As if your bad hair days weren’t already enough of a nightmare, what if your hair began to suddenly take on a murderous mind of its own? That’s the creepy plot of Justin Simien’s Bad Hair, a new horror-comedy about a killer weave — literally.
Set in 1989, the thriller follows newcomer actress Elle Lorraine as Anna Bludso, a young executive assistant at a Black music network called Culture, who is determined to succeed in the image-obsessed world music television. Anna has big dreams of becoming an on-camera personality, however her new boss Zora (played by Vanessa Williams) implies that she’ll never level up in her career unless she gets a weave to hide her natural hair.
Succumbing to the pressure from her boss, she visits a mysterious stylist named Virgie (Laverne Cox) to change her look. After paying $450 and sitting through a seriously painful sew-in session, Anna finally has the silky straight weave. What she soon realizes is that her new hair has bloodthirsty impulses that leads to some rather deadly consequences.
Despite being a satire, the Bad Hair actually paints a pretty accurate picture of the issues Black women face regarding their hair. Yes, the film is super campy and fun, but there were a number of scenes that Black women would find relatable: young Anna developing a chemical burn from a relaxer gone wrong; her sitting for braids while tender-headed; and enduring pain during her salon appointment. While we have since seen many advancements in hair services over the years, the film seems to acknowledge the 1980’s “beauty is pain” approach to haircare.
In fact, watching the particularly horrible scene where Anna gets her first sewn-in weave was very painful to sit through as it felt way too real. I’m not even tender-headed but the close-up shots of the needle going through her scalp and drawing blood had me on edge. It also didn’t help that Anna eventually passed out during the appointment. How could you not be traumatized after that experience?
But, beyond the relatable Black hair moments, the movie does an excellent job of depicting the discrimination that Black women face for wearing their natural hair in the workplace. This film may be set 31 years ago but this is an issue that is still as relevant now as it was then. Many women of color continue to deal with their hair being labeled as “unprofessional” or “unflattering” in corporate America. Not to mention, it was just last year that California became the first state to ban hair discrimination with the CROWN Act.
All that aside, if the film’s powerful message about conformity doesn’t influence you to stream it right now, its star-studded cast likely will. Joining Lorraine, Cox, and Williams is Lena Waithe, Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Blair Underwood, and Usher. Can you say Black excellence?!
Stream Bad Hair only on Hulu.com.