“Greasy Like Chicken”: Chris Rock’s ‘Good Hair’ Pitch Takes a Nap on Race and Gender [VIDEO]

By Guest Columnist Oct 05, 2009

by guest blogger Bimbola Akinbola. Chris Rock appeared on The Jay Leno Show and Oprah this week to promote his new movie Good Hair, a documentary about hair politics in the Black community with a “funny edge.” While I personally don’t love Chris Rock, I think that Good Hair will be an insightful look at a phenomenon that doesn’t get enough thoughtful attention. Since going natural over a year ago, I’ve become fascinated with the variety of perspectives surrounding Black women and their hair. That being said, I find it interesting that Chris’s two television appearances last week — on Oprah’s and Jay Leno’s stages — promoted Good Hair to predominately white audiences, in frames and phrases I thought we’d left behind. Chris’s Jay Leno appearance was the most unsettling. Leno only described the movie as "very funny," which left me thinking he had missed the point; but as a Black woman, I found the entire interview to be a little patronizing. At one point during the show, Chris spent a substantial amount of time describing his ‘Jheri Curl’ from the ’80s, saying "I’d leave stains on the back of stuff and the collars of my shirts would be all greasy. Just greasy, like I was rubbing chicken all on my shirt." As the audience burst into laughter, I cringed and began to wonder what white moviegoers would take from Good Hair — cutting commentary, or a comedy ridiculing the Black community via a member in good standing? (Remember what happened to Chappelle’s Show?) As excited as I am to see Good Hair, I can’t help but ask myself: Can the history of Black hair politics really be summed up in a 95 minute documentary? Or will the movie simply make the symptoms of colonialism and slavery easily digestible for white audiences in search of the ‘inside scoop’ on Black bodies? While Chris was on Oprah, the two of them emphasized that the movie was for “everybody,” with Oprah even going as far as to say, "Good Hair has allowed white women to ask us things about the hair that they have wondered for a year, but didn’t feel like they could say it." Unlike Oprah, I don’t look forward to white women coming up to me and inquiring about the weave I had two years ago. That doesn’t sound like the beginning of a great new friendship to me. As much as people like to say, “It’s just hair,” this is far from the truth. It’s not just hair, because hair is attached to bodies and bodies have histories. It is those histories that can not and should not be denied, even as a spontaneous chuckle escapes our lips when we know we shouldn’t laugh. Bimbola Akinbola is a college student in the Twin Cities.