When Jordan Peele’s Get Out first came out in 2017, there was a collective “YASSSSSSSSS!” within the Black community that we needed more Black horror movies. Black horror could actually be its own subgenre because there are certain themes that can only be explored with a Black cast, as it just wouldn’t make sense to a white audience or with an all-white cast…
Like being body snatched by white cultural appropriaters.
Plus, I think we’re all tired of yelling at the screen, “That wouldn’t happen if the guy was Black!” while watching mainstream horror.
That being said, I don’t think Bad Hair was the movie we were asking for when we said that.
Now don’t get me wrong! Bad Hair is not a bad movie. It’s actually a pretty fun watch, with all its cheesy, campy, satire, eighty’s-themed, slasher, horror goodness. But for most of the movie, I found myself asking, “What the hell did I just watch?!”
An ambitious young woman gets a weave to succeed in the image-obsessed world of music television. However, her flourishing career comes at a great cost when she realizes that her new hair may have a mind of its own.
The movie opens with my childhood trauma…excuse me, Anna (played by Elle Lorraine), our main character’s, childhood trauma, in which a perm application gone horribly wrong leaves here with a permanent scar on her scalp at the back of her head where no hair grows.
If this has never happened to you, can you truly say you’ve had the Black American female experience? My “spot” is at the crown of my head, endearingly named my itchy spot because I scratch and pluck at it whenever I’m nervous. I haven’t had a perm in nearly 15 years. I’ve done the whole natural thing, I’ve even started locking my hair, but that spot is still there, with a couple skinny dreads growing around the outer edges.
Anyway, back to the movie. Fast-forward to 1989, and Anna is now an unapologetically “urban” (afro puff and all) Black working woman trying to navigate the world of television and getting the door shut in her face at every turn. Whether it’s her complexion, her hair, her dress, her sex—pick a feature! When a new executive—played by the woman who invented resting bitch face, Vanessa Williams—takes over at the station where Anna works and starts making changes, Anna believes she finally has a shot at making it big, but there’s one thing that’s got to go: that nappy ass fro!
Now, the irony of this movie is not lost on me. It is definitely a social commentary on the censoring of Black women’s hair—which we thought we killed with the natural hair movement, but we only made worse with the worshipping of loosely textured curly-haired girls and the further marginalization of the rest of us “ethnic” folk. This expectation that Black women must conform their hair to this white, patriarchal standard of beauty in order to be accepted or treated as equal still infuriates me to this day.
Trying to fit into this mold is truly a horror story for us. I mean the pain we go through! From the burning sensation from the perm to the literal sticking of needles into your scalp in order to sew the weave in.
(Tender-headed folks, watch at your own risk, because this scene is gruesome!)
And for what? To appeal to the white man’s comfort level? Um, no thank you.
That’s one of the main reasons why I decided to freeform loc my hair. I will not be controlled by my hair, and I will not be controlled by other peoples opinions about my hair either!
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for Anna. Anna gets a new weave from the most sought after stylist (played by Laverne Cox), and suddenly she’s no longer invisible. People are noticing her; people are listening to her; people are actually interested in hearing her opinions. Even her ex wants to get back together.
Reminds me of that time during my stint in corporate America when I decided to straighten my hair and, suddenly, I was a brand new person…
It still amazes me that [white] people actually react this way to a Black woman’s hair.
Unfortunately, something’s off about Anna’s hair. And it’s not the installment, although in that hair salon scene, it sure did look like the stylist was sewing the weave directly into Anna’s scalp rather than the braid (maybe to satiate the weave’s bloodlust, because there was blood).
And here is where the film lost me, because it gets into this African/African American fable/folklore about the weave being possessed by the spirits of dead witches…
(I actually thought it was vampire weave, but in my defense, I don’t think I ever quite recovered from that scene in the bathroom where it extended down from her scalp and into her pants and…drank her period blood…)
Then the movie tried to use Blaire Underwood’s character (who played Anna’s dad, her uncle, a father figure? I’m not really sure—it didn’t go into detail about her family dynamics) to explain why that part of the movie wasn’t fully fleshed out with a line about how there are some aspects of these stories we will never know because “colonizers don’t write about the people they conquered,” and I’m like, What?! You don’t get off that easily! Explain to me these witches in the hair? What’s the deal with the “planatation” this hair is coming from? So it’s not really Indian hair? Is it moss, like the moss-haired girl in the story? Does the stylist know she’s possessing people with her magical weave? I’m confused!
To be honest, I would have totally accepted the spirit of the ancestors cursing the weave to turn her into Michael Jackson’s Thriller (maybe it’s the eyes?) as punishment for forgetting her natural roots. That would’ve made more sense than that whole witch posession thing, but I’m just a simple writer with writer’s block, so what do I know about believable movie scripts?
Overall, Bad Hair is a pretty good film, if you like cheesy, campy horror. The story could have been better, but who’s really looking for a “story” with these types of movies. Oh, and Kelly Rowland’s Janet Jackson-esque soundtrack… SICKENING!
Any one else develop an obsession with “bad” movies since quarantine? Nothing can be worse than this sh*tty year, right?