Comedian Chris Rock has a new documentary out called “Good Hair.” He says the movie was inspired by one of his two daughters coming home one day and tearfully asking “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” So, in the spirit of being a good daddy, comedian and social commentater, Rock sought to find out what is good hair. Most of the readers on this blog are familiar with the term “good hair.” For those who are not, it is basically a phrase used in the black community to describe long, straight, wavy or very loosely curled hair that is easily comb-able and blows in the wind. There are many types of natural hair textures within the African American community, but that particular one is probably the least common. Many African Americans have thick, tightly coiled hair (like mine). So basically, for many African Americans,”good hair” does not grow out of our heads and some people go to great lengths to make their hair do the opposite of what it does naturally. “Good hair” is an awful term that re-enforces a binary perspective of beauty that has black characteristics on the bad side. Back to Rock…
Entertainers, scientists, hair stylists/barbers, beauty supply manufacturers and even Al Sharpton spoke with Chris Rock about their definitions of good hair and the lengths women (and men) go to in order to get it. Let’s start with the good things about Rock’s documentary. The hair show was great! I’m from Detroit, so of course I’m very familiar with hair shows and the extreme creativity and intensity that go along with those types of events. It’s always exciting to see the crazy hairstyles and the performance aspect of hairstyling. Another good thing about the documentary was finding out where weave comes from. Many of you probably already know that India exports a lot of the hair that is used to make weaves. I bet you don’t know exactly where the hair comes from though. I won’t spoil it for you, you’ll have to go see the movie. Another interesting tidbit in the movie comes when Rock talks to a scientist about the chemical properties of hair relaxers. Ladies, there are things in hair relaxers that can eat through an aluminum can. That explains the burning sensation, huh?
Another good part of the movie is the interviews with black female entertainers. Lauren London, Nia Long, Eve and many others speak candidly about their hair. Some of the exchanges between Rock and the ladies are just down right hilarious, but the interviews are also a weak point in the film because they highlight a huge flaw in this documentary. Rock does not delve into why this term “good hair” exists. For example, rapper Eve talks about wanting a relaxer at the age of nine. Rock does not ask the most obvious and basic question, “Why?” Did any of these women have traumatic experiences with their hair as children? Did someone sneer at their natural hair? Would any of them consider letting go of the weaves and relaxers? Why or why not? Rock does not ask any of these questions. However, there is a great statement from a woman in the film who wears her hair sans relaxers and weaves. She expresses her astonishment that it is considered revolutionary to wear her hair the way it grows out her head. Amen!
Throughout the documentary, Rock references his daughters and shows pictures and videos of them. His wife is conspicuously absent though. In fact, if you watched the film and knew nothing about his personal life, you might think he was a single father. This is especially interesting because it appears that his wife uses relaxers and wears weaves, but he doesn’t bring that up at all, even when he’s cutting up with the fellas in the barbershop about how black women don’t let people touch their hair. Mom is every child’s first example of all things feminine. If Rock was truly interested in investigating how his daughter got this “good hair” notion into her head, wouldn’t it make sense to talk to his wife?
Eventually, Rock comes to the conclusion that he will tell his daughters to be more concerned about what’s in their heads than on their heads. That’s just not a good answer to “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” If I were his daughter (she was three or four years old when she asked the question), I would still wonder why I didn’t have “good hair.”