Glimmers of Life

Posts Tagged ‘documentary

When I went to see this documentary (a while a go now), I was impressed that there was a documentary that touched on my life and something I have an opinion on. I watch documentaries on the tv – but no more than your average person, and I usually do it because the subject matter is interesting and I would like to learn more. In this case though, I do have some inside knowledge and I think that’s why it got to me.

Good Hair takes you down a few different strands of the “black hair” world, but I think the part I found most interesting was about the industry, and how despite being huge consumers of black hair products – probably the only consumers really, that black people didn’t profit from it. Black people don’t make the products, source the products, distribute the products or sell the products, black people don’t own the industry. There is a part where the Reverend Al Sharpton explains how we wear our oppression everyday day. That was something I really wasn’t aware of.

But then there are parts that just left me with more questions – like when the Reverend Al Sharpton explains how James Brown told him to get his hair straightened to look like him – but why?

And then there was a little part which kids in a classroom and one black girl says something like I probably wouldn’t hire you with your hair like that, to a girl with a funky afro hairstyle. That comment strikes at the heart of the issue, why wouldn’t she hire her? What messages has she been given throughout her life to say that to one of her “sisters”? I think that would have been really interesting to explore.

But I have to say that the part that burned me the most was when he said that we don’t keep our hair natural because we want to be white, which he then spends no time at all in trying to dispel… is this really what he thinks? Is it really what black women think? Because I can safely say that that is not the case with me. I think Nia Long says at the end “black women are hard work” but I think that it’s black hair that’s hard work. Black hair doesn’t fit into the caucasian dominated world in which I live. And I don’t really mean that in terms of perception (although it could be the case), I mean it in terms of working for me. Let me explain a little….

When I was young, most of my friends were white. Whether they had straight hair, curly hair or something in between they could comb/brush it. At the flick of a wrist they could tie it up, let it down, have it half up half down whatever whereas I had to wait until Sunday night before I could have anything different done with my hair. My Dad would pin me down and haul a comb through the entangled nest while I cried. I’d then be stuck with that style until the next week.

Even now, I’ve had my hair in several different styles, braids, relaxed natural but I couldn’t honesty tell you that I know how to look after my hair. Almost every time I go to the hairdresser they say, your hair is damaged, your hair is too dry but when I ask for advice and tips on how to look after it rarely do I get a tangible answer. I have numerous half bottles of products around the house, that I’ve bought because they used it in the hair dresser or someone said it was good I use them and nothing seems to change. Now I am aware that this trial an error process is universal it’s not just black women that have a stash of products languishing in a corner somewhere, but the difference I think is that I’m not even sure when my hair is good condition, except when I come out of the hairdressers and you can never recreate that.

But why don’t I know how to properly look after my own hair – because it doesn’t fit. My hair is different from my mum’s (hers is less afro) so no help there, it’s different from my friends – no help there, it’s not the same as what I see in the mainstream magazines and I’m too boring for the specialist ones (blue loaf style anyone?), celebs – well they don’t count because they have more money to spend or their hair than I ever will. The only place it fits is at the hair dresser – but is the only way to look after my own hair to take it to someone else?

I don’t want to be white, I have straight hair so I can comb it into a style that suits me in the morning and go to work with minimal fuss. If I knew how to do that with my natural hair I would do it in a heartbeat and feel happier for it.
Maybe someone could tackle that in Good Hair – the sequel-a how to guide…


Thank goodness for the Cornerhouse in Manchester! I’d heard about this Chris Rock documentary on the radio and searched every cinema in the area to see if they were showing Good Hair, and nothing. I did actually even try the Cornerhouse website but there was no information. A week later they said it was coming soon and finally I got to see it.

At first I wasn’t sure whether it would be worth the £5 entry, but I decided that if you don’t support these things then later down the line you won’t get the option so I handed over my card and let it bear the strain. And I’m glad I did.

Good Hair is a documentary headed by Chris Rock which delves into some of the issues surrounding Black Hair, why every black woman wants straight hair, what lengths they’ll go to to get it, and how black men feel about it – with a bit of a hair competition thrown into the mix.

As a piece of entertainment I enjoyed it. I laughed, I questioned, I got angry (see next piece) – it touched me.  But it also bugged me a little though that rather than delve for answers it simply offered up the obvious or reverted to the superficial. Like when you go to a restaurant for a good meal, and you know the chef has freshly cooked the main course but that they’ve just microwaved the dessert from a packet.

Overall this is an accessible if not a little light film about Black Hair. I’d say this is definitely one to watch, especially if you’re black or know someone black, as it touches on some interesting points. Ideally though I’d say take a group of friends so you can talk about it afterwards. I’ve found myself chatting with friends who haven’t seen it about some of the points made, but it would have been much better if they’d seen it too.