It took long enough, but horror films are finally using Black Hair as a topic of exploration. It’s fitting, as our hair has become the basis for laws, has been appropriated, and even criminalized. Bad Hair posits the hair as this magical monster that will take over a Black woman’s body and mind if it’s not stopped. This whole film is a metaphor for the Black hair struggle and so are the characters. Each one embodying a struggle that is uniquely ours and thus could not be told until now. Why? Because one of the US had to do it—a creator from the Black community. While others have described Bad Hair as a bad movie about a bad weave, the film still breaks barriers by existing. But, there’s so much more.
What Begins as Friendly Advice
Justin Simien’s 90s horror flick centers on a dark-skinned actress with 4C hair that looks just like mine. Ann, the main character, is played by Elle Lorraine. She’s a working woman trying to make it in the LA entertainment business. Like every working woman that looked like Ann, the path was very long and very hard. When she finally gets that special talk from her new boss, Zora, played by Vanessa Williams. It’s the talk that most Black women in the job market face at some point—especially those with 4C hair and dark skin. Zora tells her that the only way to get ahead is to straight the kink out of her hair and dress so that, despite her dark skin, Ann would look more Eurocentric.
Zora’s request that Ann colonizes her appearance in order to be taken seriously at the company was not uncommon as I said before. In fact, Zora thought she was doing Ann a favor. There was no malice, if there was, Zora wouldn’t have given the woman her hairdresser’s contact information. No, Zora was giving Ann advice that she was given some time ago. That’s how it works. We recycle the information that got us ahead, not realizing that we are just feeding the beast (literally in Zora’s case) that is killing us all.
Leaves Deadly Repercussions
Ann goes to see Zora’s hairdresser Virgie (Laverne Cox) who is slammed with the business since she started putting in the new weaves. At first, Ann has turned away, but then, Virgie offers to do the woman’s hair herself. It’s done in an area that seems to be away from the rest of the flash and polish. Instead, it’s dim and shadowy. Virgie’s tattooed finger’s work swiftly to first braid the hair so tight that Ann does that familiar teeth-sucking hiss of a brain that’s holding on too strong to the scalp. Then the sew-in weave is applied, and bond to Ann in blood. When she is finished, the woman is beautiful on the outside but suffering immense pain under the new straight hair. It’s almost like a rite of passage for black women over the years.
That blood is necessary for this hair as it grows and remains silky smooth when it is properly…fed. Ann finds this out is a few gross ways before the hair takes over and the bodies start to pile u. Meanwhile, the woman is killing it—figuratively—at work. She even becomes an on-air sensation. Her friends fall in line with the weave as well, even Brook-Lynne (Lena Waithe) who seems to be the one who they would least expect to comply. But sis has bills to pay too.
It All Goes Back to Slavery of Course
By the time Ann discovers what’s really going on, by going back to the Moss Hair Girl stories her father (played by Blair Underwood) told her, the hair is too powerful and scary. The connection to a slave narrative, however, drives home how ingrained in the culture our hair is. Black people have used our hair as signals for the underground railroad, as status symbols, and more. As we found our “freedom” however, so came the need to bring our hair as close to whiteness as possible. In recent years, there has been a natural hair movement that has inhibited the trend a great deal. It’s not dead. Weave and hair are still big business. As were the enslaved labor populations are connected to the history were.
The slave connection also serves to solidify the Afrofuturism in the film’s narrative. Afrofuturism is the reimagining of our future with a look back at the past. Writer/Director Justin Simien used horror as a way to explore the colonization of black hair at a major moment in our history. In doing this, he helps to normalize the Black hair struggle while also placing it in a context that we can critically explore. The campy nature of the horror lends to this as well. The humor and scares that are like an homage to the late 80s/early 90s horror. These prevent the topic from becoming a rote political monologue and instead make it an artistic exploration.
You May Need Some Immersion into Cult Horrors Before Viewing
Bad Hair is not for everyone. You must have a familiarity with campy horror movies and understand the cult classics or the fun of Bad Hair may be lost in the film’s quirkiness. If you miss the fun, then you’ll miss the metaphors and symbolism as well. Once you adjust to the film, it opens up as a horrifically entertaining escape.
This film is meant to be fun, yet informative. Many people will enjoy it, but like many cult films, Bad Hair has an audience and they will love it.
Rating 4 of 5
The post Review: ‘Bad Hair’ is a Horrifyingly Good Metaphor for the Black Hair Struggle appeared first on The Black Cape Magazine.