FILM ARCHIVES

Chris Rock’s Affable Good Hair Skips the Tough Questions

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Don Imus’s 2007 remarks about “nappy-headed hos” underscored the immense fear of and fascination with the hair follicles of African-American women. Chris Rock, the host, co-writer, and co-producer of first-time director Jeff Stilson’s Good Hair, never mentions Imus’s outburst; his interest in the political, social, and sexual entanglements of the tonsorial stems from the more personal—specifically, when one of his two young daughters plaintively asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” Rock, affable as ever, queries a few black actresses (Nia Long providing the most candid responses: “Weave sex is a little awkward”); visits beauty salons; oversees an experiment by a scientist who demonstrates the corrosive effects of sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in hair relaxer; travels to Chennai, India, where women sacrifice hair that ends up in weaves costing thousands of dollars in the U.S.; and stares in disbelief at the Paris Is Burning–like competition at the annual Bronner Bros.–sponsored International Hair Show in Atlanta. Rock is certainly a sympathetic and curious observer, though including Ice-T’s remark that “a real pimp can tell what a woman looks like baldheaded” betrays some of the gender politics that remain vigorously unexamined in this breezy, superficial doc.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2009

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