DVD/VOD Review – Chris Rock’s ‘Good Hair’ Is Really An Ad For The Bronner Bros Hair Show

DVD/VOD Review - Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' Is Really An Ad For The Bronner Bros Hair Show

I skipped this when it was in the theaters in 2009, after reading hearing about how empty, though funny, it was. At the time, there seemed to be plenty of mainstream media focus on *blackness*. It was the year that CNN debuted its Black In America series, and also there was a lot of attention being given to the plight of the single professional black woman in America, and, of course, in the midst of all of that, there was the never-ending black hair debate.

So I really wasn’t in the mood for anything that handled any of *our* issues trivially. It just didn’t feel like the right time. But maybe it was just me. So I’ll leave it at that.

As the years passed, I actually forgot all about the film, until recently, when I watched it for the very first time as a DVD rental. I have a 10-year-old daughter, and a conversation I had with my wife about our daughter’s hair, reminded me of the film, so I finally picked it up and watched it.

The film begins with a question. A question Chris Rock’s own 7-year old daughter, Lola, asks him. A question that was the basis and motivation for the creation of the documentary. And that question was: “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?

Given that set-up, one would expect that, by the end of the documentary, an answer (or answers) will be provided to the question, in all its breadth and complexity.

Does that happen?

Well, about an hour into the 95-minute film, after lots of clowning around on what’s really a serious issue, Rock finally, seems to answer the question, by stating that he tells his daughters to prize what’s inside of their heads more than what’s on it. An assuring answer, I suppose – the old, “it’s what on the inside that counts” line that I’m sure we’ve all heard at one time or another. 

However, as I’ve learned as a father, it’s just not that simple. Try explaining that to a little girl who ventures out daily, into a world that relentlessly tells her the opposite. It’s a daily commitment that my wife and I have made – to make sure that we provide our daughter with as much of our values to counter the attack (because that’s really the best way to described it) she faces in what she sees and hears on the outside.

Rock should be aware that what’s inside of their heads is indeed very much influenced by what’s on it; in other words, what they feel about themselves is partly dictated by how their physical selves are received by the world in which they live – a world that’s so woefully consumed with what’s on the surface, as women (more often than not) subject themselves to, sometimes, deadly procedures in order to fit some standard of beauty – one that’s primarily determined by white men, based predominantly on an Eurocentric model.

Let’s face it, as we all know, “black hair” is a rather broad and loaded topic, chock-full of historical and present-day complications that simply can’t be addressed in a 95-minute documentary – especially one that tackles the matter so jovially and casually. 

Good Hair does occasionally attempt to delve into some of the weightier aspects of the subject, with “attempt” being the operative word in that sentence. However, every developing moment of discomfort, difficulty and revelation in the film is quickly de-thorned with Chris Rock’s trademark humor. There’s almost always a punchline, or smart-aleck remark, to keep affairs blithely moving ahead, onto the next set-piece, all building up to a rather trivial competitive showdown at the Bronner Bros International Hair Show, which, in my opinion, added very little to the film’s original premise.

Actually, thinking back on it, I’d say that the hair show that ends the movie, and all the build-up leading to it, really was the film’s focus, and not an investigation into the culture of hair – “black hair” specifically. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that about half the movie – maybe even more of its 95-minute running time – is dedicated to the Bronner Bros Hair Show and its 4 main competitors. 

So what was the point of it all then?

As I type this, I don’t know whether it’s even worth it to bother discussing the film with any degree of sincerity and earnestness, because it’s clear that the production team weren’t very much interested in getting to the root of the matter at hand. It’s purely entertainment, and not much more. So, you can either simply just accept it for what it is, and leave the theatre not necessarily feeling like you’ve reached some new level of enlightenment; or you can get all riled up and lament the absence of any real challenging substance, and, what is, in effect, a wasted opportunity.

With a shrug, I suggest the former. You’ll lose less hair that way since you won’t be pulling it out in frustration.

I give Good Hair 2 out of 5 stars.

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Comments

Tia

When I first saw the film in the theatre, I wasn't expecting it to be some serious, investigative piece examining the issue. Once I found out Chris Rock was involved in it, I knew the film was going to come from a comedic perspective. I just took the film for what it was – nothing serious, just laughs. If anything, the film mostly makes fun of black hair culture, as it points out some of the absurd lengths black women go to have so-called "good hair." I remember a part in it where a public school teacher was being interviewed in the hair salon talking about how she spends $1,000 per hair salon visit and is on a layaway program for her weaves. (Like how can she afford that on a public school teacher salary?) Then there was another part about 6-year-olds getting perms. (SMH!) But then again, maybe a film from a comedic perspective is going to draw more people to the theatre and then the more serious conversation can begin afterwards.

Again, I took the film for what it was. Soledad O'Brien is going to continue her "Black in America" series. Maybe she can do a documentary on black hair from a more serious angle.

Miles Ellison

I like Chris Rock, but this movie was basically self-loathing played for comedy.

ALM

One thing the movie did was provide Black women with a visual connection of just how caustic relaxers truly are. I have heard so many women discuss the scene where the relaxer eats through the metal soda can.

I don't think that Rock intended for this to be a serious documentary. This was made to start conversations, and the film indeed accomplished that mission. I have heard that there are other documentaries out there that deal more with the social and emotional issues/stigmas surrounding "good hair".

BeautyIAM

Thank you for the review. I was always hesitant to watch the movie because I didn't think I would learn anything I didn't already know. I still haven't watched it and know I'm not missing much. I always had a problem with Chris doing this because he is a Black man talking about a topic that many Black women can relate to. I didn't think he would be able to adequately talk about this subject because he cannot relate to the hair issues many black women have. I have seen other documentaries regarding Black women and hair that were made by Black women. So it is safe to say I'm probably never going to watch Good Hair.

Also, the response he gave to his daughter about her hair kind felt like half of an answer. There is so much that I tell his daughter about how amazing and beautiful her natural hair is.

cruz777

when i want real talk, even coming from comedians, Rock is not on my list. matter of fact, he's almost on my list where Morgan Freeman resides. almost, but he's not that bad…yet.

Sweeta

Before I even got into the article, I looked at the headline, reeled a little to resist, but then calmed down and was like "…you know, it's kinda true." Lol. I agree with your commentary on the film and the issue of "Black hair" in general.

This part right here: "Rock should be aware that what's inside of their heads is indeed very much influenced by what's on it; in other words, what they feel about themselves is partly dictated by how their physical selves are received by the world in which they live – a world that's so woefully consumed with what's on the surface, as women (more often than not) subject themselves to, sometimes, deadly procedures in order to fit some standard of beauty – one that's primarily determined by white men, based predominantly on an Eurocentric model."

Very true.
Thanks for this!

Valsadie

Once I saw the clip of Chris walking around with the bag of hair, I knew he and Nelson George were taking the subject only but so seriously. And why would they? They're men, musing on womens hair, a subject they know little about — and made faint attempts to understand. The comment I kept seeing over and over about this film when it came out was that it "could have been so much more." Also, there was talk of an earlier documentary by a woman that had looked at the subject more seriously.

The bottom line, with me, was that Chris gave the wrong answer.
"Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?"
"You DO have good hair — who told you that you don't?? Yes, there are things your hair isn't, but let's talk about all the things your hair is. Your hair is strong, your hair is your crown, your hair is part of everything that makes you special. Your hair is yours, you can make it look however you want, and others will look on it and be impressed and know to pay attention to you. People who look down on your hair are not your friends. The people who appreciate and compliment your crown are the ones who really love you."

Was that so hard?? Dang…

J. Doe

I highly suggest that the author of this post check the film 'In Our Heads About Our Hair'! It's currently on the festival circuit and it's fabulous film hitting on all cylinders that Chris Rock missed.

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