Movie Review: Good Hair (Chris Rock, Nia Long, Maya Angelou) 2009

Posted: November 13, 2012 in Documentary


For decades, the perception in the black community has been that straight hair is “good hair” and curly or “nappy” hair is “bad hair.”  Good hair has become a billion dollar industry.  Comedian Chris Rock went inside the good hair industry to find out why good hair is such a moneymaker. The Bonner Brothers have been holding a hair show in Atlanta, where producers and distributors of black hair products, like relaxers, and hair stylists compete to be the top black hairstylist in America.  Rock covers the competition.  Dudley hair Care is one of the few black owned companies that make hair products for black people , and they have made millions of dollars producing and distributing relaxer.  But what is in hair relaxer anyway?

Rock talked to a chemist and found out that the active ingredient in hair relaxer is sodium hydroxide, a strong chemical that will straighten the hair, but can end up burning the scalp.  So what is the alternative to relaxing your hair?  The hair weaves.  Weaves are human hair that’s literally grafted onto the woman’s head to make it appear natural.  The human hair is actually harvested from  India, after people go through a Hindu religious ceremony called tonsure, where men and women shave off their hair as an offering to their gods,  Rock talked to legitimate hair harvesters and even black market harvesters who cut of unsuspecting ladies hair.  But I weave costs money, the average weave costs 1,000 dollars.  And black women and men pay this every day. Black women don’t swim with weaves, black men can’t touch their women with weaves, but black women still want Indian hair weaves

This is a very funny, warm hearted, charming, scrupulously researched documentary about the phenomenon of good hair.  Rock has a personal stake in this topic of good hair, because he has two daughters who will probably ask him for a relaxer treatment very soon.  He wanted to give them an answer.  The interviews with celebrities like Nia Long, Maya Angelou Raven Symone, Al Sharpton, Ice T are all very funny.  All the women recount funny relaxer or hair weave stories, Peppa of Salt and Peppa started a fashion rend after shaving off part of her hair after a relaxer accident The men recount stories of having to pay for the weaves and not being able to touch the hair afterwards, Rock talks to everyone, celebrities, barbers, beauticians, Indians selling their hair, Indians distributing their hair, Koreans in LA selling good hair.  Everyone involved.   He does it in such a gentle good-hearted natural way that all anyone can do is laugh when they see the absurdity of it all. This is a movie Chris Rock should have made long ago, instead of those stupid, stilted comedies, where he labored to be funny.  He is naturally funny here, and there are laughs a plenty. But be warned, if you don’t know much about black culture or don’t have many black friends, you might wonder what the fuss is all about.  It’s very much an inside joke movie.

Good hair.  A hair-raising documentary.


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