Directed by Jeff Stilson
Cornerhouse, 11 July 2010
Chris Rock combs through the intricacies of the relationship between black women (and some black men) and their hair.
Most black women, it seems, view their hair in its natural state as unappealing; and so a whole industry has grown up with the sole purpose of making black hair more European in appearance. Most companies that peddle such hair-care products are mainstream. Few are black-owned. And it is in the interests of these companies that current attitudes should persist.
There is a telling moment when Rock speaks to a group of young black women, all graduates, and discovers that they believe ‘European’ hair is more sexy and beautiful, and that it even denotes seriousness and professionalism in the work place.
Rock looks at the options available to women and the costs of those options. Hair relaxants or straighteners often result in chemical burning, and can be especially dangerous for children. Weaves are made using human hair obtained mostly from India (and some other developing nations) and is a dodgy trade, on a par morally with the trafficking in human organs. The third option is to be mentally strong by keeping hair natural, or as near as natural as possible. And there are still some vivid and vital women who hold that ‘black is beautiful’, despite the prevalence of black actresses and singers (e.g. Beyonce) who go the European route.
This entertaining and solidly researched documentary critically challenges attitudes, and so it can rightly be termed political, but it is also immensely sonsy and engaging; and this is due to Rock’s smart and sassy personality. One big added bonus is Ice-T, who makes a killer interviewee. He is abrasive and wise and to the point. Now there is a black man who should be made President and Pope to boot. Amen to all his utterances.