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Movie Mom

Chris Rock’s daughter wanted to know why she didn’t have “good hair.” And so he made this documentary as an answer, exploring the relationship between black women and their hair and hair products and processes — and how that relationship gives billions of dollars to an industry that can be exploitative.

Wildly entertaining and profoundly insightful, this is an exploration of image, economics, history, and standards of beauty. Nearly half a century ago, the ground-breaking “black is beautiful” cultural movement changed the way black and white Americans thought about beauty. It is seldom remembered that the key piece of evidence in the “Brown v. Board of Education” decision that led to school de-segregation was a series of interviews with black children who all said that the white doll was prettier than the black doll, thus showing that segregation was inherently unfair. This movie shows how complex and layered the challenge is and how powerfully media images of beauty can make us feel dissatisfied to get us to spend money to look different.

The movie has interviews with movie stars like Nia Long, Lauren London, and Meagan Goode. Surprisingly, none of them say that they have to have “good hair” to get jobs. They insist that they just like it. Maya Angelou says she had her hair processed for the first time when she was in her 70’s. The Reverand Al Sharpton explains that James Brown talked him into getting his hair processed.

Rock visits the Dudley Hair Products company in North Carolina, one of the few black-owned providers of what some women in the movie call “creamy crack.” He goes to India to discover the shocking sources of the exported hair. He tries to sell black hair but gets no buyers. And he goes to a hair competition and performance event that is simply indescribable.

This is a movie of enormous importance and good will and should be seen by everyone, especially mothers and teen-age daughters, to remind us that all hair is good hair and that beauty is more about how we feel than how we look.

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