Oscar-winning ‘Hair Love’ pulls heartstrings, celebrates Black hair

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Courtesy of @hairlovenmovie on Instagram

“Hair Love,” directed by Matthew A. Cherry, details a father doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. The short film won an Oscar.

“Hair Love,” a seven-minute animated film written and directed by Chicago native Matthew A. Cherry, is a story of a father doing his daughter’s hair for the first time.

The short film has a brilliant way of telling a compassionate story while talking about an issue so important to an entire community. “Hair Love” uses its seven-minute run to tell a heartfelt story about a couple and their daughter while tackling a heavy topic.

The film begins with some upbeat music and shows a little African American girl with who has a big afro. She scrolls through a YouTube channel called Hair Love that details how one could do their natural hair. She chooses a video and she tries to follow along, but she fails – miserably.

Cue in her father – he comes in and sees how messed up her hair is and attempts to grab a beanie to cover it up. Funnily, the little girl uses a blow dryer to blow away the beanie as if to say “Nope! We are doing my hair!”

In the next few moments, the father is seen using a comb and essentially wrestling with his daughter’s hair. We see the father in a wrestling ring with the hair – it has become a monstrous being of its own.

With the wrestling scene, “Hair Love” captures the struggle that Black girls deal with when it comes to their natural hair. It’s a metaphor for how Black girls have to go the extra mile to find the right products and the right way to their hair.

The father then gives up and puts the beanie on her head; the little girl leaves the room crying. Hair can be a huge part one’s identity, and the film is able to demonstrate why hair is taken so seriously.

The father and daughter duo refer back to the YouTube video and they have an understanding moment. They are able to do the girl’s hair perfectly fine and they leave to go visit someone. They wind up going to a hospital to visit the girl’s mom, who happened to be the woman behind the YouTube channel.

The mother had lost all of her hair due to her sickness. At this moment, the significance of the YouTube channel becomes apparent. The channel serves as a deeper connection between mother and daughter.

A vast majority of the film is silent, the only noise being background music and the mother’s voice in the YouTube video. The film relies on the facial expressions of all parties, including the funny cat.

The film puts a funny twist on a serious issue that Black girls and women face on a regular basis. The wrestling match, the funny cat, and the beanie all add a lighthearted tone to a topic that can be so heavy.

Taking such a lighthearted approach can help people understand the complexity of African American hair. Many may not understand what goes into making African American hair presentable. Presentable in the sense that other people in society may accept it.

There have been many instances where African American men and women have been fired from jobs for wearing braids or their natural hair. In some cases, students were  kicked out of school or school extracurricular activities for wearing their natural hair.

According to a 2017 New York Times article, a young black woman had been working at Banana Republic was told by a white manager that “her braids were not ‘Banana Republic appropriate,’ that they were too ‘unkempt’ and ‘urban.’” The manager  told her that she wouldn’t be scheduled for another shift until she took out the braids.

The woman tried explaining herself by stating her braids protected her hair from becoming coarse in the cold weather. He suggested that she should “try some shea butter.” The manager was ultimately fired.

According to the same article, a Black high school wrestler was told that his dreadlocks violated competition rules. He had to cut off his dreads in order to compete in the competition or else he would have to forfeit.

NBC News also reported that a six-year-old boy was turned away from a private Christian academy because his hair extended below his ears. A girl in New Orleans was sent home from a Catholic school for wearing braids.

Despite its brevity, “Hair Love” is able to communicate a heavy topic amongst the Black community in a comedic and compassionate way. The short film shows the common struggle of Black girls when it comes to their hair. The side plot with the mother and the YouTube was also handled so beautifully. “Hair Love” sheds light on a heavy topic that deserves more conversation.