I hate waking up with bed head. And if you don’t got the time or energy to take a shower, you just gotta walk around with that glop of hair just poking out all kinds of ways, which is kinda like wearing a sign that says, “I didn’t have the time or energy to take a shower.” But then that hairstyle kinda became trendy for a bit there, where you’d see guys like Zac Efron walking down the red carpet with a messy bed head look. I bet he paid $250 to have his hair look like that. Kinda reminds me of when grunge came into fashion and people were paying $200 for a pair of ripped up jeans, while actual grunge guys and gals just couldn’t afford new clothes, which is why they were wearing their old beat up denim. You can’t buy swagger. But you can roll out of bed for free*. But I digress. The title of ‘Bad Hair’ is a double entendre, it applies to someone that has bad looking hair, but the title also applies to someone having a killer weave—and that is also a double entendre, like “yo that hair looks cool”, and also like, “yo that hair is gonna kill me!” But really what the filmmakers are talking about is the perception that African American woman have with themselves and the perception that people have about African American women’s hair—or more so in the way that the fashion world and society in itself, has put this stigma that the natural hair that African American women have is “bad”.
‘Bad Hair’ is set in 1989 Los Angeles, and I am in love with the fetishistic attention to detail the filmmakers have provided with this period piece; from costume designer’s Ceci’s outfits, to Topher Osborn’s filmic looking cinematography (director and cinematographer have got some absolutely stunning and innovative shots going on here), to Kris Bowers Goonies-esque score. They definitely got the vibe and spirit of 1989 right, and not only that, but they also capture the horror film vibe of 1989 correctly. My only gripe is that horror films in 1989 were using practical effects, while in this one they rely heavily on computer graphic imagery. Ellen Bludso played by Elle Lorraine, is an African American woman that works at a hip-hop television network called Culture, she has been at the company for awhile as an assistant, but has high hopes of becoming a VJ host. When we get introduced to the network, they are in the midst of going through a revamp of their look and output, brought upon by a smarmy TV executive, played by a perfectly cast James Van Der Beek, who is channeling his rarely seen inner villain that he showed in films like ‘Rules Of Attraction’. Ellen has got the smarts, but according to network producer Zora, played by Vanessa Williams–an inspired piece of casting since Williams was a legit pop star in 1989—Zora thinks Ellen doesn’t have “the look”. And by “the look” they are talking about her natural hair. Zora suggests she get her hair done, and they send her along the way to a beauty salon where Ellen’s dreams can come true. Ellen gets her new do and things start looking up, but there are also signs of trouble that begin to appear. One sign of trouble is that I don’t think Elle Lorraine is really fit to carry this picture as Ellen. Like Zora, I just don’t think this woman has got it, she’s not lead material. We’ve also got a heavily under used Lena Waithe, who is possibly the most charismatic actor on the set. The film also begins to lose a bit of its charm once it goes into full on hair slasher territory, but luckily that isn’t until late into its final act. You also have to really be able to buy into the absurdity that there is a magical killer weave on the loose, but like the mythological slave folk lore book, that is introduced in this film, it isn’t that far from the Greek mythology of a woman named Medusa, that had snakes for hair.
Ya gotta thank gosh for films like ‘Get Out’. Every once in awhile a truly original film will come along, and not only come along, but do great business at the box office, which opens up the doors for other films that may deal with similar themes or issues, or just have that same flavor. It gives people more of what they want; a second, third, or fourth helping, what have you, while also making more money for the studios and production companies, cause they are banking on something that has hit already. Could a movie like ‘Bad Hair’ have gotten made without a movie like ‘Get Out’ leading the pack? It’s definitely possible, but it also probably made it a lot easier for a film like ‘Bad Hair’ to get green lit. Also, ‘Bad Hair’ would make for a great double feature with the Chris Rock led comedy-documentary about the same subject, ‘Good Hair’. ‘Bad Hair’ is writer/director’s Justin Simien’s second feature film after the similarly African American themed ‘Dear White People’. I really like this body of work that Simien is beginning to build up, he is positioning himself to be the next Spike Lee—though Justin definitely has his own distinct voice, I don’t feel he is mimicking Spike, though I’m sure Lee is an influence—I just mean that in the way of a having a cool, hip director telling the African American story in a unique way, it’s thrilling.
Why do certain looks like straight, long, flowing hair become the norm and the thing of beauty for women to aspire to? As an Asian-American male with straight hair, this is an issue that has plagued African American women in ways that I’ll never know. But wouldn’t it be something if the roles were reversed one day and non-African American women aspired to have Afro-textured hair, and that became the trend? Oprah, Beyonce, I think y’all need to step your Afro-centric hair game up, and lead the way for these young ladies of tomorrow.
*No diss to Zac Efron, I love that guy!