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Home Arts and Culture  Heads examined
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Wednesday, October 28,2009

Heads examined

by Susan W. Woods

"Good Hair" is a refreshingly funny and poignant documentary that explores the fixation of African-American women on having “good hair” and what it takes to achieve it.


Comedian Chris Rock assumes the role of Michael Moore, visiting hair salons, talking to celebrities (actresses Nia Long and Raven Simone, political activist The Rev. Al Sharpton and author Maya Angelou) and covering the Bronner Bros. Hair Show. All the while, Rock is earnest, a bit bewildered and bemused, but mostly he is very sharp and witty.


Rock wants to know why black women and children will suffer through the application of hair relaxers comprised of caustic, harmful chemicals that burn the scalp in order to make their “nappy” flowing and straight. The response is that it makes them feel better and look better, and once “relaxed” they never go back to being natural.


Rock discovers that this is a big business. Black women buy 70 percent of all hair products sold globally, yet non-African American companies control most of the industry.


Another major expense comes in the form of weaves, which are sewn onto women’s scalps to give them long, full hair. Rock finds out the best of these are imported from India, where weaves are a multi-billion dollar business with religious overtones. Most of the hair comes from temples, where the religious rite of tonsuring, or shaving off one's hair and donating it to the gods, takes place at a rate of roughly 10 million heads a year.


Some of the funniest and most insightful comments in the film come from the beleaguered men, who endure paying and waiting (hair relaxers and weaves can take up to eight hours to apply) for their women to straighten and alter their hair. Candid opinions and insider expertise fly inside the salons.


“Good Hair” lets viewers examine or identify with a cultural phenomenon and vibrant style that has made for big business, all while laughing throughout.


‘Good Hair’
Directed by Jeff Stilson
97 minutes. Rated PG-13
four - out of five

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