October 20, 2009

Category: Real Talk, TV/Film

Good Hair: Between a Rock & a Hard Place


I’ve had a press & curl, box braids, a relaxer, a texturizer, an afro, Bantu-knots and now I’m rocking long cornrows– $20 synthetic hair in the back and real afro-kinky hair for bangs. I know about Black hair– the good, the bad and the ugly. My hair has been two inches short and about 10 inches at its longest.  I cut it, tease it, straighten it, extend it and twist it. For me hair is adventure and accessory, but clearly I may be in the minority after reading and hearing the rage from Black women over Good Hair.

Last week I went to see Chris Rock’s documedy for myself and found it funny, insightful, superficial and disturbing all at once.  It was already clear to me from watching his segment with Oprah that Chris’ issues with Black women and our hair are kinda deep.  His amazement and delight with being able to run through Ms. Winfrey’s weave-free coif was akin to my seven-year old niece’s fascination when combing the silky strands of her Dora doll or better yet, like this white woman’s curiosity with my long knotty dreadlocks five years ago. Clearly Chris needs to get out of Alpine a lil’ more often. But that’s Chris Rock’s shtick: In-the-pocket-going-outta-bounds. He’s totally hilarious one minute then forgets himself (and his audience) and tends to go way left. You do remember what he said about Michelle Obama in Kill The Messenger?

I don’t know what people expected from Chris Rock’s gander at why some Black women spend thousands of dollars on weaves and have to have the “creamy crack” every four weeks. Nah, I take that back. I do know what they expected. Black women who say that Chris Rock has made a mockery of Black women, has disparaged the Black race and is celebrating rape, clearly must have forgotten that Chris Rock is the same Negro whose most memorable, if not outstanding, role in Black Americana is playing a crackhead named Pookie.  Chris Rock is no Dick Gregory, heesh he ain’t even as political as Ellen DeGeneres and she’s a judge on American Idol.  Going in to see the movie I thought Pookie’s gonna separate the Yaki-Yaki from the Afro-Kinky and I hope it’ll be funny. I was not looking for enlightenment, inspiration, empowerment or exegesis.  And before I continue, let me share that when I was eight, maybe even nine years old I would take my Baby Alive mint green baby blankey and tie it around my head and pretend I was Cher, Irene Cara or whoever had the long good-hair ponytail at the moment. So I know first hand about the desire and the beauty standards that oppress and confused Chris Rock’s daughters and so many young Black girls the world over, but I also know not to get my medical prescriptions filled at the local Laundromat.  I understand there is a history of slavery, Black Power movements and discrimination that has defined Black (self) love, but never did I presume Chris Rock would be all bell hooks on that subject. And quiet as it’s kept I did not want him to go there. Just like I don’t want Tyler Perry to go there with “For Colored Girls”. Comedians need to stay in their lane.  And yeah, I know, white people are buying tix to see Good Hair and now our bidness is on the streets. SO WHAT?!? Our bidness been on the street. Have you seen Frankie & Neffe or Meet The Browns? Guess what? More non-Blacks are watching these Stepin Fetchit scenarios of Black life than viewing Good Hair. Believe that and be mad at that!

3 Reasons (if you must) Be Mad at Good Hair:
1.) For not interviewing his wife Malaak who wears a major weave or his daughters whose images are throughout the doc. Let’s see and hear from your original inspirations.
2.) For those way too long scenes in the barbershop.
3.) For wasting so much film and my precious time on the uber boring, coon-atrics of the Bronner Brothers Hair Show.

3 Reasons To Not Be Mad:

1.) We already know this is good hair!!! (Thanks dream!)
2.) For his look at the hair trade in India and the scenes of girls getting their waist length hair shaved off as a sacrifice to God.
3.) If you weren’t outraged at Ken Burns’ foray into jazz– a quintessential Black art form, then lay off of Pookie. If it’s intolerable for a man to talk about woman’s hair, then surely it must be just as reprehensible for a white man to discuss Coltrane. Sounds kinda ridiculous? It kinda is.

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11 Responses to “Good Hair: Between a Rock & a Hard PlaceComment RSS feed

  • Thembisa
    October 21st, 2009 1:24 pm

    That’s right Nic, shut ’em DOWN!

  • N. Jamiyla Chisholm
    October 21st, 2009 2:02 pm

    I completely agree. Who’s really mad at Chris for not tackling this the way an intellectual would? LOL. it’s almost funny to have thought he would have used his money & power to hire a research team and at least try to answer the question of Why? What is it about the world’s standard of beauty that Black women will do anything to achieve knowing it’s damn near impossible to be something we’re not? But that was not a thesis for Chris
    to break down, build up & make socio-cultural sense out of. He’s a comedian who’s worn a family version of a relaxer himself! And like you said, it’s apparent he had no intention of een trying to be intellectual. He’s a funny guy.

    And lastly, I’m real tired of folks thinking that a group of men, women or children speak for everyone who looks like them. I’m personally anti-weave although I knock no one for rocking one. Someone else’s sense of style has nothing to do with me. Just like I cringed everyday for a month in Ghana when me and my beautiful locks would craze in the sun to the dismay of all the skin bleaching Africans before me. I said “whatever” then and I say it now. Let folks be happy, or not if that’s where they chose to sit. I just know that I love swimming & I love it when men I’m dating put their hands in my hair. Those women cannot speak for me just as I know they would fall out if me and my fro tried to speak for them. We’re all individuals and again, Chris Rock is nobody’s bell hooks (just like you said Nic).

    Can’t wait for when we can all either just be ourselves (weaved or not) and not think a man, just because he’s black, is ever going to get Our stories right.


  • Justin
    October 21st, 2009 3:56 pm

    Just had a *heated* conversation about this film at dinner last night, so I’m glad to have your article to share with folks ’cause it breaks it down like only you can, Nic! Plus, you need to trademark the term “coon-atrics,” talk about laugh out loud!

  • Keith L. Forest
    October 21st, 2009 4:50 pm

    Kudos Niki Noodles you smashed this review. Sounds like you got your groove and voice back to me! Power to the sisters… oohm shock lock oohm LOL

  • What’s Good About Good Hair? | afrobella
    October 21st, 2009 6:14 pm

    […] interesting, but I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. I have to agree with The Hotness Grrrl on this point — if you must be mad at Good Hair, be mad that Chris Rock’s wife, Malaak, […]

  • KweliArt
    October 22nd, 2009 11:41 pm

    Great Blog!! I remember the day I went “natural” it was Aug 21, 1985. To my family’s horror I cut it all off!! I loved my new tiny fro…and, now I love my dreadlocks. The bad news…
    I simply miss the beauty shop experience.
    What’s a sistah to do?
    I’ve tried to go to the loc-tician..but, seriously, who am I foolin’?
    It just aint the same!!
    So, you go, my sistahs!! Get yo’ “Stella-Grove” on…
    Strange envy, huh?

  • Nicole
    October 23rd, 2009 12:01 pm

    @ Jam: “He’s a comedian who’s worn a family version of a relaxer himself!”… Him, Puff, Jaime Foxx,, et. al… You are hilarious!!!

    Chris is not a historian or sociologist end of story. To those that feel he should have featured more women with natural hair to illuminate his point, I’m not sure I agree. If I was doing a doc on people with tattoos, I would not interview a bunch of people who do NOT have tats. Doesn’t make sense.

  • Aurie
    October 23rd, 2009 6:55 pm

    I sincerely enjoyed this movie review. I will be watching it at some point for sure. Chris has been taking a lot of heat about this, but I’m glad that he brought up the subject in this way. It’s uniquely his style of doing things and I would be disappointed if he deviated from doing it any other way

    October 24th, 2009 11:00 am

    OK Just saw the movie last night with my husband. We thought the movie was funny and informative on many level. Nicole you are on point with your blog. For me the thing that makes me cringe every time I hear or see it is when mothers put PERMS IN THEY’RE CHIDREN’S HAIR!!! That’s just child abuse in MY opinion. I want to cry every time. It’s just a case of educating ourselves on how to manage our natural hair properly because I have contrary to popular belief our “Nappy Hair” it can grow long. If you know how to take care of it. I can go on but won’t. I like the movie.

  • Funkidivagirl
    October 28th, 2009 4:58 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but your blog post echoes many comments that I have already heard.

  • felicia
    November 2nd, 2009 1:44 pm

    good piece!