"Good Hair" and Other Dubious Distinctions

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"Good Hair" and Other Dubious Distinctions
"Good Hair" and other Dubious Distinctions poster.png
Directed by Camille Debose
Release date(s)
  • August 22, 2011 (2011-08-22) (Black Harvest)
Running time 34 minutes
Country United States
Language English

"Good Hair" and Other Dubious Distinctions is a 2011 documentary film directed, written and edited by Camille S. DeBose. The film focuses on cultural language and practices that negatively impact the development of a healthy sense of self. The filmmaker's commentary asserts a criticism of the way wavy hair, lighter skin and a slender nose are still considered more attractive in the black community in light of historical and contemporary movements which have sought to liberate black self-esteem. As a practicing and teaching sociologist the filmmaker sought to illuminate the notion of symbolic violence through the lens of Pierre Bourdieu and spark conversation not just in the black community but all other communities as well. Cultural practices which value some features but not others are issues common to every family and every community. For the filmmaker this is an issue of valuing and finding beauty in every human being.


The film begins with a series of outdoor shots narrated by the filmmaker. The viewer follows her fuzzy form as she approaches the camera and tells a story of people remarking on the features they hope her unborn child will be born with. The film continues with a collection of personal stories juxtaposed against discussion and analysis from professionals and academics. Viewers get glimpses of the filmmaker's pregnant form as she travels through the landscape. The film ends with the sight of the filmmaker's child and a quote by bell hooks on shame and the life cycle.


The film had its Chicago debut at the Black Harvest Film Festival on August 22, 2011.

Screenings & Awards[edit]

  • 2012 - This film was an official selection at the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle, WA.
  • 2012 - This film was an official selection at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
  • 2012- This film was awarded Second Place for Best Documentary at the Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival


The film was reviewed and recommended by Video Librarian (http://www.videolibrarian.com) in their 2013 January/February online issue.

Full review by Video Librarian-

“Good Hair” and Other Dubious Distinctions *** (2012) Less star-studded than Chris Rock’s big screen documentary Good Hair (VL-3/10), which looked at the myths and stigma surrounding “good hair” in the black community, this effort from C.S. DeBose also explores the subject of how natural hair is used as a means of stereotyping, along with other “dubious distinctions,” including certain facial features and degrading practices such as the “paper bag test” (i.e., your social mobility could be determined by how your skin compares to the shade of a paper bag), which can further engender class distinctions, tension, and mistrust within a cultural group. Featuring commentary from professionals—including professors, a historian, and a poet activist—as well as real people, the program offers hope about gaining respect and acceptance, reminding viewers that, “Who you are is what you’ve put in….” Sure to spur discussion, this is recommended. Aud: P. (J. Williams-Wood)


  • hooks, b 2003. ‘Rock My Soul’, Washington Square Press
  • Bohman, J. 1999. 'Practical Reason and Cultural Constraint' in R. Shusterman (Ed.) Bourdieu: A Critical Reader, Oxford: Blackwell.

External links[edit]