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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hopes for "Good Hair"

Good Hair is a comedic documentary on the perils of Black women and their hair. It is

“[a]n exposé of comic proportions that only Chris Rock could pull off, GOOD HAIR visits beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of the black community,” according to goodhairmovie.net.

Vanity Fair calls it “Hilarious” and Variety says it is “ Fresh, funny and altogether fascinating. Audiences will wig out.” But, at whose expense I ask.

I understand that his film is a comedy. However, why is it that the bodies of Black women get put on display, once again, as deviant from Amerikkkan culture. Black people have always had a history of being seen as different and more “fascinating.” Furthermore, any culture that is not white is seen as "fascinating" and exotic. It is no wonder that in this “comedic film,” Chris Rock chooses to explore another dimension in the "absurdity" and "hilarious"-ness of Black culture. What I see as being more comical, is that White women do the same thing to their hair: perm, weaves, sew-ins, bleach, clip-ons, wigs, etc. However, I doubt if white women will appear as examples in this movie. My guess is that they will be the commentators on “funny” things Black people do.

The problem is that the bodies of Black women are continually offered as space for commodity consumption i.e. music videos, television shows. The ideological equation of race has maintained that white people = normal = human race, therefore anything beyond that is abnormal – deviant, bad, black. Hair, which has represented the idea of beauty for women, then becomes soo powerful as to become the embodiment of Amerikkkaness, whiteness. Even Malia Obama doesn't stand a chance:

“Anyone who thought such preconceptions were outdated would have been reminded otherwise by some negative reactions to the president’s 11-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, who wore her hair in twists while in Rome this summer. Commenters on the conservative blog Free Republic attacked her as unfit to represent America for stepping out unstraightened.” ---- Catherine Saint Louis

There are a number of articles written on the hair and body of the first family. It is a fetishization for Blackness that continues to find popularity in mass culture.

Thus, I have 'Hopes for Good Hair.' I hope while “entertaining” audiences, Rock enlightens as well. I hope he at least gives some kind of intellectual thought on how “whiteness” has accounted for the reasons why many Black women feel the need to damage their hair. That the complexity of hair treatment by Black women is a consequence of colorism. "Good hair, light-skinned, pretty eyes, Blue Vein Society, brown paper bag test; these are just a few of the derogatory references used by Black people to create skin color divisions within the our community. However, this occurs in all communities of color; Asian, Latino, Native American, Indian; Blacks are not the only victims to this ideology.

Furthermore, Black men too, hope for “good hair,” constantly claiming “waves,” as a result of the same white beauty standards Black women measure themselves against. And I hope he talks about when he hoped for “good hair." Yes, Chris Rock rocked a jheri curl.

“I used to get perms—I had a Jheri curl for years, and it used to burn my scalp like crazy,” says Chris Rock in an interview.

It is important for Rock and others to recognize the root of why many women and men of color feel the need to straighten their hair. It is an issue that can be laughed at, at first, but then must be examined closely. My argument is that it is not funny when Black women’s struggle and suffering for privilege and power become a spectacle for audiences. Our accepted beliefs as Black people, for white value systems and standards of beauty, are a result of colonial expansion and racial capitalism - all racism. And this is a subject that should be taken seriously. Chris Rock’s talent and privilege as an acclaimed actor and comedian, lend him the responsibility as a Black person, to communicate crucial issues to mass audiences, which I hope he does.

Black is more than beautiful, it is extraordinary!! Breathe it, Live it, and Wear it. You can choose how you want to maintain your hair, but for me, how you dress and how you look have always reflected what you have to say about yourself. So, what are you saying sisters, brothers?



R.A.L said...

Excellent post! I hope too that the movie is more than a minuscule exploration of the black hair and African American female psyche. When I was younger my brother processed his hair to achieve "waves" and must continue the practice to this day. Not only have European ideals of beauty permeated our African American culture, those ideals have led us spend billion annually on our hair. In a world where the achievement gap persists, it is time that we take beauty from the top of our list. I hope the film conveys the message that too often our attention is channeled to superficial matters and that the longer we judge Black women by the appearance of their hair the deeper we internalize racism. As a preface, I am guilty of conforming to social pressures to keep my hair in a certain way. As I grow older, I am beginning to realize that "good" hair was constructed to marginalize my community. Today, I release the shackles of marginality and embrace the beauty God expresses through Black women.

kid.a said...

i finally saw the movie over the weekend so i can finally comment on this post...

you know for this movie to be labeled as comedic documentary i didn't really find it to be all that funny or informative...kind of amusing and kind of informative but not really...

I felt the movie was also lacking in some areas. "White women do the same thing to their hair: perm, weaves, sew-ins, bleach, clip-ons, wigs, etc." Niki said the same thing and thought that should be discussed as well...

for me the movie lost direction. I thought the movie was going to breakdown the stereotypes but instead i found it actually build them up...i.e. the hair convention. that portion of the movie just made everyone look ridiculous (the people in the movie and the intended community...i.e. black people.)

in the end, i wasn't really impressed w/ the movie and would have much rather watched it on tv.

this may throw out everything i said above about stereotypes and breaking them down but the movie i was suppose to see that night was BLACK DYNAMITE! but b/c it was sold out we saw Good Hair...

D.Son said...

@ R.A.L. thanks! I totally agree, " I [was] guilty of conforming to social pressures to keep my hair in a certain way." It is a DARK place that I have came from. As a Black dark-skinned woman, both my race and gender pose oppressive obstacles that I have and will continue to face. In a world that does not love Black people, it becomes very hard for Black people to love themselves. To love Black people then, becomes a revolutionary act - this in fact, WILL NOT BE TELEVISED.

@kid.a i agree with your feelings about the movie. I too saw it this past weekend and I was bamboozled lol but not really. I kinda knew it would NEVER GO THERE(truth, knowledge, self-reconciliation). Good Hair fell short of my "Hopes for Good Hair."

BUT DANG kid, BLACK DYNAMITE???? lol heard about it last year. :0/ you'll def. have to let me know how it is.