Good Hair (film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jeff Stilson|
|Produced by||Jenny Hunter
|Written by||Lance Crouther
|Narrated by||Chris Rock|
|Music by||Marcus Miller|
|Editing by||Paul Marchand
Chris Rock Productions
|Distributed by||Roadside Attractions|
|Running time||96 minutes|
Good Hair is a 2009 American comedy documentary film produced by Chris Rock Productions and HBO Films, starring and narrated by comedian Chris Rock. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2009, Good Hair was released to select theaters in the United States by Roadside Attractions on October 9, 2009, opening across the country on October 23. The film focuses on African American women's hair, including the styling industry surrounding it, the acceptable look of African American women's hair in society, and the effects of both upon African American culture.
According to Rock, he was prompted to make the movie after his 3-year-old daughter Lola asked him, "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?" During the film, Rock delves into the $9 billion black hair industry, and visits such places as beauty salons, barbershops, hair styling conventions and scientific laboratories (to learn the science behind chemical relaxers that straighten hair).
Rock intended for the film to uphold a sense of seriousness, yet at the same time remain humorous. The movie features interviews from hair care industry businesspeople, stylists (Derek J, Jason Griggers and others) and their consumers, and celebrities such as Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, T-Pain, Raven-Symoné, Maya Angelou, KRS-One, Salt-n-Pepa, Kerry Washington, Eve, Reverend Al Sharpton, Andre Harrell, Tracie Thoms, Lauren London, and Meagan Good as they discuss their own experiences with their hair, and how black hair is perceived in the black community.
Lawsuit from Regina Kimbell 
On October 5, 2009, documentary filmmaker Regina Kimbell filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court against Chris Rock Productions, HBO Films, and Good Hair's American and international distributors. Kimbell charges that Rock's film is an illegal infringement of her similarly themed documentary My Nappy Roots: A Journey Through Black Hair-itage, which she says she screened for Rock in 2007. While Kimbell sought an injunction against the wide release of Good Hair, a federal judge allowed Rock's film to be released as scheduled.
Black women being defined by their hair is not a new concept in media. In Simi Bedford’s Yoruba Girl Dancing, Remi is a young girl who has beautiful hair that is well cared for. However, when Remi must go to England for boarding school, her grandmother wants her to cut off her hair because the Europeans won’t know what to do with it. Because Remi’s hair is cut off, part of her identity gets stripped from her when the Europeans cannot tell whether Remi is a boy or a girl (Crawford, 9).
In the documentary, Chris Rock raises the question of why black women go through such lengths when it comes to their hair. He makes viewers ponder if the reason for this is because black women want to look whiter. Rock is quoted as saying, “I knew women wanted to be beautiful, but I didn’t know the lengths they would go to, the time they would spend – and not complain about it. In fact, they appear to look forward to it” (Puente).
In the black hair business, the most profitable portion is the sale and maintenance of weaves. Women can expect to invest six to eight hours in the salon getting their hair braided into sections and then having tracks of hair attached onto the braids. After women get their weave, they regularly come back into the salon for hair washing, conditioning, and tightening. In the documentary, Rock learned that some women will spend upwards to $1000 for a weave and if they cannot afford it, they can put it on layaway.
The most desirable hair for weaves come from India. Much of this hair comes from a hair shaving process that is part a tonsuring ceremony performed at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. Over 10 million people shave their heads because they believe that hair is a vanity and they give it up as a self-sacrificing act to the Hindu Gods. The hair collected from the temple is then sold around the world (The Oprah Winfrey Show).
However an expert for the black market for hair highlights that the demand cannot be satisfied by hair sacrificed at the temple. He mentions that it is a common crime in India to cut a girl's hair in her sleep or while she watches a movie at the cinema. The expert draws a comparison between the value of hair and the value of gold.
Sometimes referred to as “creamy crack,” the hair relaxer is another integral product in black hair care. Women of other ethnicities usually use a perm as a way to curl their hair, but the opposite is true for black women who perm their hair to get it straight. Sodium hydroxide is the active ingredient in relaxers and it is strong enough to burn through a soda can if left in the solution for long enough, or a woman’s hair. This is why Rock pleads for parents to stop exposing their young children to relaxers. He argues that they shouldn’t have to worry about their hair until at least their teenage years (The Oprah Winfrey Show).
White people dealing with black hair 
In Hairtage: Women Writing Race in Children’s Literature, Dianne Johnson questions whether white people truly understand the concept of “good hair” and the meaning behind it. A scandal broke out when Ruth Sherman, a white schoolteacher in Brooklyn, shared the story Nappy Hair with her predominately black elementary school students. Many people were outraged by the cover of the book in which there was a caricature of a young black girl with a big Afro. This image combined with the usually negative term “nappy” upset the nearby residents enough that they wanted Sherman removed from the school. However, many of the students' parents supported Sherman (Johnson, 343).
Natural hair viewed as undesirable 
In Hairtage: Women Writing Race in Children’s Literature, Dianne Johnson shares an advertisement from “The Gift of the Good Fairy” in the early 1900s that reads, “Once upon a time there lived a Good Fairy whose daily thoughts were of pretty little boys and girls and of beautiful women and handsome men and of how she might make beautiful those unfortunate ones whom nature had not given long, wavy hair and a smooth, lovely complexion” (Johnson, 338). This was an advertisement for Madam C.J. Walker’s hair products that were targeted towards black women. The advertisement depicts any hair that isn’t wavy and smooth as undesirable and something that the Good fairy has to fix. Over a hundred years later, black women still value straight hair.
African American hair that has not been treated with chemicals can be referred to as nappy, a negative connotation for their hair. This type of hair is looked down upon even within the African American communities. The term originates from a time when natural, coarse hair was considered ugly and undesirable.
A black woman’s hair can also represent discrimination within the work world where certain hairstyles are prohibited. These are the hairstyles that have historically been worn by black women, such as braids. In “Rogers v. American Airlines,” the court ruled in favor of the American Airline and allowed them to ban women wearing their hair in a braided fashion (Crawford, 10). it was also once illegal for african american women to show their hair
Interviews with celebrities 
Throughout the documentary, many celebrities are featured such as Nia Long, Ice-T, Raven-Symoné, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salt-n-Pepa, Eve, Tracie Thoms, and Reverend Al Sharpton. They provide their own insights on "good hair" as well as their own personal stories in dealing with black hair. In addition to celebrity interviews, Rock also goes to Santa Monica High School, hair salons and barbershops, and interviews hair dealers to gain insight from black teenagers, and men and women. He also visits Dudley Products, one of the few African-American-owned companies making hair products for the African-American community.
Nia Long says, "There’s always this sort of pressure within the black community like, if you have good hair, you’re prettier or better than the brown-skinned girl that wears the Afro or the dreads or the natural hairstyle." The question in the documentary that Rock brings up is the reasoning behind this. He questions why what is considered "beauty" is what does not come naturally to African-American women, who are forced to endure sometimes-painful hair treatments in order to achieve this definition of beauty. If the treatments, such as hair relaxers, are done improperly, they can actually cause hair loss or burns on the scalp.
Al Sharpton says, "We wear our economic oppression on our heads", referring to the fact that the multibillion-dollar hair business has shifted from African-American manufacturers to Asian manufacturers. Even though these products are targeted towards black consumers, Asians are the ones who are making the money from the products (Catsoulis).
Rock appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show twice to promote and discuss the film. During his second appearance, a roundtable of black women was gathered to discuss hair and self-esteem. Mikki Taylor, beauty and cover editor for Essence magazine, appreciates the discussion raised on the topic, but notes that the term "good hair" is no longer relevant to many young black women today. She believes that what is considered "good hair" is now what is considered healthy hair. She questions, "When will our hair cease to be political? Every other group of women can do what they want with their hair, and it’s not seen as making a statement. We’re over that, and we wish everyone else would be over it, too." Ayana Byrd, an editor for Glamour magazine, says, "The point is not to say hair is good or bad, it’s to say that once we work through the history behind our hair, we can get to a place where it can just be hair." (Puente)
The film exposes the pressures that African American women feel to conform to the mainstream definition of beauty. Some people were upset with the documentary exposing the extreme lengths that black women go through to obtain the “perfect” hairstyle. Chris-Tia Donaldson, a Chicago lawyer says, “You’re putting all of our business in the street. Why are you pulling the curtain back?” (Puente). She believes the documentary does not dig further into the root of the problem by saying, “The deeper issue continues to be glossed over, which is why do minority women in America feel so much pressure to conform to a mainstream standard of beauty that is hard to attain?” She believes that the documentary only touches on a superficial level of the problem while ignoring all other minorities who try to alter their appearance in striving for the mainstream definition of beauty.
In Johnson’s Hairtage: Women Writing Race in Children’s Literature, she describes how a long ponytail was sometimes worn by Chinese men simply for aesthetic reasons (Johnson, 341). Many critics feel that Rock’s documentary is very one sided and only introduces the idea of “good hair” and doesn’t examine all of its layers. It merely focuses on African Americans who, according to Johnson, want their hair to be similar to those in power, the white people (Johnson, 341).
The film has met with positive reviews from critics. Good Hair currently holds a 95% "certified fresh" rating on aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes based on 78 reviews, with an average score of 7.4/10. Another review aggregation website, Metacritic, based on 100 reviews from mainstream critics, gave the film an average score of 72/100 based on 27 reviews. It received the Special Jury Prize Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
Good Hair opened in limited release on October 9, 2009, becoming the fourteenth highest grossing film for the weekend of October 9–11, 2009 with $1,039,220 in 186 theaters with a $5,587 average. The film expanded to 466 theaters on October 23.
- "Good Hair (the documentary) (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- ‘Good Hair’ Trailer
- Chris Rock's 'Good Hair'
- Chris Rock gets to the root of 'Good Hair (African American Usage)'
- Good Hair
- "Filmmaker sues Chris Rock over 'Good Hair'", Associated Press, 2009-10-08. Retrieved on 2009-10-08.
- Judge refuses to block Chris Rock film[dead link]
- Puente, Maira (Feb 5, 2011). "Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' gets tangled up in controversy". USA Today
- "Good Hair Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
- "Good Hair (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- 2009 Sundance Film Festival sundance.org
- "Weekend Box Office Results for October 9–11, 2009". Box Office Mojo. 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- "Good Hair (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- Catsoulis, Jeannette. "Good Hair (2009) October 9, 2009 Look but Don’t Touch: It’s All About the Hair." The New York Times. N.p., 09 Mar 2009. Web. 01 Feb 2011. http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/09/movies/09hair.html
- “Chris Rock's Good Hair." The Oprah Winfrey Show. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb 2011. http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Chris-Rocks-Good-Hair-Documentary
- Crawford, Bridget. "The Currency of White Women's Hair in a Down Economy ." Social Science Research Network (2011): 1-17. Web. 05 Feb 2011. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1748103
- Davis, Patrick. "Good hair and bad hair: What this seems to say about us." bnet. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb 2011. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3935/is_200307/ai_n9237049/
- Johnson, Dianne. "Hairitage: Women Writing Race in Children's Literature". Project Muse 28.2 (2009): 337-355. Web. 05 Feb 2011.
- Kit, Zorianna. "Chris Rock's Good Hair Documentary: Something to Talk About." The Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zorianna-kit/chris-rocks-good-hair-doc_b_316952.html
- Kit, Zorianna. Chris Rock's Good Hair: Something To Talk About Huffington Post: 10/11/09.