What We're Watching:  22 Minutes of Understanding Black-ish “Hair day”

What We're Watching: 22 Minutes of Understanding Black-ish “Hair day”

We see natural black hair all over the media nowadays. Magazines, commercials, television, movies, you see them (shout out to “Hair Love” the animated short film about black hair that just won an Oscar) but those gorgeous representations never come with a list of the intense regiments that went on behind the scenes to create them. They are rarely accompanied by the style names and methods used to produce them. It’s still amazes us to think that in 2020, outside of our community, black hair is still met with mystery and often times even hostility. Needless to say, when bans on wearing your natural hair can still be allowed in schools, it is a pressingly relevant topic to cover. Laying the subject open, and our struggles bare for all to see, Black-ish producers had the uninitiated viewers running for their urban dictionaries, looking up “Bantu,” “twist-out,”  the “big chop” and we loved every minute of it. 


We agree that Black-ish always does a great job at dissecting the little nuances of our culture in very well written dialog that truly educates, as much as it entertains. It’s not an easy thing to present the social-layers within the black community and make it palatable to millions. Then to try to take on a topic as grand as black hair in one episode, is truly brave. Because it could have went completely bust. But they jumped right in. Playing it like a mini-documentary at the open of the show, to reinforce that this immense amount of subject matters is impossible to tackle in 22 minutes. Even 22 hours of talking about black hair may still just be scratching the surface. And let’s face it, 22 hours over a couple days may quite literally be one hair style, depending on how much hair you have and what style you choose. 


Black-ish, in this episode, presents a great summary of a relatable hair dilemma, told through the coming-of-age hair choice struggle of the character Diane. It starts by immediately breaking the walls of the show, with the staff of black women from the set sharing their real stories and not just the fictional characters. We thought this was an excellent way to convey that the vastness of the hair world, wouldn’t fit in the context of the shows normal shooting method. The age gaps between the show’s producers mirror the age gap between the actors as well, which makes a great reinforcement for one of the major points of the episode. It shows the subtle connections between hair styling practices and cultural mindsets over the decades and how the black standards of beauty have gradually changed. 


The storytelling style in this episode was as diverse as black hair itself. The myriad of styles were well picked to convey loads of information and even viewpoints that pop-up inside and outside of the black hair community. The parallel barbecue story about doing things how they have always been done, versus accepting new ways, shows the view of accepting progression. Musical stylings, that help you pack a whole lot of content in a short time span, covered lists of techniques, names and styles unique to black hair. The documentary-style we mentioned earlier, shows up throughout helps humanize the impact of real, everyday struggles. Even a great metaphor, vilifying relaxers, played out in a DragonBall Z type animated segment, saying things they chose not to directly verbalize during the show's runtime. We feel it was another great choice. While a lot of people share the same views about perms and relaxers, on the show, they always make the effort to not attack any part of someone’s hair journey or routine. By never saying “this method is bad” or “this style is good,” they leave you with the understanding that there are lots of choices and the choice is ultimately yours. 


The end result, of this episode for the character Diane, is gradual change. But the result, of what was accomplished by the production of this episode, was magic. Showcasing black hair in all of its glory, educating the mystified and reminding us to cherish every minute of our own hair journeys. In the past, black hair seemed much more about, what was acceptable and now it has become more about what represents your individuality. That change needs to be celebrated. Throw in an original song from Jill Scott, and we can’t praise this episode enough. Bravo to the cast and crew of Black-ish for (maybe) answering those would be questions from co-workers and friends when you walk in rocking something new... which they will always have. Also, we thank them for reminding us all to keep loving our hair... even if it’s a wig. 

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