22/06/2010

Review: Good Hair

What you see above is the image of a young girl having her hair permed. For my readers of the caucasian persuasion, this is not the hair perm that made you look like Kevin Keegan circa 1984, this is a term for a hair relaxer. A cream made to straighten afro and curly hair by using ammonium thioglycolate, a chemical that can permanently damage your lungs should you inhale it and disintegrate a Coca-Cola can. This is something that black women (and men like Prince and Snoop) willingly put in their hair.

Despite the fact that I am half black and grew up in the capital of the British African-Caribbean community, Good Hair was an eye opening experience. Inspired by a question from his daughter, Chris Rock made this film as an exploration of trends in black hair, the industry and the connotations with African-American culture. We see him visit the biggest Afro hair show in America and chat to major names in black American entertainment and culture but it's the images of a young girl having her scalp burned by the perm that sticks in the head, as does the thought of women asking their doctor whether they can perm thier baby's hair because it's too tough to comb.

Maybe it's easy for me to say because my hair has always been long, but I've never understood the black community's obsession with long hair. As Nia Long says at the start of the film, it is a status symbol. Longer, straighter hair is highly regarded compared to a classic afro. Black women lust and pay for (well over $1,000) a long, straight weave but tell them they are trying to look like a white woman and see how fast they remove their earrings.

It's a subject that could launch a thousand debates ablout black beauty but as far as the film is concerned, Rock is onto a winner. This will fascinate and entertain black people who go to these crazy lengths and white people who apparently had no idea this was going on. The production values are television level and Rock may not be typically sophisticated, but this is a great way to spend 90 minutes. And above all else, maybe you'll learn the difference between a lace front and tracks. Very important that. 4/5