Thursday, April 15, 2010

Funny Find

Last night, I caught a rerun of Late Night with David Letterman, which featured comedian Danny Bhoy, a guy I am now officially in love with.

Why? Maybe it's the Scottish accent. I find Craig Ferguson to be super hi-larious, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say I find Scottish accents funny.

But there's more to it. I like that Danny, similar to Aziz Ansari (another one of my comedy crushes) comes from an ethnic background, but doesn't make his comedy about it. Sure Danny Bhoy doesn't look like the typical Scottish person, but what does that look like anyway? James McAvoy? [Well, if all Scots looked like him, I'm going to have to move there.]I didn't realize that he was Indian until I saw the spelling of his name and researched him.

Sure, it would be easy to make jokes about being an Indo-Scot. I'm not even sure that's a real term. I'm sure that background makes for a comedy goldmine.

Though his international status is cause for joke, it's not his only bit. I'm going to look out for this guy in the future. The Indian diaspora is perhaps the most far-reaching in the world and it is fascinating for me to see a Scottish desi. I hope he gets a break.

*Note - had to post a different video because CBS has a copyright on the Danny Bhoy bit. So enjoy this video from him on tour in Aussieland.*

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Hair" Do

"Black people wear their oppression on their heads." So says Rev. Al Sharpton in Chris Rock's docu-comedy Good Hair. I finally got around to watching it this weekend, and while I wasn't in love with the movie, I do recommend it, because I think it starts an interesting dialogue.

So about halfway or more through the film, Rev. Sharpton hits on some strong social commentary, which is that the black hair industry is a system that enforces economic exploitation. The most fascinating part of the movie is when Rock tracks the progression of the weave, from its origins in Tirupati, India to LA hair salons. You see people trek to one of the most holy temples in India to offer their hair to the god Venkatheshwara and you realize that while the temple has created a steady business from selling hair, shrewd businessmen keep the profits for themselves.

You see women bent double at hair looms, in what appears to be a sweat shop for hair. Those people don't see the money either. Cut to women in LA who allegedly spend thousands of dollars on their weave. The people at the top make the big bucks and screw everyone else over. Now that we're all aware of how shitty the hair industry is, how it takes advantage of consumers and producers, are people going to go natural all of a sudden?

No. Absolutely not. There's so much this documentary fails to cover. First of all, Rev. Al Sharpton, man who has worn his hair relaxed for decades, why aren't you setting an example for the community? Is it because you have knowledge of the oppression and therefore about it all? No, I didn't think so.

There's just so much political and social meaning behind the idea of "good hair" and Chris Rock only ever scratches the surface. I applaud his endeavor, but I can't help but call out Good Hair for being superficial. Look, Chris Rock is a comedian. The problem here is that he keeps the tone of the film too light. In his reasoning, the only factor in relaxing one's hair or choosing to get a weave is a preference for European (or Asian) hair. So, according to him, there's one type of hair that's favored above all. Ok, Chris, I'll pretend to buy that line of thought for a second. But tell me, why? Yeah, he never does.

There are a variety of reasons women choose one hairstyle over the other. I've had friends of mine experiment with natural hair only to realize that it is too high maintenance. Thus, they choose relaxer.

The other thing? Chris Rock is a guy. I want to know why we never got to see his wife in Good Hair. Is her hair 100% natural? I'm sorry, but men just do not face the same societal pressures as women when it comes to physical appearance. At the risk of sounding like a pretencions sociology student, what Chris Rock and Ice T can't seem to wrap their heads around is that women's bodies are ascribed with meaning regardless of what we do. Get your hair relaxed, buy a weave, you're trying to act white. Go natural and you're a rebel. A woman can't just be.

At the end of the movie, Chris Rock brings up two subjects that I really wish he pushed. First, he talks to men about whether hair factors into their preference for mate. And here, you get Ice T and some men at a barber shop stating that they'd choose a white woman with natural hair over a black woman whose hair requires high maintenance. Herein lies an attitude that while I don't think wholly explains the desire for "good hair," demonstrates the double standard that perpetuates the idea of some women having better hair than others.

The second subject? White girls wear weave too. How about a follow-up film, Chris? Or better yet, how about a follow up from a woman's point of view? I hope that's not too radical.