When Good Hair Goes Bad: a Sociological Perspective of the Documentary ‘Good Hair’

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When Good Hair Goes Bad: A Sociological Perspective of the Documentary ‘Good Hair’ Within the African American community, there exists a notion of “good hair” and “bad hair”. This topic has historically ignited a great debate within the culture that has entrenched the community drawing no lines between gender, socioeconomic status, or age. To understand some of the dynamics of the hair debate it is important to comprehend the cultural relativism of the social facts and the belief held by the African America Diaspora. Cultural relativism is the idea that “something can be understood and judged only in relation to the cultural context in which it appears” (Andersen & Taylor, 2011, pg. 41). Social facts were described by Emile Durkheim as the “social patterns external to individuals, e.g. customs and social values” (Andersen & Taylor, 2011, pg. 14). To fully grasp the magnitude of the debate within the African American community we must understand two key sociological terms. The first term, impression management is the “process by which people control how others perceive them” (Anderson & Taylor, 2011, pg. 118). The second term is deviance and is recognized as behavior that “violates expected rules and norms” (Andersen & Taylor, 2011, pg. 152). Through content analysis (“a way of measuring by examining cultural artifacts”) of the documentary ‘Good Hair’, we are afforded a glimpse behind the veil to gain a measure of insight into the hair norms within the African American culture and the peculiarities of “good” and “bad hair” (Andersen & Taylor, 2011, pg. 67). Narrated and produced by comedian Chris Rock, ‘Good Hair’ is a documentary that explores African American hairstyles and the booming industry that aids in the attainment of the positive moniker “good hair”, while attempting to clarify its meaning (Rock & Stilson, 2009). The pursuit of “good hair” is so ingrained that children’s perceptions are socialized from an early age to...
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