Perhaps Rock thought he was doing something by interviewing the likes of Nia Long, Salt N Pepa, Ms. Video Vixen herself, and even Maya Angelou (who currently sports what she says is her very first perm), and pimpomatic Ice-T (goodness!). For a moment, I thought there was a glimmer of hope when Pepa tells of how she actually burned her hair to the scalp (and then tried to hide it by coloring in the bald spot with brown makeup and the asymmetrical hairstyle that wound up becoming popular as a result, she says). But then, when she goes on to state how she must have the “very finest human hair” for her one-piece (i.e. wig vs. weave), I knew that the film could go nowhere but down from that point.
The most compelling part of the film (for me) comes when Rock visits India to find the true source of all of this “good hair.” But for the white companies that have usurped all but four (we’re told) black hair product manufacturing companies; but for some Korean and Chinese shops who tell us, unlike the shiny, luxurious Indian hair, it would be nigh impossible for them to vend nappy, “unhygienic” hair to their customers; and but for the black hair designer, himself sporting a perm, and who pimps weave to black women on the regular, we truly see the problem with the hair “care” market from start to finish. It’s like California grapes all over again, except this time, it’s a black market where women can literally lose their hair if they but blink in the theatre or in their own beds. Rock’s message: BLACK WOMEN YOU ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE EXPLOITATION of impoverished Indians who believe their sacrifice of hair (whether stolen or voluntarily offered as a religious gesture) exalts them to a higher plain of spirituality. BLACK WOMEN, WHY YOU LITTLE DEVILS!
Now, I didn’t readily see the connection between Rock’s focus on the annual Bronner Brothers hair show, which, from where I stand, is pure performance. But I did see the somber look on one girl’s face when she was told by her fellow beauty school cohort that they would never hire her because her afro made her look “not put together,” or for Rock’s purposes, “not relaxed,” perhaps scary even (like Angela Davis, maybe…) Speaking of proud black women proudly sporting unpermed hair (for, the term "natural" makes nonpermed hair seem so exotic, “unnactural” even…isn’t it all just hair, anyway? Dead at that?)—where the hell they? Or don’t they make it to the cover of magazines, films, or past the first interview? Oh, there was one in the film: She was a darker-skinned black woman with a closely cropped croif. She stood right behind Rock and other black men in the barber shop as they mutually agreed that a woman gotta come correct with her hair or she ain’t getting’ it. (Ok, maybe I’m paraphrasing, but the point is, what must that woman have felt as her brothers basically or literally vanquished her beauty to the background? Absent perms, maybe the same way Rock’s young daughters feel in school? I’m just sayin!)
So, let me get this straight (no pun intended). Not only are Black women to blame for Indian exploitation (as if that’s not enough), but we’re damned if we pursue ends that we think and most evidence seems to prove will make us more appealing to black men and society at large, and we’re damned if we don’t. Well, hell, it seems we can’t win…but what else is new?
If, as a black man, Chris Rock wanted to make a movie about “good hair,” maybe he should have simply focused on the men in the barber shop, while interrogating and scrutinizing comments like that of D.L. Hughley, a fellow comic, such as when he once said that he had to be able to run a comb through his woman’s head…none of that nappy stuff. (Or maybe he could have asked some of them about those wave caps.) Ok, so we get it that, just as any and every black woman will go broke trying to afford a thousand dollar weave, a black man can also broke in trying to keep his lady looking good. But, he could also save a helluva lot of money if, in mixed and unmixed company, he contained his drool over the likes of Beyonce, Tyra, Nia who, to hear many tell it, are the “trufe” when it comes to flawless beauty.
What’s more, if he really wanted to instruct his daughters on lessons in blackness, he should have first studied a bit of history (can we say Madame CJ Walker?); next he should have further interrogated Mr. Diggs (the exceptionally talented, botoxed white man who was a favorite to win in the BB hairshow, even as he had nearly nude black women prancing around him), or Revlon, or Clairol for the “wages of their whiteness” when it comes to exploiting the black dollar and an unattainable standard they created for most any woman. If that’s asking too much, it’s ok. Chris has his career in buffoonery, I mean comedy safely protected by the white world… So why not let black women do our own hair (stories) and leave the social criticisms to the professionals? For contrary to belief there are among us educated folk who do this—and do this well—for a living.