waiting customers – and learns the dos and don’ts with women and their weaves. The supreme rule: Don’t touch it.

Traveling to India, Rock looks for the source of the weaves. Turns out that the source for the donations is a religious ceremony where a profit is turned with each pound of hair sold. Women sacrifice their hair to God only to have it resold in the States. As serious a scene this is, Rock gives it levity quickly thereafter as he tries to sell black hair on the side of a street while standing next to a vendor selling oranges.

Good Hair may lack a cohesive narrative, playing for laughs most of the time, but Chris Rock is a strong enough interviewer and narrator to make his subject enlightening for larger audiences. The celebrity sound bites and man-on-the-street interviews outweigh the ridiculous styling contest, which wears thin rather fast. Rock may not get all the answers to the questions put forth, but the documentary does entertain, offering thoughtful discussion and some priceless quips.