With such high hopes given its title, as always with Netflix-own flicks I was incredibly disappointed. So as not to come across as one of those black women who hates everything natural when depicted even slightly incorrectly, I’m absolutely one of those blk women today.
Having shaved my head bald less than a year ago, you could only imagine my excitement at the beautiful Ms. Sanaa Lathan cutting her locks off for a movie role. One I’d hoped wouldn’t sully in performance, but that it did. You see, it takes courage… determination I think? And well, I don’t really know, but far more of a reason than simply someone not wanting to put a ring on it, to cut your hair off. It’s a liberating feeling and one of entire self discovery.
When I recall cutting my own locks off, I remember feeling a lot like Britney circa 2007 and not as though even the smallest inconvenience called for a rudimentary head shaving. But my story is just one of the thousands pinned on someone, somewheres Pinterest board. As you might imagine, the film disappointed both myself and the naturella living inside me. Though yes, she looked absolutely stunning, I struggled to understand like… the actual point of the film. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t yet given up an hour and 38 minutes of your free time to sit and watch.
I was left only to question why a woman of her calibre would shave her head for this film… of all films. Had it been a depressive film of self discovery I’d have likely removed the wigs keeping my head warm this Autumn Winter in solidarity with Sanaa, but unfortunately I feel quite the opposite. Shall we begin with the many reasons why the Netflix number was just balls out terrible?
On an evening out, which if you know me at 25 years of age is a rarity to no end, I was told by a close friend that this film was, and I quote ‘worth the watch’. In my hungover induced stupor I took the leap. I used my post alcohol down time to really take in this movie. After all, it had been advertised to me for weeks. Which initially I thought to be because of the whole “I shaved my head too” thing, but likely not. I digress. The film begins like any other, with a preview of her childhood where she’s ridiculed by her mother for messing up her hair which I immediately picked apart in seconds. Stood by the pool, with her freshly hot combed hair, yes black women worldwide you read correctly. Stood by the pool with her freshly hot combed hair, a young Violet skirts the pool unable to jump in for fear of being told off by her mother. A narrative to be picked apart rather quickly because had my hair been freshly hot combed I doubt very much that my mother would 1. Take me to the pool 2. Get mad that my hair might get wet at the pool. I mean… I’m a child and pools are meant to be jumped in in your youth no? Honestly. After jumping in said pool, all the while being screamed at by her mother not to, to frolic with her Caucasian counterparts she’s immediately embarrassed by the outcome. Now, mocked by the non-black children Violet’s hair turns from a vision of straightness to a “mess”. Which granted was totally a thing by kids who didn’t quite “understand” how our hair worked. But here’s the thing, and I can’t be the only black woman still truly traumatised by the marks that refused to cease from a swimming cap; where was Violets? As a mother truly concerned about the state of her child’s hair how could one expect her daughter to be poolside… in a swimsuit… with no swimming cap? She obviously had intentions to let her child swim else she wouldn’t be in a swimming costume right?
We’re quickly led to believe that her mother is more concerned about her child’s hair than her child’s happiness which, if this is truly ‘your’ story I absolutely apologise, but is stupid. Though my mother and grandmother were always keen to keep my curls in tact, it never once stopped me from playing with other kids. I just- whatever. There were so many other ways to depict her hair being a mess. Much like the time I removed my swimming cap at the pool and I was told to “dry comb” my own hair as punishment. That ladies and gentlemen is a story of trauma.
The narrative of this film quickly continues on its downward trajectory when we’re led to believe that Violet and her mother have only her perfect hair in common. Which if you’re a wig enthusiast like myself, you’ll notice isn’t even hers. As I say these words I assume the writers were wildly misled. While I understand black hair and a perfectionism complex are totally a thing, I fail to (personally) relate to a narrative as far fetched as this one. Sure my hair may have been likened to sheeps wool in my youth, but it is wildly exaggerated in this paradox. Which I guess… was the desired effect? Her mother could have regularly thrown jabs at her child’s headtop, she could have called it nappy once or twice and then – and only then – would you title have made even a little bit of sense. Instead Violet’s only complex is that her hair has never been anything but perfect. Well, apart from the god awful pool scene which I refuse to get over.
Relaying back to my own thoughts on black hair and the idea of it always being perfect, I fail to understand what exactly the film meant. With such potential, it could have gone in so many other directions. Using what we know about the natural hair journey, Violet had the opportunity to have discovered what products worked vs. those that absolutely did not, something I’m certain anyone on the natural hair journey can relate to. She could have discussed the complexities of dating after such a drastic change and you know what she could have done? Had an actual relationship problem. Though I cut my own hair for many reasons, including the health of my hair and contrary to popular belief before the breakdown of my relationship, I can’t help but think that would have made a far better on screen depiction. With my own journey being erratically dissimilar to Violet’s, I’d have loved to see her first traumatic experience at the barbers when she asked for a shapeup and left with a fade instead…
In fact, the only part I felt even remotely mirrored my own reality was the shower scene and bear with me here. There is nothing more liberating than being able to shower and get your hair wet without first considering the hours of drying after the fact. No better feeling. Your limits are quite literally endless.
With all that we know of the natural hair journey to date, I’m perplexed at how none of it – not really – was displayed in Violet’s journey. For me, though I quite quickly stopped caring what everyone thought of me the minute I was out of the barbers chair, I couldn’t help but question why the feeling of, “am I actually beautiful?” never entered the narrative. That’s what it was for me. Though I didn’t care what other people thought, I had no choice but to care what I thought. After all, my egghead stared me in the face every morning after I washed my face. It stared me in the face when I brushed my teeth and it stared me in the face when I pencilled in my brows. There was no choice but to man up and face my choices and that’s likely where my strength grew. It was a gruelling realisation that I was in charge of my own choices, and likely my own (terrible) life decisions. I had the control. From there I grew to love the woman in the mirror all over again despite her many misdemeanours. I was confident enough to show the real me, the me I was terrified no one would actually like.
Today, with my hair two thirds of the way down my finger, I think to myself of the journey itself. Who I was before I cut it off, who I’ve become since cutting it off and where I aspire to be when it all grows back. The answers are simply someone weak and incapable of making a sustainable decision for herself, a completely different person who’s stronger in her decision making and a somebody… one day.