Good Hair

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good hairI had a black girlfriend all through kindergarten. I loved looking at her hair. She had those colorful balls on rubber bands tying it all together.

In college I dated a black girl that had her hair straightened. It never even occurred to me how she had it straightened or what was involved in the process.

So when I heard Chris Rock was doing a documentary on the subject, I couldn’t imagine how it would be of interest to me. Boy was I wrong. This thing was hair raising (at this point, I’m debating whether or not to continue with the hair puns).

Rock mentions a young daughter asking why she doesn’t have “good hair” and he realizes it’s going to be expensive, and perhaps dangerous, to let them do all the straightening they’d like to do with their do’s.

Rock goes on a quest to figure out why African-American women spend so much time and money on their hair. It’s a billion dollar industry, that has way more involved in creating hair weaves than I imagined.

It was interesting listening to the various celebrities gathered. Reverend Al Sharpton talks about being introduced to that style from James Brown. Raven Symore is interesting to hear from, since she had fame as a young kid with the Cosby Show, and bigger fame as a teenager doing her shows geared for teen girls on Disney.

Rappers Ice T and Salt-N-Pep comment, as well as fellow comedian Paul Mooney. You even get Maya Angelou chiming in. Her first hair straightening was at age 70!

There were a few people I would’ve liked to hear from. Two musicians I love – funky R&B singer Macy Gray and jazz stand-up bassist Esperanza Spalding. Not only are they extremely talented, they have extremely big ‘fros, and don’t go through all those crazy straightening procedures. And since Nia Long is on this talking about the perception of what is beautiful…surely those two attractive singers would’ve been great to hear from (call me crazy…but I think Gray is attractive, even though my friend said when we left her concert at the Belly Up Tavern – “It looks like a huge tarantula died on top of her head.”).

Tracie Thoms (Death Proof) did talk a little about the “natural look.” She finds it more attractive than a Caucasian interpretation of what black hair should be. I’m just not sure she’s realizing – most black men probably like the straight hair look more as well. If not, more African-American women would be rockin’ the natural style.

I also think of Rock and his crew (mostly his collaborator, filmmaker/comedian Jeff Stilson), could’ve brought a few hair stories to the table. One that I thought of was a legendary ‘60s band called Love. Their black singer Arthur Lee would straighten his hair, and once fell asleep doing the procedure. It burned his scalp so bad, he could never grow hair again. At least that’s what he told me in an interview years ago. I doubted that, since Lee told me other stuff that turned out to be false; but when Rock and a scientist showed an experiment where they took a soda can and put it in the solution that straightens hair – within two hours, all the writing and color was gone from the can. A few hours after that, the can was basically melting. Maybe Arthur Lee was telling me the truth.

I don’t think Rock was going for some hard-hitting expose, though. And that’s fine. He took a glib and funny approach, which certainly made for a fun documentary to watch.

I was a bit bored by the Bronner Brothers’ Annual Hair Convention and Show in Atlanta. I think they spent more time then they should’ve there (although the end of that segment was hugely entertaining).

I was fascinated by the trip to the few black-owned businesses that carry hair products for their communities.

There are some interesting conversations about the costs involved ($1,000 extensions), and how women can become high maintenance. I’m not sure if that causes the problems he seems to think it does between the couples.

I knew that some wigs and weaves were made by human hair, but how bizarre to see that most of the Indian hair comes from temples where there’s a ritual and millions shave their heads.

One scene was so perfect, I have to find out if it was staged. There’s a hair weave in the gutter that ends up blowing down the sidewalk. It was as perfect as a tumbleweed blowing by before a shoot-out in an old western.

The movie was a tad light, and was basically a fluff piece. And how in the world did they leave out the Cowsills song Hair?

I’m giving this 3 ½ stars out of 5.

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