Hair in the Black community has always been controversial. Bad Hair. Good Hair. Weaves. Braids. Locs. Creamy Crack (as we affectionately call relaxers) each have their individual brand of controversy. But, when your tresses determine whether you’re accepted by your peers or securing a high profile job promotion it becomes problematic at best.
My mother always told me, you get what you pay for. While attempting to put chemicals on my own scalp instead of paying a professional, I paid the ultimate price of watching my curls swirl right down the bathtub drain. Or, how about that time I decided to twist my own Locs and twisted my edges right out of my scalp. Every woman of color has a horror story about a bad perm, a too tight weave or getting burned by a hot comb trying to get that hair silky smooth straight. Earlier this year, a young black child was informed by his school unless he chopped his locs he wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation. Some states have even passed laws just for folks to wear their hair any way they see fit.
As a matter of fact, September 2020 saw the Crown Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), a bill sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed at the federal level—meaning, that if approved by Senate and the President, its protections would automatically apply to all 50 states making it illegal to discriminating against someone at work or school over the way they wear their hair.
This subject even garnered an Oscar for athlete turned animator – Matthew A. Cherry for his animated short Hair Love. But, as warm and fuzzy as this short was, Justin Simien ‘s Bad Hair takes it to a whole new level mixing satire and horror with hair taking folk out to survive and grow. The female gaze and dialogue are on point thanks to Simien playing close attention to his Mom growing up.
As entertaining as the dialogue and performances are, the film is definitely not without its flaws. I’m not gonna lie though, it gave me nightmares thinking about my wigs or hair pieces trying to take me out in the middle of the night to ensure its own survival. I’m really not trying to have THAT be my reality on any given day. The way Simien illustrates the amount of pain and discomfort Black women are willing to risk to just look sexy, be accepted or simply try something different is the #truth.
Having premiered earlier this year at The Sundance Film Festival, the film is now available to be streamed via HULU.