In a world that is being called out for cultural appropriation, black women’s hairstyles are praised when other races have them, but on a black woman they are often criticised. Nappily Ever After tries to focus on the societal beauty standards placed on black women, especially when it comes to hair.
The main character, Violet, seems to have a ‘perfect’ life. It all looks very straight (just like her hair), and everything is very pristine and controlled. In her life, she only feels as good as her hair looks; if it does not look perfect then nothing else can be perfect either. As a child her mother would have her sit by the pool, keeping her hair perfect rather than having fun; when she decided to jump in the pool, her hair became natural and she was ridiculed by the other children. Even within her two-year relationship, Violet would still do her hair before her partner (Clint) woke up, thus preventing him from ever being able to see the real her.
After being sprayed with a hose, Violet visits a hair salon and whilst there she overhears a conversation between the hairdresser (Will) and a client, the client stating “Brothers love long hair” – a phrase that Violet has always believed. Will responds: “Brother’s want a woman who’s real”, to which Violet rolls her eyes. Later, Will’s daughter Zoe says to a co-worker: “My momma would of popped me good having hair that crazy”, to which the staff member agrees. Soon after, Violet discovers that she has been given the wrong hair treatment and as a result her hair falls out and she has to get a weave. With the new fake hair, she soon discovers her love life too is fake and her life begins to unravel, just like her natural hair did.
Violet decides to change things up; no longer wanting to be miss ‘perfect’ she shaves all of her hair off, the scene having her stare into the mirror as she appears to go through all the stages of grief at once. With this new lease of life, her mother faints at the sight of her but does not get too angry as for her, having no hair is still better than “nappy” hair. Violet can finally break away from the past burden that she put on herself by trying to look perfect for everyone else. Although initially she wasn’t entirely confident about it, Violet is told to ‘own’ her new hairstyle.
As her hair begins to regrow, this also sets back the regrowth of her mother and Clint’s controlling behaviour, as they try and make sure her hair is straight for an engagement party. Violet rebels and just like at the start of the film, she jumps into the pool. However, rather than laughing at her as the children did before, the others join her, liberated. Violet is no longer defined by a man or her hair, but is instead defined by self-worth, and she allows other women to feel the same. This film is perfect for anyone in the realm of self-discovery needing a laugh, and I would recommend especially to anyone of colour, male or female, in order to gain an understanding of why many black women still use wigs and weaves.
Image Courtesy of Netflix