A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bad Hair is a horror film with comedic undertones and social messages whose gorier scenes, sex, and language are for mature audiences only. In the film, parasitic hair weaves feed off of people's blood, including the main character's menstrual blood and others the hair kills along the way. The women with the weaves are possessed to kill, which they do in gory scenes involving all manner of sharp implements. Having said that, most are good people underneath the killer hair, and the main character repents for the killings as soon as they happen. In one scene, her hair stabs a man trying to rape her, and in another she's possessed to kill a man while having sex. Women are strangled by the hair or pushed to the floor, where their heads make crunching noises and their blood splatters. There's some drinking and cigarette smoking, and language is mature, including explicit language uttered in sex scenes. There are various forms of "s--t," "f--k," "bitch," and "ass." Sexual language includes "black p--sy" and "ride that d--k." A Black woman uses the "N" word to refer to a Black man. "God," "Jesus," and "hell" are used as exclamations.
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What's the story?
In BAD HAIR, from Dear White People director Justin Simien, the unassuming Anna (Elle Lorraine) works at a Black-focused music TV channel in 1989 Los Angeles. She's chronically underpaid and overlooked, including by her boyfriend, VJ star Julius (Jay Pharoah), though Anna is valued by her supervisor, Edna (Judith Scott) and workmates, all Black women. When a new boss (Vanessa Williams) suggests Anna could do better professionally under her if she had long, flowing locks instead of her natural hair, Anna takes her up on the idea and goes to the renowned Virgie's (Laverne Cox) for an expensive hair weave. That's when strange things start happening. Some of the other women at work are critical of her new weave, and the painful new hair seems to take on a life of its own. It begins controlling Anna, leading her to vengeful acts and ultimately putting her own life in danger.
Is it any good?
A funny satire that's equal parts comedy and camp horror, Bad Hair boasts a clever script, an entertaining period setting, and a fantastic all-star cast. Beneath the gore, which is mostly -- though not entirely -- contained to a third-act slasher sequence, there's quite a lot of social commentary. The new white male boss (James Van Der Beek) assigned to overhaul an all-Black TV channel is made out to be a kind of modern-day plantation owner. His top executive (Williams) has light skin and flowing hair, prompting lots of self questioning and mutual judging among the Black women on staff (including a hilarious Lena Waithe). The laden process of assimilating by taking on a whiter European appearance boils beneath the surface, and there's talk of "us" and "them."
The film takes place in a late-'80s MTV-style channel targeting Black audiences. The saturated look of the film and the playing with camera angles (above, below, circling characters) feels straight out of the '80s, though the story could easily take place today, which viewers might be reminded of by the present-day celebrity cast, including Usher, Waithe, Blair Underwood, Kelly Rowland, and Cox, among others. Underwood, as Anna's scholarly Uncle Amos, has a key scene in the film where he talks about how a people can be subjugated when their science, faith, and wisdom are all undermined. In Bad Hair, women are suppressed, mistreated, and ignored, all due to the devaluing of natural attributes like their hair.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the premise for Bad Hair. Have you ever thought about how appearances, and specifically hair, can affect a person's professional career and acceptance in society? Do you have any personal experience with this?
The film references a book of African slave folk tales. Do you think these were real or made up, or a combination? Where could you go to find more information? Parents, you can talk to your kids about the history of slavery.
Bad Hair has messages about the Black experience in America as well as about women in the professional world. How would you define some of those messages?
Why do you think the film was set in 1989? What struck you as different from today?
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