A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Chris Rock documentary includes some mature themes related to race, femininity, and class. There's a fair amount of strong language (a couple of "f--k"s, as well as "s--t," "bitch," and the like), conversations about how hair affects sexual relationships, and consumerism (mostly hair-product brands). Kids will see two approaches -- African-American celebrities like Eve, Raven Symone, and Nia Long are straight up about masking their natural hair with expensive weaves, while a few outspoken women rage against the "slavery" of a straightening regime and sport their natural locks (or, in one case, a bald head).
What's the story?
Inspired by his two young daughters asking "How come I don't have good hair?" comedian Chris Rock made GOOD HAIR to explore the many societal, financial, and emotional implications surrounding African-American women's desire to have straighter tresses. Through interviews with celebrities, hair stylists, hair-product manufacturers, and academics, Rock sheds light on why African-American women (and some men, like the Reverend Al Sharpton) go to such lengths -- risking everything from chemical straightener burns to financial ruin from the outrageous cost of weaves -- to to change their hair's texture.
Is it any good?
Rock's documentary is a fascinating chronicle of how so many African-American women have a love/hate relationship with their hair. It doesn't offer any solutions, but it shows that the African-American community's obsession with "good hair" (in other words, straighter, looser curls rather than coarser, "nappy" hair) is a mixed blessing. For every professional "weave-ologist" who earns a living expertly sewing straight hair onto a woman's head, there's a middle-class woman paying more than $1000 for said hair piece -- money, Rock jokes, that should be going toward necessities. It's fascinating and at times heartbreaking. Mothers put their 4-year-old daughters through the discomfort of a chemical relaxer so they can be "pretty." And once the cycle begins, the interviewees joke that the relaxer is "creamy crack" and they're addicted to it.
Among the interviewees, many of the celebrities make no apologies for spending a fortune on their hair. At one point, biracial model Melyssa Ford confesses that she spends at least $18,000 per year on her hair -- while, on the other end of the spectrum, poet Maya Angelou shocks Rock by admitting that she didn't have her first relaxer treatment until age 70. But the clips featuring well-known African-American celebs aren't nearly as interesting -- or hilarious -- as Rock's interviews with regular folks in salons and barbershops around the country. The movie spends a bit too much time following four hair stylists competing at an annual hair show in Atlanta, but otherwise it's an engaging documentary.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various reasons that African-American women -- and women in general, really -- might want hair other than what they have naturally. How does the obsession with hair specifically affect the African-American community?
What message does the documentary convey to young girls? What lessons can be learned by those not in the African-American community?
How is African-American beauty depicted in the media and pop culture? Why do you think straight hair is often a part of that depiction?
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