What’s Good About Good Hair?

Originally posted at BVHairTalk.com.

Can I be real with y’all? I’m kinda sick of Chris Rock’s Good Hair. Raise your hand if you’re with me.

The endless media tour. The premature outrage. The trailer, which showed all of the docucomedy’s best clips. To paraphrase Chris Rock himself, I’m tired, tired, tired of Good Hair.

So I’m gonna conclude writing about it once and for all with this review.
good_hair_chris_rock

I hate going into a movie when I already know too much about it. And I already knew WAY too much about Good Hair. And to be honest, I didn’t quite understand the controversy and call for boycotting the film. As I said in the Black Voices podcast: it’s important to remember who’s making this movie. It’s Chris Rock, the man who brought us Pootie Tang! The comedian who continually courts controversy. What did we REALLY expect from Chris Rock besides comedy? Social commentary? A historical perspective? Sorry — wrong filmmaker. Wrong film. For more informed views on black hair, see some of the documentaries I mentioned in my previous post, Before Chris Rock’s Good Hair.


As a comedy, Good Hair delivers. There were scenes and one-liners that were laugh out loud funny. Some scenes brought back painful memories of my own burning scalp. And there were scenes that caused my throat to tighten up and tears to well in my eyes. One particular scene, where a three-year-old girl explains that she has her hair relaxed “because we’re supposed to,” particularly ached to watch.

If there’s one thing Rock does well, it’s underscore the point that kiddie perm is an unnecessary evil. There are a few points where you can see true concern and consideration on Rock’s face as he interviews the subjects in this docucomedy, and whenever he touches on this particular topic — that little children in our community are taught that their own hair texture isn’t beautiful the way it is, and are conditioned to crave chemical relaxers from such a tender age — you can see the ache in his eyes. It’s in moments like that where you can see his genuine motivation in making this film.

I believe the power of scenes like that are undercut by the barbershop scene, where a group of black men cackle wildly while confessing that they feel a level of intimacy with white women because they can run their fingers through their hair.

The audience at my screening of Good Hair wasn’t the target demographic. The theater was in a “white” neighborhood, and there were few people present — I’d estimate 10, tops, and I seemed to be the only woman of color there. So when laughter rang out in the crowd, it was easy to tell who was laughing, and it was interesting to see what the audience laughed at. It sometimes underscored what frustrated women were telling Rock when he appeared on Oprah to promote this film for the second time. When the Caucasian couple sitting behind me burst out laughing at the scene in the relaxer factory, I wondered if this is what the upset black woman in Oprah’s audience meant when she admonished Chris Rock for “telling our secrets.”

If I had to do it over again, I’d probably have waited to see Good Hair when it makes its inevitable debut on HBO. It was amusing and interesting, but I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. I have to agree with The Hotness Grrrl on this point — if you must be mad at Good Hair, be mad that Chris Rock’s wife, Malaak, didn’t appear in the film. I was perplexed by that, especially since so many celebrities gave on-camera interviews about their weaves, and the whole point of the film was that Rock’s own daughters had negative feelings about their natural hair texture. That would have made Rock’s film a little more interesting, but would have probably made his home life a lot more uncomfortable.

In general, Good Hair is worth seeing. The underlying message of the film, “the stuff on top of your head is not as important as what’s inside your head,” resonates. Will this film make anyone stop and ask themselves – why do we use sodium hydroxide to alter the texture of our hair? Will we ever truly believe, as Kari Cobham’s Daytona Beach news article states, that “good hair is healthy hair, regardless of texture”? That remains to be seen.

Did you see Good Hair? What do you think? Was it worth the price of the movie ticket, or not?

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Comments

  1. You should do an interview with Chris Rock : )

  2. thanks for this post. because i totally agree with ALL of it.

    i found Chris Rock to be somewhat condescending to his subjects. as my Mum says, “he doesn’t interview, he spends time waiting for you to finish speaking so he can crack his next joke based on what you just said.” why didn’t he interview any women with natural hair? why didn’t he discuss natural weaves like loc extensions? why didnt he actually interview a powerful (read: wealthy or influential) woman with dreadlocks?

    i’m like, what is the deal?

    where was Whoopi? i mean, seriously…

    and i fully agree that we need to remember that Chris Rock is nothing but a damn comedian. a brilliant one, because he’s probably going to make money off of this film for generations, but yeah, Good Hair was not the complete summation of the black hair experience…

    …but it was very funny!!!

  3. I totally agree, Afro Bella! I wrote up a review on my blog (http://loveisdope.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/movie-review-good-hair/) and I had the same thoughts you had. I found it to be very interesting that Rock did not include his wife in a documentary that is supposedly based on his daughter’s question about “good hair.” He talks to other moms and daughters, but not the mom of his daughters. He really doesn’t answer his daughter’s question and he also makes it seem like MOST black women wear weaves ($1,000 ones at that) and use chemical relaxers. I understand that he was not trying to incorporate the whole historical aspect, but even in contemporary sense, he could have been more balanced. It is an entertaining film and I actually did learn a couple new things, but it could have been tweaked a bit more. Would have LOVED to have seen more relaxer and weave free women.

  4. nice review. i also reviewed my dislike for this movie. it was made by the wrong person with a highly questionable motive.

  5. Just re-read this and realized how much I forgot to say. There were so many more points I could have made, but oh well…it’s already been posted and there’s no sense adding to it now. But cosign la chica – this was a movie with a motive. Therefore showing that there ARE black women with natural hair who are seen as attractive to men, who are successful and respected in their fields, who don’t fit into the narrow box this film puts black women in… couldn’t be featured. We wouldn’t have fit into the predestined storyline.

    That scene where the teenage girls said natural hair was unprofessional made me want to stand up and scream at the movie screen. **sigh**

  6. What so many are now seeing about this movie is what many people like me said from the first promo released about the movie…Chris Rock is a fool and why are you putting all your faith in him to tell the story of black women…now, all those people that were praising him and commending him are trying to backslide out of their praise by saying he’s just a comedian and you shouldn’t expect more…oh,butlets attack his wife…she’s the real enemy…

    Chris made this movie to make money off of black women…it didn’t have crap to do with his daughters…he’s just fine with his wife having a weave down her back and probably will have it no other way…Malaack is probably not going along with this movie because she’s knows it is bogus and she’s knows her husband and what his true beliefs are…

  7. Bella: time to start writing a screenplay! :)

  8. Hey lady. I saw it while in Atlanta and I felt a little….incomplete. Like, did I miss something? I really would have appreciated a little more talk and commentary about the term “Good Hair”. Where it came from and what it meant. And I could have totally done without the hair show. I mean, bits and pieces of it was okay but there was way too much time spent on that. And where in the world were the naturals? The loc’ers? The curly haired sisters? Come oooon.

    And Al Sharpton’s purpose in that was….what again?

    I still need to write my review for Clumps. In the meantime I say we start writing our own documentary!

  9. I have to agree that scene of the high school girls hurt my heart. There was no hesitation in their voices. Like their ignorance was the undisputed truth. With all the professionals with natural hair, Rock couldn’t find one to explain how wrong they were ruined the movie for me.

  10. I think the movie is worth seeing for one reason – I want to see more films/documentaries like this be greenlighted. That said, I was dissappointed because the way the film was promoted led me to believe it would really offer an in-depth look at the politics/insanity surrounding the good hair/bad hair issue in the black community. I was definitely dissappointed that more naturals were not featured as that would have offered a more well-rounded portrayal. I can’t imagine Rock would have had trouble finding naturals who would have been willing to appear in his film. In the interview with the high school students, I wish we could have heard from the young woman with the gorgeous fro.

    I don’t excuse the missteps in this movie because Chris Rock is a comedian. Chris Rock is brilliant at what he does. His political commentary is brilliant. I think this was a case of very poor vision in terms of trying to paint a more rounded picture and very poor editing after it was all shot.

    Go see it though. Hollywood is all about numbers. If we want more films like this, maybe ones that will actually offer a more-rounded view, we have to show we’re interested in spending money to support them.

  11. Haven’t seen it..and I don’t really want to. I mean, what?

    Chris Rock is a comedian…and in my circles, he’s not a favorite. White folks love him, and I don’t think he wanted to make this society, as a whole, too uncomfortable about the glorification of a beauty standard that excludes a large portion of the female population.

    If you saw the previews, and expected anything more than a “comedic” look at our profound dysfunction, you expected way too much.

    He wasn’t the man to bring it, like it shoulda been brought.

  12. Definitely NOT going to see this movie….although I was asked by a white girlfriend of mine if I wanted to go (Sweepstakes Winner, Category: Most Unlikely Event to Ever Happen).

    As a Black woman, I’m sick of being the butt of jokes for Black male “comedians,” even under the cover of a “documentary.” Obviously, the Black community needs to have many in-house discussions about hair, skin color, etc. BUT Chris Rock isn’t the one to lead this topic.

    PS. Chris Rock may have endangered nosy people’s lives with “let’s put our hands in Black women’s hair to see if it’s a weave,” as he did with Oprah. Mine’s a below-shoulder press/curl and I dare you! This actually happened to me and I punched the guy…bring it on, son.

  13. Wow that one sheet sums it up.

    Look at that little girls face.

    I don’t understand kiddie relaxers at all.

    The movie hasn’t opened overseas yet.

    I really don’t know what people expected. It’s Chris Rock not Skip Gates.

  14. “Where is Whoopi?”

    Dang it if that’s not a great question. I would LOVE to hear her take on this.

    And although I haven’t seen the movie yet, I am grateful that those of you who have seen the movie (presumably in the theater) showed many others there how fly our natural hair can look. That’s one of my few consolations about this movie…people are talking. And second-guessing the *need* for a perm (which is different from the *option* of one). I hope that’s the case…

  15. Nevermind…I looked up Whoopi’s comment about perms and manageability and that’s enough.

    BTW, “docucomedy” sums it up for me.

  16. b. I just googled Whoopi’s comments on relaxers…WOW!

    I’m still debating if I’m going to see the movie. I glad I have read honest reviews so my expectations won’t be too high.

  17. Chris is a comedian, and I expected this movie to be funny, but what I also expected is a certain amount of critical thinking from him as well. He is a thought provoking comedian so I do not think it was too much to expect that from him when he did this film. I was dissapointed to find out from several folks that he did not do this with this subject.

    I respect Chris like I respect Dave Chapelle who I think is too funny. But Dave has his limits and with sensitive things he tries to show WHY the folks are so sensitive. In other words he attempts some balance when and where he sees fit. I expected this from Chris as well because he does know how to do that kind of comedy and also because he was attempting to answer a sensitive issue for his young daughter that she has about her appearance, about her hair. He is the creator of Everybody Hates Chris – which manages to be heartwarming, balanced, and funny. I wanted him to do the same with this issue as well. I am admittedly dissapointed. I will wait to see this movie on HBO or DVD.

  18. The other posters have summed up my feelings on the movie, which I am NOT going to see:

    “it was made by the wrong person with a highly questionable motive.”

    “Chris made this movie to make money off of black women…it didn’t have crap to do with his daughters…”

    “As a Black woman, I’m sick of being the butt of jokes for Black male “comedians,” even under the cover of a “documentary.””

    “Chris Rock may have endangered nosy people’s lives with “let’s put our hands in Black women’s hair to see if it’s a weave,””

    My favorite:
    “He wasn’t the man to bring it, like it shoulda been brought.”

  19. I haven’t seen it, but I’m not expecting much.
    I googled what Whoopi said after reading the comments here — GURL PLEASE.
    I can’t even go there today.
    I can’t BELIEVE people are still saying this stuff.

  20. Peace, the film is entertaining, jarring and informative. Chris Rock is very well aware of his box office appeal -not high. He did not make this movie to make money off of black women. He wanted to highlight the hair show and use his daughter’s question to explore more about black women’s hair. The film opened in 186 theaters, I really doubt it will make anything close to $5 million at the box office.

    I’m very familiar Chris Rock’s stand-up history, especially before he hooked up with Paul Mooney then found his niche and became really-really funny. His last stand-up HBO special was very awkward. That’s another story. I say that to say what others here have said, IT IS Chris Rock.

    I am really surprised that many women expected so much more from this comedian. While many people praise him for his political social commentary, they tend to forget he has a team of writers . . . he is far from a Paul Mooney or the late George Carlin.

    The woman who chided Chris Rock on Oprah for “telling our secrets” is misguided (read:ignorant). Many people from different backgrounds consume African American culture. They watch BET, read urban lit, they check out Afrobella.com, Media-Takeout, follow you on twitter, read Zadie Smith, Edwidge Danticat and work as guidance counselors at our children’s private school and public high schools. Secrets? Not so much.

    For everybody that is personally boycotting the film I hope you’re spending the same energy to support, champion and advocate the efforts of Regina Kimbell, blackandmarriedwithkids.com’s Happily Ever After, or any other indie project that addresses all the nuanced truths as you would like to see it.

    ——–
    Afrobella, yes, I cringed when the young girl made that statement concerning professionalism.

  21. “Honee” and “Uh…no” expressed my sentiments exactly!! I have no intension to pay to see a movie, or any movie, that makes a mockery of Black women. This really has gone too far for too long. I wrote about this movie as well

    http://blackbot.blogspot.com/2009/10/chris-rock-is-not-in-black-womens-best.html

  22. I just had to say that I agree with the person who said “go see it so that other movies will be made.” I haven’t seen it – will probably next week – and have an idea of what to expect. That said, I would love to see this kind of response to Tyler Perry’s movies, many of which are as questionable with a similar motive (making money!) and yet make millions and don’t get the kind of backlast this movie is getting. Love it or hate, we need to be reminded that the more perspectives we see the more choices our children will have – not necessary to perm their hair (the part with the children sounds heartbreaking) but to know that movies can be made about what happens in our community – we need more of that, even when we don’t like the subject. And for those hatin’ on Chris’ wife, I hope that they are holding accountable the wives and girlfriends of every silly athlete that gets put in jail/spends all his money/has multiple paternity suits or makes other questionable decision. I am always amused and chagrined at how we try to make it the woman’s fault for some grown man’s decisions. Sigh.

  23. I saw Good Hair in a packed theatre of mostly white people but there was a good number of black people there as well. I liked the movie. It did make black women look kind of bad but it was nothing but the truth and the truth hurts. If it hadn’t hit a nerve with black women we wouldn’t be calling to boycott the film. We need to look at our faults as black women and fix them instead of just trying to shut down anyone who we think is trying to expose us.

  24. Ok. Let’s clear something up. Good Hair does not make black women look bad. How could it? The film deals with one element of the lives of black women. One. Hair. This constant nonsense about not seeing the movie because it makes black women look bad or because it makes fun of us is such crap. I’m a proud black woman. That movie does not represent me and it doesn’t make me look bad. It’s a comedy, which at points really makes you think. Go see it. As someone else said, we pile into the theatres to see all of Tyler’s movies and those movies tend to paint a very one-dimensional portrait of us. We don’t seem to mind shelling out the bucks though. With Good Hair, you will laugh, you will shake your head, you will pause and think. If you have daughters, it’s a chance to have a conversation about the choices we make. Support this movie. If you don’t and we don’t get others like it made, we have only ourselves to blame.

  25. I think the point Chris is trying to make is how silly the whole “good hair” thing is. And when you really think about it, it really is. The only thing that should matter is how healthy your hair is. I LOVE my hair because I have FINALLY figured out how to keep is healthy. Whether I perm it or wear it natural I now know how to have healthy hair. That is all that really matters.

  26. To my shock and amazement, this movie is actually opening today in Iowa…in ONE (1) theatre…about an hour east of me. :) I’m going tomorrow…and I’m keeping my expectations low.

  27. I’m confused as to why the barbershop scenes don’t resonate with you, Bella. Despite the laughs, maybe there’s something to be said for a modicum of intimacy that’s lost when touching hair is off limits. That being said, the fact that Rock doesn’t include perspectives of those who wear their hair in its natural texture screams EPIC FAIL.

  28. Thanks Afrobella for the shout-out!!!

    Like I said, Chris is not an historian or sociologist, end of story. To those that feel he should have featured more women with natural hair to illuminate his point, I’m not sure I agree. If I was doing a doc on people with tattoos, I would not interview a bunch of people who do NOT have tats. Doesn’t make sense. This movie is titled Good Hair, not Black Hair. For those of you tired of being the butt of jokes by Black male comedians, I hope you are just as tired, if not moreso by the likes of Monique and Sheryl Underwood whose careers were made by disparaging Black skinny girls, Black married women, etc. And for those that wanna hear so much from Whoopi Goldberg, please remember this is the same woman who thought that sporting Blackface with her boo Ted Danson would be so comical. Let’s keep it real. We have our faults and Chris Rock is the least of ‘em. His trip to the Hindu Temples in India and his attempt to sell Black hair in its natural state to salons and beauty supply stores was way more thought provoking than anything I’ve ever seen Madea do or say!!!

  29. One mo’ thing: I spoke to an owner of one of the most respected & popular natural (Black) hair salons in NYC. She was asked to appear in Good Hair, but she and her staff declined b/c their honorariums were “embarrassingly too small” for the expertise they would have offered. So Chris Rock did at least attempt to have natural hair experts represented in GH. He cannot help it if they decline to be featured.

  30. I partially agree with Whoopi. I don’t think black women get perms or wear wigs or weaves to look white. I think, in most cases, these are proud black women. I disagree with Whoopi about manageability being the motive behind perms, weaves, etc. I think most of these women have never even considered wearing their natural hair because they’ve been taught from a very young age that their hair was hard to comb, coarse, nappy, bad, needing to be tamed. Many of these women have had relaxers since before they knew how to properly write a sentence. Thank goodness we are in a time now where black women are starting to give take pause and see that there is nothing wrong with what is growing naturally out of their scalps. I think, as time passes, we’ll see more and more of this.

    • I like your comment Michelle. We need training to learn how to manage our hair.
      By the way, that creamy crack expression just killed me. LOL. Women know that relaxer is not good and breaks hair. We can not stop using it to keep the style.
      Good Hair under relaxer used to be the unique model of life style for the past generation. Nappy girls have broken the rules set up by industries and found solutions to manageability issues.
      So relaxed women look worry and need to justify them self (It’s pretty but I can’t do that. It doesn’t look professional, etc)
      The new challenge for this industry is more how to get HEAlTHLY and long hair relaxed or nappy.
      No more mineral oil, silicone, paraben, SLS, etc. New systems to straight hair with less chemical will come into the market too. Wait and see the cohabitation…

  31. I don’t see anything by Chris Rock or Tyler Perry that was ever worth supporting. I don’t see the point. These guys make money off of mocking and denigrating black women. If that’s all black women like to see now-a-days more power to you all. I have better things to do and spend my money on.

    Kills me how some chicks like to order people to see crap just to justify their ideal of blackness. Garbage is garbage. I don’t need to support this nonsense. I certainly don’t want to see more of it. And I spend my money as I please. I don’t take orders from followers and paid PR.

  32. I have no desire to see it for multiple reasons, the most compelling being that I don’t think there is any true advocating on the beauty of natural hair.

  33. Well, I thought the movies was ok. I wasn’t expecting much. It is what it is. I had no idea women spent $1000 on weaves, wigs or whatever it is. That is crazy to me!! As long as we are happy with ourselves and with the choices we make to maintain our hair, that is all that matters.

  34. I tried to see this movie on more than one occasion, one time it being sold out. And now this post confirms that I will wait for it to come to redbox.

    I appreciate the honesty of this post. Hopefully, the movie will inspire further dialogue to our younger generation about the “good”ness of their natural hair. (i.e. http://www.GoddessGirlMag.com has a great article doing just that in their latest issue.)

  35. To quote Um…no, above, “As a Black woman, I’m sick of being the butt of jokes for Black male “comedians,” even under the cover of a “documentary.” ”

    My sentiments exactly.

  36. People keep bringing up the likes of Tyler Perry and other black comedians…well, to be clear…I don’t support them either…my money is spent where respect is given…

  37. I don’t want to see this movie based on the fact that I was told it is one-sided by both naturals and relaxed women. As far as black women being the butt of the joke, I find this to be very common amongst black men. Remember the whole Don Imus thing? Do you know DL Hughley was advocating and cracking jokes that yes, they were nappy headed? After I foward that e-mail to friends, I had a black guy I know try to “lecture” me on why it shouldn’t bother me. I was appalled that someone could try to tell me how to feel about a situation that affected me and NOT them. I tend to believe that Black men have no clue on the roles they play in women’s thoughts on ‘good hair’.

  38. I seen Good Hair on October 9th and was disappointed. I actually dozed on it a few times. Love Chris Rock but he lost me on this one. At first when I heard about this docucomedy (love this term by the way), I was excited because of the thought that Chris was actually going to show his daughters the beauty in their hair. By not delving deeper and interviewing women with natural hair defeated the purpose of the journey of Good Hair. Also with discussing more adult topics limited his audience (youths) who I felt this movie was created for. Naturally, I had to write my own thoughts about this on my blog to share with my readers as well and received some mixed reviews. You do make valid points about our expectations from a comedian and like you, I could have waited for the cable viewing.

  39. Neeo Masters says:

    What The Hell Is Good Hair? Black People Have No Clue, That They are Downing Themselves when the think There hair isn’t Good, or when the say he or she has good hair when the texture is straighter rather than Tight Curled. I love my Hair and I would not change it for the world. I have a Great Sense of PRIDE In who I am and In My Hair. I ware My Fro, Locks, and Brade’s, With Greatness….. When I was a Kid and went to school With The Fro Flow all The People of euro descent Surrounded a Brotha, and said WOW Your Hair Is Cool I wish My Hair was Like That!!!!! It was Like I was a Super Star. Just take a Look @ some 70′s Video Or that 70′s Show and You’ll see How Many of the people of euro descent Try to emulate what Many Black People Take for granted!!! You are who you are, and no relaxer or weave will ever change that. I believe we have the most versatile hair on the planet, and we can style the way we want with out chemically treating it! Treat your hair right and it will treat you right Peace Out!!! shampoo it and condition it every Day and blow it Out Baby!!! There’s nothing better than a black women with natural hair
    http://www.nappturality.com

  40. Afro-dominicano says:

    Wait, wait, wait. A Miami Herald article on Dominican women straightening their hair generates more than a hundred self-righteous comments in this blog. But Chris Rock making a film on how ya U.S. black women straighten yours is a betrayal to the African-American community? Wait, wait, wait… this is either a double-standards or hipocrisy at its best.

  41. Malcolm Alampi says:

    I think this internet site has got some real superb info for everyone :D. “The ground that a good man treads is hallowed.” by Johann von Goethe.

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