Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Hollywood Won't Tell The Real Black Hair Story

Hurray for Hollywood! Once again the entertainment machine has managed to make a film that pisses off the very audience it thinks it knows best based on box office receipts, surveys, and spread sheets. That audience being black folk, African-Americans, the direct descendants of chattel slaves in this country. The film being "Good Hair." The subject: Black hair.

And yeah, I went there with the "slaves" mention because how we as black folk respond to things concerning our hair is often a throwback to past hurts and shames of slavery and Jim Crow passed down through generations. But Rock's film won't address that 'cause that's not a subject mainstream--aka white people, and some black folk too --wants to hear.

However, due to Rock's cinematic approach, the old debate of "good hair" vs "nappy hair" is now up for mainstream discussion. And based on the conversations I've had and observed, those outside the culture can't understand why so many black women are upset. It's not so much about our "secrets" being revealed--weaves and wigs are no longer taboo. It's about how Hollywood in its attempt to make people laugh, has placed black women on a platform to be LAUGHED AT and ridiculed. And that shit ain't funny, especially when it comes from black men.

While fighting mad, black women need to understand Hollywood doesn't give a damn about black hair nor its cultural relevance. What it cares about is your green dollar and how you will spend it opening night. And based on those stats and surveys I mentioned Hollywood execs know exactly how to bait you to the theaters. This is how:

1. Make it funny! Black folk love comedies according to the research. "They don't financially support dramas as well as they do comedies, so keep them laughing and we can laugh all the way to the bank," is how Hollywood thinks. Sadly, we prove them right more often than not.

2. Flash images of black celebs on screen we recognize. We are so hungry to see ourselves portrayed on the big screen we get lured to the theaters only to realize we've been hoodwinked, bamboozled. That said, if you haven't seen Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" or Reggie Bythewood's "Dancing In September", do so. They address black sitcoms but the issues apply to film too.

3. Omit history. Who cares about history? "We're not here to TEACH them just REACH them...them pockets that is." Says Hollywood. Black people don't want to be reminded of the past and white people don't want to feel guilty about it, so historical relevance is often left out or minimized as much as possible. But just in case I'm wrong, check the stats. How many historical black films have made it to number 1 opening weekend? Has a black documentary ever done it? No? Imagine that!

My point is Hollywood isn't going to risk a multi-million dollar budget to make a film it knows statistically will not make a profit. The documentaries exploring the history, politics, business, AND culture of black hair are INDEPENDENTLY produced. And yes, "My Nappy ROOTS" is one of those films. But sadly, we don't support independent films as we should cause we'd rather see celebrities and antics.

We are so distracted by celebrity we too often miss the relevance of the story or the obvious tripod legs, light poles and extension cords--things professionals work hard to hide--hanging in the award winning comedian's shot. Can you say, "after thought?"

WAKE UP and smell the hair relaxer, people! Understand Hollywood is in the BUSINESS of show. If you're looking for a more in depth approach to any subject matter, seek the works of independent filmmakers, authors, etc. Don't rely solely on Hollywood, gossip blogs, the news, etc. to tell you what you NEED to know about your own culture. Most exist to tell you what THEY want you to know. So don't even get mad, get enlightened. Then act accordingly.

Photo Source: Me:-)


Anonymous said...

This is sad and I think you are sad, too. I have seen both movies and clearly they are two different approaches to the same subject: black hair. I am a natural woman and I get sick and tired of people thinking I did something extra to make my hair this way or I am extreme in some way because of it. I think that this film opens up the dialogue about hair. I don't see it as black women being laughed at per se, but a way of educating black women. Like Chris said on Oprah, if he could just show it to black people, he would. Nothing wrong with that.

With all that said, I believe the My Nappy Roots should be digitally distributed online via Netflix or Blockbuster or something so that more people can view it. I think it's a great celebratory film about our hair, but you have to step outside of your own box a bit and see how it would be a little heavy for some people to digest right away and how it would seem a little extreme to some people. If it had not been for the Good Hair movie coming out, I never would have heard of My Nappy Roots. So, I say that it's a small favor.

Please don't get upset over this movie and Chris' attempt to do fill a market void, which is what every filmmaker tries to do. I would love to see what Caucasian women go through with their hair to try to make it straight or curly or change the color.

It's steps to understanding each other in a way that non-African Americans can understand.

T Renee said...

this posting is so true, but anonymous, i do not understand why you say this post is sad or further the blogger? truth is light.

also at the beginning of your comment you say you have seen both films and at the end of your comment you admit to seeing only one, "good hair."

seeing how, i have seen both, it is evident chris rock took the essence of the film. in covering black hair he could have chosen a plethora of other topics under this broad topic, but yet he chose the ones covered in "my nappy roots" in the same way.

interesting, how there is a pink elephant in the room and no wants to address it in an honest way. thanks hollywood as i live and work for doing so. said...

Ok Anonymous. What's sad is you said first that you had seen both films but then said later you hadn't heard of "My Nappy Roots" until "Good Hair". How is that? Can you say, contradiction?

Secondly if you hadn't heard of MNR until recently, then you should send your gratitude to TMZ or whatever viable press source that mentioned MNR in the lawsuit story. Or maybe YOU should thank Kimbell cause if she hadn't filed there wouldn't have been a story to report in the first place.

Third, EVERY filmmaker doesn't make films to fill a market void. A TRUE filmmaker makes a film to tell a story, share a vision, give a perspective. That's generally how they start, but sometimes not how they finish especially when making a studio film.

Lastly, ain't nobody upset. Did I not say DON'T get mad get enlightened when you've been bamboozled. And if you desire to know what white women do to their hair why don't YOU make a doc about it. Surely there's a void you can find to fill on the subject

Anonymous said...

You've made some good points!