‘Bad Hair’, which released Oct. 23, is a horror film that was written and directed by Justin Simien. It captures both the relatable and horrific struggles of black women in the 80s due to their hair.
Many people know of Simien because of his show ‘Dear White People’, which currently has three seasons on Netflix. This film, however, is different from Simien’s comedy-drama. This horror film, though it still features Simien’s signature sense of humor, tackles its subjects differently. This is due to its subject matter, which shows why weaves became so popular in the black community.
‘Bad Hair’ is set in Los Angeles in the 80s, when black women were moving into corporate America and in the business world. For decades, black women’s natural hair was — and is still — seen as unprofessional. Some black women wore weaves so they could get the same opportunities that white women received. They could spend as much as $1,000 for a good weave that looks natural.
The struggles of “looking professional” didn’t end once a black woman actually bought a weave. In the 80s, weave was typically sewn in with a curved needle and thread. The hair was braided around the head and then each track (a piece of hair) would be sewn into the braided hair and then pulled tightly.
This film may be a horror film, but I was more frightened by the parts in the movie that were normal. I was triggered by the horrific events black women had to go through to feel accepted and beautiful. Watching the main character get her hair sewn into her scalp made me cringe. As a black woman, I can tell you from experience that getting hair sewn in is painful. Not only was it painful to get my hair sewn, but it also hurt other black women who wore their hair naturally. These women were teased by both white and black people, as natural hair wasn’t seen as attractive nor characteristic of a black person.
This is best shown in the very beginning of the film. ‘Bad Hair’ begins with Anna, the main character, getting a relaxer by her older sister. For those who have not endured the pain of a relaxer, let me explain. A relaxer is a chemical that is used to straighten hair. It starts to burn at around 15 minutes, but you must keep it in, or it doesn’t work. I remember being seven-years-old with my scalp on fire, screaming for my mom to wash it out.
Anna was also clearly in pain throughout, but her sister was not sympathetic. Her sister, who was light skinned, naturally had long, straight hair, so didn’t understand why she struggled so much with the relaxer. Anna’s sister tried to keep her using the relaxer by saying, “Your hair wouldn’t be nappy and maybe you can pass as my sister.”
This quote is the reason why black women in the film felt the need to have straight hair. From childhood, black girls are told they are not beautiful, especially by people who look just like them. The only thing more heartbreaking than this is how relatable it still is today.
‘Bad Hair’ is a great horror movie. I was so scared after watching this film, I almost threw away all my wigs. However, the film brought up some great points about self-love despite societal pressures. I would gladly watch another film by Justin Simien after ‘Bad Hair’, and recommend others do the same.