“Good hair”, a documentary comedy by Chris Rock focuses on all issues surrounding African American Hair, their styling industry and the effects it has on African American culture at large. It touches on critical and sensitive issues of how the society looks at the African American women’s hair and their views regarding hair at generally. In this documentary film, Chris Rock visits barbershop, conducts interviews, attends hair styling conventions, beauty salons and even scientific laboratories to uncover the story behind the African American hair weaves. His work on the source of African American hair leads him to the sub continent of India where the hair weaves originates from. He under covers one of the most lucrative industry the hair business can ever create estimated to be 9 billion dollars. He clearly studies the perspective of African American women’s hair and their opinion on good hair.
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It is hard to believe that Chris Rock in this documentary intended to laugh at or mock the African American women. I strongly believe that he had no intentions of making black women look bad, but to present them in what they are, and what they really love and represent. He interprets all the myths and clarifies the views of black women regarding their hair as he gives details of the truths surrounding this 9 billion dollar industry. Rock enlightened the world on the love of African American women for straighter, lighter and brighter hair. No one can clearly claim that Rock was making fun of the black women, because even at the end of the film, he has not even given his opinion on good hair.
Rock only takes an honest and grave look at the hair industry and reveals some of the fascinating financial facts, anthropological and religious involvement and the societal view into the hair industry (Saint Louis, 2009; 7). This provides evidence that, he in fact laughs with African American women when it comes to the issues surrounding hair and the depths they are willing to go in order to attain the hair of their choice. He in fact agrees that he was using a hair relaxer at one time during the production of one of his comedies (Saturday Night Live). One of his concerns about the hair business is the origin of the hair; India and the effect the chemical relaxers might have on the human skin. As the documentary begins, he is concerned about his daughter’s woes of not having beautiful hair. It’s like he respects the fact that black women are into soft, relaxed hair; and that’s why he goes to the extent of having scientific demonstrations on the effects of chemical relaxers.
He shows in this film that, some African Americans straighten their hair just for the sake of grooming. It makes them more acceptable in the society they live in; the white establishment. Just as Paul Mooney puts it in the documentary “Good Hair”, “if you relax your hair, white people tend to be relaxed” (Saint Louis, 2009; 3). The main point is that, the nature of the African American hair; kinky or coarse, makes it hard to manage and blow thus it make it easier to just relax it.
In some incidences though, Chris Rock is clearly laughing at African American women because of their adoption of the white culture and hair styles. The out dated preconceptions about the white hair are brought out in this film as rock tries to Rock tries to examine why some African American women believe in the need to have straight, silky and long hair in order to fit in the society. It’s like he tries to tell them that they are just seeking out approval by the society they live in, which drives them to seek hair styles that are somewhat intimidating so as to continue moving forward. He even utters some untrue statements like “When you see a black woman with silky long hair, just know that she has a weave or she has relaxed it”.(Kaminsky 2006; 4). This statement is untrue as there are women with Ethiopian or Somalia origin whose hair textures are almost identical to women from Middle Eastern. This is an assumption that all black women have the same kinky hair and is incorrect thus aimed at laughing at black women.
This movie was not meant to laugh at African American women. But it was meant to explore the effects of globalization and the truth about the hair industry. Globalization is evident in that, the African American culture is being integrated into white culture through communication, media and globe spanning network of trade. Globalization in this context is being driven by both technological factors, biological factors, political, economic and most of all sociocultural factors (Kaminsky 2006; 6). The idea of hair styles and texture is not in born, but carefully spread by its proponents through mass media, which has taken the advantage of the fact that, with the technological advances in technology and communication, mass media can be depended on to steer us into the right direction. The knowledge, experience and assumptions we apply in our work are not usually applied in our daily lives. For example, one clearly evaluates the risks involved in adopting a new business venture; to the extend of building prototypes to receive feedback from them, however before using or turning to relaxers many people are only guided by the end result; a straighter, lighter, brighter hair.
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I sincerely don’t think that Indian women are exploited for sacrificing their hair because their main aim of giving out this hair is not for commercial purposes, but religious purposes. If their religion demands that they shave their hair, and they have undivided faith for their temple, which existed before even the advent human hair business, there is nothing wrong for their hair being sold for a profit as it would have been anyway thrown. So long as their faith is not compromised by their hair being sold, there is no way these women are being exploited. In any way, Christians tithe 10% of their earnings and they never complain this Is exploitation by the church.
If anyone was to blame, it would be their religious leaders who sell their hair, and the businessmen who exploit this window of opportunity. Globalization, through communication and trade has spread stereotypes about how hair should be straighter and lighter, which put the health of the African American woman at risk (Kaminsky 2006; 7). The mass media provides strong and positive role models on how to dress and how women should do their hair. It is also the work of mass media to spread the news of the latest weaves and create the notion that, weaves are better that natural hair. This ends up creating a high demand for this commodity especially among teenagers who are easily influenced and thus increased prices of these weaves. A lot is therefore desired from the media in the quality and quantity which it represents the African American woman as it leads not only to the inflated price of weaves, but also to addiction towards the same; the obsession which Chris Rock compares to that of cocaine.
The fact that no penny is awarded to these women is shocking considering the trouble they under go like sores on their scalps and also the fact that they are not told. The temple leaders should take the blame of encouraging Indian women to give donations to the church given their economic state and their hair is their only possession (Kaminsky 2006; 4). The process of shaving in itself is painful as no shaving creams are used; no scissors is used but dry razor blade. It is rather a paradox, in that the hair which the Indian women give so painfully being left bald and ashamed is the same hair which the African American women consider a state celebrity. It comes with a special appeal to the American women where it is ideally called “temple hair”.
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