The Bad News about “Good Hair”

goodhair

As a blogger, I was invited to a complimentary screening of Chris Rock’s film, “Good Hair“.  I went with much anticipation and an open mind as I really didn’t know what to expect.   This particular screening was held in an office building in mid-town Manhattan,  a few short blocks from Times Square.  The screening room was lovely and held approximately 60 seats.

As the film began I was initially impressed as it opened with a little historical perspective, but that was over in short order, lasting about 30 seconds, so it seemed.   As the film proceeded I noticed I began to have a very sinking feeling in my stomach (my barometer) and my heart.  It wasn’t too far into the film that I began to realized that I was actually feeling very sad as I sat through this film.  Don’t get me wrong, Chris Rock is a comedian and so the laughs were there and I can’t say I didn’t laugh at all.  But too many of the laughs were at the expense of dignity and pride.

Very much like that laugh seen on Oprah when Chris was there to promote his film yesterday.  A photo of Oprah as a very young girl shows up on the screen and clearly Chris was offended by her image as he laughingly said to her, something along the lines of, that picture is from your slave days!   And he and couldn’t get off of it, kept on going on about it.  Oprah and the audience also laughed through this.  I sat there offended and wondering what the hell was so funny???  There was nothing funny about it.  Because Oprah had a wide nose and kinky hair she is said to look like a slave?  Come on Chris!

But I digress, back to Good Hair.  This film has many disturbing moments (like the one on Oprah) for me.  Most telling was how ridiculous black women were made to look as they seemingly unconsciously go through life with the willingness to sacrifice health, dignity and financial common sense all in the quest to have straight, long hair.  This film and the points it made could have been done without the degradation, but that option was not chosen.  One has to wonder why not???

To his credit Chris did feature one sister with natural hair in his film, a Khamit Kinks client, Traci Thoms.  And one sister which like in our up coming film,  has chosen to wear a bald head than to cover over her alopecia.

There was a white guy sitting in front of me laughing his buns off throughout the film.  He really got it, knows all black women’s hair secrets now.  He was also taking notes through out.  So at the end of the film as I was reaching for one of my business cards (I was going to inform him about my upcoming film) I asked him if he was a writer.  He said he was and that he wrote for the New York Post.  I immediately stopped looking for my card as he gleefully went on to tell me he had an appointment to interview Chris the next day…  He asked me what did I think of the film. I told him, “Despite all the excuses, the use of chemicals to straighten our hair is on a unconscious level still an attempt [for many] to aspire to have the same type of hair of the very people who enslaved our ancestors.  And this is sad to me”.  He said, “Oh, that’s an interesting perspective”!  Isn’t it though.  Am I taking this way too seriously?

The good thing about Good Hair is the fact that Chris clearly points out how poisonous relaxers are.  And on Oprah he made the point of pointing out how using chemical straighteners on children is really not the move.  Chris ends his movie by stating that if his daughters make the choice to chemically straighten their hair, his advice would be that it’s more important what’s in their head than what’s on their hair.

Well that take you right back to the point of our up coming film “In Our Heads about Our Hair“.  Because yes, it does matter what’s in your head, because ultimately, for too many, what’s in their head is going to reflect in some major way what’s on their head.

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29 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michelle on October 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you for your insight on this film. I am a natural sista and a few weeks ago I had a conversation with two other natural sistas about this film. This was their main concern. They wondered if the film was degrading. I shared this link with all of my natural sista friends. We were considering a group outing and then a discussion afterward. I am now reconsidering my decision and thinking I should save my money. Thank you for this post!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Cornelius Moore on October 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you for your comments. I’m a Black man. I saw the film at a public screening at the Toronto Film Festival. True, there were laughs, but I was disappointed by a couple of things. 1) “Natural” hair, whether short Afros, locks or braids have come to be considered OK for women to wear in many professional workplaces (although I know this is still a struggle). Why not more about that? 2) The idea that there are all of these Black women expecting Black men to pay for their weaves seemed inaccurate and offensive. It flies in the face of reality, both historical and present day. My mom, cousins, friends, etc. paid/pay for their own hair.

    Reply

    • True that on both counts. I have yet to have anyone offer to pay for any of my upkeep; be it hair, nails, massage, spa etc. Yes, I own a salon, but still I have to pay my Stylist to have my hair done.

      Thank you for your input.

      Reply

  3. Posted by E.C. on October 1, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I actually watched Oprah yesterday – caught about 2/3 of it – and was at least relieved at the young woman who had cut her hair short. Although I think some good points came out it – there was still a void underlying the whole show, and I imagined that it would be in the film as well – just from viewing that show (but especially after reading your blog, Anu – but I’ll still watch it anyway, at some point): The fundamental question was avoided, unless I missed a segment, of the Eurocentric framework of beauty that was indoctrinated from slavery still is the operating, internalized, motivating factor that drives the de-nappification obsession. There still seemed to be a baseline notion: that it is an unquestionable “given” that this is just what black women do. They took a neutral approach – showing what white women “do stuff” to their hair too, but they confused, I believe – “differentness” and/or “newness” and/or “fashionness” – with modifying one’s baseline: what’s at the roots. The focus was on choice – which of course anyone should have – but except for some of the guests coming forward with affirming what the inherent damage (most strongly expressed by the woman – with her daughter & husband on video – who cut her hair in response to realizing her daughter already having been “damaged” by the dominant Eurocentric imagery – the conversation was rather shallow. What really hit the spot of contradiction was when Oprah talked about how when started her school in South Africa – she insisted that there only be braided hair – no Western imitation. But as smart as she is – I was astounded that it didn’t seem to even cross her mind that she was communicating absolute contradiction and hypocrisy by showing the opposite herself: “Do as I say, not as I do” – which generally incites one to do the forbidden! I actually joined the Oprah blog so I could send her a comment on the same – which I did.

    Reply

    • No, you didn’t miss a thing. The subject of slavery definitely wasn’t broached on Oprah and Chris glossed over the indoctrination via slavery very quickly, as I mentioned in the brief opening. In the end, it’s about laughs adding up to ca-ching. And like I said Chris did delve into the caustic nature of relaxers so maybe some folks will heed the warning… It left to be seen whether or not the film will have any lasting value.

      Reply

  4. Posted by E.C. on October 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Maybe on the good side, if nothing more, the film will invite the discussion to forward from what was glossed over, but still addressed enough to stimulate deeper discussion in the wider scope. Maybe a few more folks will go natural!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Michelle on October 1, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Anu, I watched the Oprah episode yesterday and there were a couple of things that I found disturbing. But the most disturbing was what you commented on…when Chris commented on Oprah’s school photo as her being back in slavery. I was surprised that Oprah didn’t have a comment on that. It was downright insulting! Also, I was disappointed that there was so much talk about relaxers and little or no talk about the beauty of natural hair. Most of the women I know gave up relaxers years ago and proudly show their natural locks. Perhaps there should have been a balance between the naturals and the weaves and relaxers.

    I would like to see the movie because I think it will open discussion with my male and female friends. I have a feeling I won’t appreciate how we are portrayed to the world (as usual).

    Reply

  6. Posted by Nu Girl on October 1, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Hello Anu,

    I will be keeping my money on this one. Chris Rock is showing a pattern of offensive and degrading comments directed at African American Women and it is not funny. How can he show such animosity at AA women and wonder why his daughter is beginning to show signs of inferiority complex. I also suspect that Chris’s daughter has no AA women in her life who are natural haired examples to counter the Eurocentric image bombardments.

    My second issue is that I know of great docs produced by AA women filmmakers and they have not gotten the half as much exposure as this documentary. I will be saving my money and supporting docs that are genuine in examining our hair stories and history. I am interested in discussion that is uplifting and healing, not a doc that pokes fun at our hair issues to the wider public and laughs all the way to the bank.

    Thank You For The Post

    Nu Girl

    Reply

  7. Posted by sandy on October 5, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Hi Anu,

    I must tell as a natural haircare professional for many years the idea of a film by Chris Rock about hair got more jeers than cheers in my salon. Several clients and stylist alike were concerned, especially after Oprah, that the message would be dwarfed at the expense of laughter. It is a little sad that Chris is one of the few blacks who can get a film made and gather so much publicity and then drop the ball.

    I must admit that at first I believed others were being too sensitive, after all, why can’t we laugh at ourselves sometimes, but at the cost of our dignity, never that! We still have a lot of changes to come through and I look forward to your film.

    Reply

    • Thank you Sandy,
      I just had to speak from my heart regarding how the film affected me. It’s from my perspective. It wasn’t my intention to trash Chris’s film, on the contrary I now believe I must have been really naive going in. Therefore, I as it turned out, I was very disappointed.

      We are working diligently to bring an intelligent film about our hair to the public and we will definitely let everyone know when it will be released.

      Reply

  8. Posted by Louise on October 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I did not see the Oprah show (I don’t find Chris funny), but I did catch him on Jay Leno. Anu, I was sitting in a car dealership (late night repairs) and he plugged this movie to a prodominantly white, laughing their heads off audience. My sister and I, both of us natural, sat and just looked at each other. Did I forget to say that there were several white men sitting there with us that thought Chris was hilarious. We felt like they were laughing at us. I have never had a weave, but I felt like I needed to stand and give lessons about black women and their hair. We were so angry with Chris. He could have made his point by giving an interview to a black magazine. Did he have to present us as fools for going to any lengths to achieve what we have been told is acceptable beauty for us. I still feel the stares that are cast from my white counter-parts at staff meetings when I enter with my locs swaying behind me. I have not been treated exactly the same since I left the relaxed look and decided natural was for me. Sometimes I think we give too much ammunition to those who don’t want to understand us, but find us so entertaining.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Lynette on October 7, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Hi Anu,

    I did not see the film yet, nor did I get a chance to catch Chris on Oprah, but I appreciate your assesment and insight all the same. All I can say is that I have been wearing my hair natural for the last 5 years – and thanks to your salon and the A+ team of professionals on your team – my life has completely changed because of that decision…many, many thanks to you and your committment to natural hair care and beauty!!!

    Reply

  10. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but a friend commented that he was disappointed about the movie. He didn’t want to be on a photo shoot and a white guy says “Get that kitchen”. It’s just annoying he laments.
    It’s not that Chris Rock made this movie, it’s his discussion only. There have been other films (short,long, yours) that are not getting the hype. I hope there will be a much needed over flow of interest and the broader perspective of Hair can get some much needed conversation, larger platform, and interest.
    It is the danger of a single story,

    (I just saw this video, it is fantastic). If that link doesn’t work try this, http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html

    We don’t have a single story on this subject.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Genhi on October 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    That’s too bad. I should have known better, but I was hoping he would use this film as an opportunity to educate people on the beauty of natural hair. He could have done that through comedy and I think he missed a real opportunity.

    Reply

  12. great post dude, i love every part of it. thanks for sharing

    Reply

  13. Posted by Debra on October 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Anu,

    Last night I went to see Chris Rock’s film “Good Hair” and like you, I felt sad but I also felt angry. What did he want his viewers to think about African-American women after watching this film? It was irresponsible to make this film without some kind of historical context.

    I don’t know how Chris could make this film and think about his daughters, his wife, his mother, his female friends, and not edit the barber shop scene. I cannot tell you how angry it made me feel to sit there and listen to African-American men talk about the preference of White women because they don’t wear weaves. Equally offensive was the implication that African-American women are so irresponsible that we will not pay our rent and will instead buy wigs and weaves. While there may be some women who will do this, it is not all African-American women. The film was just so disappointing and I am equally disappointed in Chris Rock.

    I was away and missed the screening of your film “In our Heads.” Any idea when it will be released? Will you be showing it again at another festival or some other venue?

    Reply

    • Hi Debra,
      Our film is currently being edited. We have been advised not to rush it. We have no idea at this time when it will be ready. But most likely, it will not be ready before the spring. When it is completed, we have every intention to make sure everyone is made aware of the screenings.

      Thank you for your interest.
      ~Anu

      Reply

  14. Posted by donna on October 17, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Khamit Kinks would have been the perfect salon to feature. It needed that balanced view so that people who feel they have to perm their babies hair can see this is the beauty of our hair and the many options. I see beautiful natural styles all the time here in Philly and I know it’s the case in BK as well especially being seeing some sisters @ Temple U from BK ultimately aided in my decision to loc. And there are other locations where natural beauty abounds, still not to the level I’d personally like to see but point being there are examples to embrace. But there are many places where either you still do not see naturals or they are far and few between or it’s a natural esque weave style and the younger a person is when they get their hair permed, the more separated they are from their natural hair, they don’t know it beyond recognizing a need for a touch up when the roots get to growing in..

    There are also women that’ll go natural and not know how to care for their hair so they go back to the perm, needing to be educated on what natural grows out of their head. I was a hairstylist for years and yet when I went natural, my hair was a foreign language to me I had to learn everything about it and how to take care of it. It’s sad and primarily because it’s still so normal/accepted to be ignorant in this area after so many years. And so it would have been nice to see more representation of those who would be considered to have bad hair so that viewers as well as his daughters would have that balanced view and squash that mentality because our hair is evidently gorgeous!:)

    Perhaps there should be a Good Hair II that displays those that choose to stay natural and those outside of the culture that actually will and do purchase “Black Hair”.

    Reply

  15. Hi Anu,

    I mistakenly wrote on your October 28, 2008 post that you hadn’t written in a year. I see I was wrong. I love this critique of the film. I have yet to see it. I really wanted to see it but it was not that widely distributed in the theatres and it certainly wasn’t in the theatre I frequent.

    Please let me know when your film is completed. I would love to see it (go to the screening, if invited, of course! LOL).

    Reply

    • Dear Shelly,

      I am curious to know why you thought we hadn’t posted for over a year? I post here and on my other blog site Anu Essentials, at least once a month, though my goal is once a week.

      Our film “In Our Heads About Our Hair”, is a community project. As such everyone is a volunteer. We did find a talented volunteer to do our editing, but it is a process. I’m not certain when it will be completed but we are aiming for some time in the spring. Stay posted and Thank you for checking in on us.

      Reply

  16. My husband decided to join me to see this movie. I was so excited,because this is truly not his kind of movie. He graciously sat through the entire movie,but was very disappointed with the jokes. We both wanted to laugh, but not at the expense of making our own people look bad.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Josephine Minnow on December 3, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Anu,

    This is my first time coming onto your blog, I actually found it because I am doing a methodology for my children and media class. I wanted to find out if the images portrayed in the media have an effect on what is consider beauty amongst young african american girls. Is the fact that there are barely any images of black females have an effect on them? Most of the images young black females see are of white women, so is it because of this, that we believe a European look is the standard of beauty for everyone? These are some of the questions I hope to answer as well as see if young black girls take on the word of Cindy Brady or Rudy Huxtable, and does race play a role in that? (Sorry to go off the subject, just wanted to give background)

    So I was looking up research and I came across your blog because I am using the movie “Good Hair” in my research. I personally did not find the movie that offensive. There were parts I found quite enlightening. I do relax my hair, so the portion of the movie that dealt with the harsh chemicals in relaxers was definitely eye opening for me and has me doubting if I should continue with the “creamy crack”. He also made AA women question their priorities, when it comes to paying rent or getting that new pack of Indian Human hair. I also felt he brought up a good point of why majority of black hair care and cosmetics is not own by us! We’re the only ones who use the products, yet we are buying it from whites and asians, another topic we as blacks need to question. I just think he was exposing the world to the mystery of black hair. White people have no idea the time and effort that goes into our hair, so I think perhaps Chris Rock just wanted to give them a peak in our world, as well as give us AA women a chance to laugh at ourselves. However, I do think there should have been more information on the struggles of black hair, the politics of it, how its changed over the years and how it affected the AA community.

    Do I think it was the best documentary on black hair? Absolutely not, but I do not feel like it was bad start and it has help spark conversation, which I think is good.

    Reply

    • Josephine, Thank you for sharing your mission and insights. What you shared about the limited positive images of black women is so true especially of those wearing natural hair. I understand your take on Chris Rocks movie and I agree that there were some moments of enlightenment. Suffice to say, we are all entitled to our opinion about the movie and I have already stated how I feel.

      I’d like to welcome you to the world of natural hair, something that Chris did little to offer as the positive alternative. Here at Ask Anu you will find an plethora of information on all the different aspects of natural hair from styling, to healing, transitioning and much more. You can also visit us at our website Khamit Kinks.com Another great source for information and images is Deborah Willis’s new book entitled “Posing Beauty“. It’s a very beautiful and fascinating look at images of our beauty in print, starting from the 1890’s to present day. Here at Ask Anu, I hope you can find plenty of value to share with your children and others and I wish you all the best.

      Reply

  18. Good Summary. I don’t think that chris aimed to degrade black women. It felt more like he was trying to hold a mirror up to the madness that black women go through for “good hair”

    Reply

  19. Sister, I have been looking for you my whole life.

    I can’t tell you.

    I have not gone to a hair salon in years, because once they look at my hair they are puzzled.

    I have shoulder length afro textured hair and the first reaction is wow, your hair does not look like taco meat, after that they start thinking about how much work they have to do to style me.

    God Bless you,
    I will be at the shop as soon as I can get there!

    Reply

    • Dear Tara,
      You had me laughing out loud. I am looking forward to seeing you and all your hair. I marvel at people who have massive amounts of hair. I’ve always wanted that, but am now grateful for what I have – a healthy head of hair.

      We look forward to serving you.

      Reply

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