Film Review: Good Hair

Chris Rock fronts this documentary about Afro-Caribbean hair and what lengths women, and some men, go to in order for them to have what they perceive as Good Hair.

The film uses a time when one of Chris Rock’s daughters came home from school and asked him if she would ever have good hair to set Chris off on an investigation into what “good hair” means and how people get it.

The “Good Hair” referred to is straight or European looking hair; very different to the natural Afro-Caribbean hair.  Women and some men strive to have “Good Hair” which leads them to spend large amounts of time, effort and money.

What becomes initially apparent is the social pressure of how people have their hair.  Perhaps this type of pressure and expectation is not the sole property of the black community, but with limited knowledge I am unable to come up with any comparable examples.

Chris Rock’s relaxed interviewing technique draws excellent comments and anecdotes from a range of people who have experience of “Good Hair”.  He interviews actresses, models and even Maya Angelou who all have there own tales to tell and the men interviewed also provide anecdotes and words of wisdom of what it is like to date a woman with “Good Hair”.  Ice-T is particularly amusing and I don’t think for one second he is taking himself seriously.

Although the documentary is light-hearted and certainly doesn’t take itself or its subject too seriously there are many poignant moments during Rock’s quest to learn about “Good Hair”.  Most notable were the sequences in India; where religiously sacrificed hair is sold on; and the interview with a girl having her hair relaxed for the second time at the tender age of 7.  It was also interesting to note that of the hair products available to black people, seldom few companies that produce them are actually owned by black people.  The chemicals used in relaxants were also investigated which leads to a brilliant sequence of tin cans in varying states of dissolve and the innocent chemist taking Chris through them question when Chris mentions people putting it in their hair: “Why would anyone do that?”

With a lot of serious information presented, the documentary never becomes like a lecture, it always entertains.  It seemed to me that the sequences featuring aspiring hair designers rehearsing and taking part in the annual Bonner Bros. competition, although not specifically that relevant to the main subject matter, they were that entertaining that they simply had to find a way of including them.  I personally wheezed with laughter at the part where Jason Griggers gets Botox.  In fact, so hilarious and wacky were these segments that I even began to wonder if it was a work of fiction and these people were actors. 

Rock’s narration is delivered in the same style of his “Everybody Hate Chris” TV show and that also helps to keep the whole thing interesting, informative and funny.

Someone once coined the word “Infotainment” and this was certainly that.  I don’t think that you would need to know of or be knowledgeable about Afro-Caribbean hair to enjoy this because it helps hair novices along the way.  I don’t think it’s a particularly challenging film, but it does make you consider the key points by just throwing the questions out there: there is a huge amount of pressure for black women to have their hair weaved or relaxed to chase an image that they, by their own admission, seldom achieve.  But without getting maudlin on the subject, the cost in monetary value and pain is dealt with a rambunctious humour.

My Rating: 4/5


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