What is “Good Hair?” (Movie Review)

I can’t tell you how crazy my hair drives me on a weekly basis. I write about my hair frequently because I feel a lot of my friends can relate, and the ones who can’t at least want to understand.

I went to see Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair” last week with two girlfriends, one from Trinidad and one who is mixed, like me. [NOTE: “Good Hair” opens October 23 nationwide.] One uses a flat iron to wear her hair straight and the other wears hers natural. Me? I relax mine with chemical relaxer every two months and then spend the weeks in between visiting a Dominican salon to get a wash & set to keep it straight.

Here’s a quick video I made last weekend to show you what I deal with to make my hair beautiful.

I knew 20 minutes into the movie that I wanted to see it again. It is intelligent, hilarious and honest and I recommend it for anyone – black women who will laugh with recognition, white people who want to understand what all the fuss is about and yes, any man I’ve ever dated – please go see this movie. (This reminds me: A man I dated last year went and got satin pillowcases for me so I could spend the night without having to wrap my hair. That’s a huge commitment and I salute him for it. Future love interests, take note.)

Chris Rock plays the narrator throughout the film and focuses on 3 main story lines:

– the behind-the-scenes drama and economic impact of the biggest black hair show, which takes place annually in Atlanta

– the feelings Rock has about raising two daughters and what they’ll learn and believe about their own hair

– how black celebrities and average women feel about and care for their hair

Wrapped up in each of those themes are several moments where I was hit by a surprisingly insightful nugget of information or doubled over and stomped my feet because I was laughing so hard.

For instance: Did you know that in India, thousands of woman and girls shave their heads to reject vanity as a sacrifice to the gods? This hair gets sold, and is what goes on to support the hair weave industry that keeps long, silky locks on so many black women’s heads.

As for the hilarious parts, you can’t expect anything less from a project involving Rock. One favorite part of mine is when the only white hairdresser in the movie goes to a dermatologist to get pretty for the hair show. Remember I said that when you go see it, because I don’t want to give too much away.

I most enjoyed the humor, but I did learn so much about the black hair care industry; about the chemicals that go into the products used to relax hair and about the cultures dominating the ownership of those African-American hair care companies (Hint: there’s only one major company still owned by African-Americans).

I didn’t walk away feeling any differently about my own hair or how I choose to take care of it. I accept the fact that I am part of a culture that stereotypically places more value on hair that looks “white” i.e. straight and silky.

I do relax my hair. I’m half-white myself and I was raised by white people who didn’t know how to care for my hair. On the other hand, I didn’t have any black women in my life to teach me how to care for it either. Now that I live in a city with access to great stylists and products appropriate for my hair type, I still choose to relax my hair and wear it straight. And it looks better and looks healthier than it ever did before I moved here.

That’s my choice. If you watch until the end of the short video I made last weekend when I relaxed my hair and went for a haircut, you can see how happy I am when my hair looks good. My whole demeanor changes when I’m having a great hair day.

And that, I felt, was the point of “Good Hair.” Whatever YOU feel “good hair” means is cool, so long as you feel happy and beautiful.

More Good Hair Links:
Official Website
“Good Hair Week” blog posts with a perspective on weaves, courtesy of my friend Tameeka
“What’s Good About Good Hair?” another perspective on the movie from blogger Afrobella, who writes extensively about caring for her natural tresses.
Highlights and Official Movie Trailer on YouTube

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11 responses to “What is “Good Hair?” (Movie Review)

  1. Your hair is absolutely gorgeous. I remember first stumbling upon you and your fab locks when you wrote those Black Hair Mommy posts way back when. Your tresses just get better and better. It looked so great at the end of the video! And you’re just one shining beam of natural, radiant beauty.

    I’ve yet to see “Good Hair” because my past couple weekends have been so incredibly busy, but it is #1 on my priority list for the next theatre visit.

    I can’t WAIT to take my white-ass boyfriend to see it. As I’ve mentioned before, I use tracks of weave in my unrelaxed hair (to which I take a hot comb occasionally) and do the extensions by myself for the most part. I did the whole relaxing thing for YEARS until a couple summers ago when I got a full sew-in and the stylist recommended I give my breaking, damaged hair a break.

    When Sean and I first started dating, I would HATE when he’d touch my head. We’ve been together long enough and I don’t care TOO much now, but I am still weird about him feeling the tracks. Just don’t! Anyhow, I just want him to understand from a third point of view all the implications and complications involved in black hair.

    I used to wear green contacts and straighten my hair. I ditched the contacts over a year ago, but still straighten my hair. I don’t particularly care if people think I’m “trying to be white” or “denying my heritage” by doing the whole weave thing. I do what I like, and what I like changes quite often.

    Who knows? Maybe in a few years I’ll switch to long dredlocks or twists. Maybe one day I’ll rock a huge ‘fro. But for now, I feel like my hair is how I enjoy it to be, and that’s all that matters. Your last line summed everything up perfectly: Whether your hair is good or not depends on how YOU personally feel about it, not what the world, corporate America, or even other black people will tell you.

    Great post!

    • Emily Writes Here

      I love that my hair (and Nina) is what brought us together! :) Your feelings mirror mine quite a bit. I think the movie does a good job of explaining our sensitivities, but it does make you think about and examine your own feelings about your hair. Like I said, I don’t plan on changing anything about how I style my hair, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to start thinking about the economics of who gets my money when I spend on haircare :) I go to a minority owned and operated salon (Joseph Tyler) and that makes me feel good!

  2. I’ve been really wanting to see this one. Even more so now!

  3. God bless my mother, but she had no idea what to do with a curly haired girl like me. I had an afro until I was 10, and believe it or not started relaxing my hair when I was 13. I can’t wait to see this movie. The main reason I identify with African American women in the entertainment industry (actresses, singers) is because of my hair. Interesting stuff.

  4. so i really want to see good hair, too. i heard that at least part of the movie addresses people like me. i have REALLY curly hair, but i’m not mixed. other than maybe some native american, i’ve just got extremely curly hair, and i had a mom that has always had really short hair. so, i never even had my hair straightened until i was in my 20’s. i’ve had my hair blown out twice professionally, and i am treated so much differently. i get hit on so much more when my hair is straight, but it is such a pain.
    i also have this big issue … i feel like men and i should accept my hair for what it is. i mean it is my hair, and that’s the way god made it. it sticks up. it is curly. but i can’t help but feel like i would’ve gotten many more dates and probably even a few more jobs if my hair had been straight. at least i could brush it when it was dry.

    my mom never really helped me do my hair, my dad did. and he constantly brushed it straight when i was younger. and it was huge. i was always made fun of for my hair, too, but it was sort of a trademark over the years.

    it’s a love/hate. that hair.

    • Emily Writes Here

      To this day, friends an coworkers get all excited on the rare day I wear my hair curly. They can’t fathom why I’d want to straighten it. But I don’t know how to care for it that way and hate waking up feeling like an undomesticated chia pet. If I knew how to care for it, perhaps I’d feel differently. But it is what it is.

  5. you’ve totally inspired me mama! i’m going to do a post on my website documenting how i do the curls. i’m terrible (likewise) at doing anything related to straightening my hair. there’s just SO MUCH HAIR.

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