Communicative Discourses in Media Depictions of Black Women’s Natural Hair

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Introduction

 

  “Our noses are broad, our lips are thick, our hair is nappy- we are black and beautiful!” -     Stokely Carmichael

         Carmichael, one of the most influential organizers during the civil rights movement, pinpointed one of the most well-known issues amongst  blacks and/or African-Americans in the United States. Blacks’ characteristics are/were viewed as unacceptable, inappropriate, and/or ugly since the enslavement of people of African descent  to the United States and present day.  In particular, African-American women have dealt with two opposing standards of beauty, the European culture and the African-American tradition (Makkar & Strube, 1995).   

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The mass media has played a huge role in depicting the standards of beauty through newspaper, theater shows, magazines, film, advertisement, etc. (Robinson, 2011). Mass media outlets are primarily used to deliver information to a wide variety of individuals through several channels (Makkar & Strube, 1995). Several scholars have noted that the media is a supreme force that can be influential on individuals’ perceptions in many aspects  (Azibo, 2010; Gilchrist, 2011, Speller & Moffitt, 2010, & Thompson, 2009). Furthermore, these perceptions indeed include the concepts of beauty. According to Michele Wallace 

  The black woman had not failed to be aware of America’s standard

            of beauty nor the fact that she was not included in it; television and

            motion pictures had made this information very available to her. She

            watched as America expanded its ideal to include Irish, Italian, Jewish,

           even Oriental [sic] and Indian women. America had room among its beauty

           contestants for buxom Mae West, the bug eyes of Bette Davis, the masculinity

          of Joan Crawford, but the black woman was only allowed entry if her hair was

          straight, her skin light, and her features European; in other words, if she was as nearly 

          indistinguishable from a white woman as possible. (Wallace,1979, 157-8).

     Wallace (1979) pinpointed the experiences of black women as these individuals navigate life and how standards of beauty represents resistance to black women viewing themselves as beautiful in society. However, there has been rise of  black women recovering their cultural and/or traditional of beauty in there community.

Kenny (2016) stated that the natural hair movement had spread largely in society. The natural hair movement is centered on black women embracing their natural African hair without manunpation of hair softer, dye colors, or straight combs. Or, any tool that reinforces the notion that black women should  conform  to the white standard of beauty (White, 2005) .According to Wilkerson (2007) “ without social media, the natural hair movement may never have reached the scale seen today (p. 59). However, social media is not the only mass media outlet that has discussed black women’ natural hair or the natural hair movement.  The conversation of black women hair is present in advertisements, television shows, sports, and even film.

  Purpose:

   This study explored communicative discourses in media depictions of black women’s natural hair through a graphical chronological sequence. This phenomena was explored by observing  the documentary Good Hair and Netflix’s Nappily Ever After media representation of black women’s hair dialogue. According to Banks (2000), “for black women in this society, what is considered desirable and undesirable hair is based on one’s hair texture” (p.2).  This study was relevance because  “Women of color looking for answers through an introspective gaze or through their communities in order to counter White hegemonically defined standards of beauty is not a new occurren”  (Patton, 2006, p.25). This paper discussed: (a) media representation (b) black hair (c) framing theory and (d) methodology and (e) discussion

Literature Review

Black Hair

     According to Synott (1987) hair is one of the msot powerful signifer of an individual’s racial/ethnic group a channel of self-expression.Before the Atlantic slave trade, Africans’ hair symbolized deep hertage and biblical value (Thompson, 2009).The Atlantic Slave Trade was one of the most terrfiying events in history that resulted in “11 million people, and at least 2 million more died during the middle passage” (Salas et al, 2004,p. 454). Slavery in the United States consisted of African-Americans were discriminated against because of their skin and hair texure ( Thompsom, 2009).  Black women were separted by hair texture and skin color during slavery.  Black women’s  hair texture and skin color was an indicator of whether she was a field slave ( picks cotton) or  a house slave (does domestic work (Byrd & Tharps, 2001; Thompson, 2009).  The concepts of good and bad hair were formed during the spatation of black women of light skin (wavy hair) and dark skin (woolly hair).

       According to Robinson (as cited in Banks, 2000) “black hair texture is graded—given a value ranging from good to bad. ‘‘Good hair’’ is hair that minimizes African ancestry, more reflective of a European, Native, or Asian ancestral mix within the Black individual. It is wavy or straight in texture, and more likely to belong. ‘‘Bad hair’’ is the extreme opposite of good hair—tightly coiled, thicker, and more likely to be short, clearly reflecting African ancestry” (p. 359).

According to Craig (2002), After slavery was abolished, Africans were still required to assimilate into the dominant culture, and hair straightening was one of the unspoken requirements, in order to progress in society. Blacks continued to have fear of embracing their natural hair and skin tone, because of the possibility of lack of mobility in the workplace and education (Ellington, 2015). Therefore, the straightening of hair was introduced by Madame C.J. Walker, she is the first African-American millionaire, and accused wealth from blacks who wanted to conform to white standards of beauty by the creation of the hot comb and hair softer (Byrd & Tharps,2001).  However, there was a shift of hot combs and hair relaxers during the 1900’s. Black women rejected these ways of presenting their hair because of the social movements that were going on in the 90’s ( Byrd & Tharps, 2001).

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movements advocate and create new hair norms that focused on blacks embracing their natural hair as well as equal rights. Blacks wore their natural hair to signify cultural pride and protest against racist ideologies (Ellington, 2015). However, after these social and political movements ended African-Americans returned to styling their hair with relaxers (hair softeners), hot combs, and sew-ins (Patton, 2006).

Natural Hair Movement

    During the 2000’s to present,the natural movement started to flourish and distinctively differ for the natural hair movement in the 1960’s-70s. Black women who embrace their natural hair in present society are largely growing in numbers. These women are styling their natural hair because of self- acceptance and love  (Wanjiru, 2017 & Bankhead & Johnson, 2014). According to Kenny (2018), the natural hair movement is spreading throughout the world in the last years. Hair relaxers revenue have decline 26 percent. The natural hair movement is influencing black women to discontinue the use of hair relaxers and cultivate a sense of love and embracing of their natural hair (Kenney, 2018). When some  black women in the United States started to embrace their natural hair texture and rejected the use of chemicals- they suggested the other black women should join the movement (White, 2005). When Black women in the United States started to accept their natural-textured hair. A few African-American women made a decision to stop using chemicals that changed their hair texture and advocated that other Black women should join them (Thompson, 2009).

Wilkerson (2007) claims:

         “The natural hair movement represents the first time in the nation’s

           history, that wearing natural hair is considered socially acceptable

            and has likewise risen to such popularity in the African American

            community. For this reason, alone, the natural hair movement is

   revolutionary. It is not, however, a sudden phenomenon. Due to the

          changing beauty standards in the US as reflected in mainstream media,

          the prevalence of social media in communication, and the ability of

             Black women to redefine and reassert their own standards of beauty,

             the natural the movement has gained momentum in recent years

             changing what it means to wear natural hair and what it means to be

             beautiful”. (p.57)

Wilkerson (2007) pinpointed  that social media has played a powerful role in giving black women reassure in transitioning to their natural hair. These social media websites such as Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook have cultivated a social media channels that pushes an image of acceptance of black natural hair (Wilkerson, 2007). These media tools have helped this community come together and share and learn information about hair products, styles, and more (Wilkerson, 2007). “Without social media, the natural hair movement may never have reached the scale seen today” (Wilkerson, 2007, p. 59). 

         Ellington (2014)’s article, “Social Networking Sites: A support system for African-American women wearing natural hair, she explored ways black women use social networking social as a tool to gain information and support towards styling their natural hair. Ellington (2014) qualitative study included seventeen black women who styled their natural hair to participate in a focus group.  The author found participants use SNS to gather information and support about their natural hair decisions,  close kin are  not supportive  their natural hair, and media sites are a catalyst of support  (Ellington, 2014). This article is an important piece of scholarship in the black hair literature.  This article supports the notion that social media has been a major vessel that have assisted the natural hair movement in thriving, By assists black women to  feel secure about making the decision to embrace, style, and wear their natural hair (Wilkerson, 2007). Social media websites like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and natural hair blogs have been a catalyst that gives black women social acceptance to love their natural hair (Wilkerson, 2007).

 Film Representation of Black Hair 

According to hooks (1992) “if we compare the relative progress African Americans have made in education and employment to the struggle to gain control over how we are represented, particularly in the mass media, we see that there has been little change in the area of representation” (hooks, 1992, p.1). Hooks noted that  media outlets perpetuated ideologies of white supremacy when showing  black people in media. . Upholding these systems of white supremacy, particularly in mass media creates a limited representation of black people and their blackness (hooks, 1991).

Additionally, media affects society ideas about beauty in several ways ( Thompson, 2009). Western societies are filled with notions about beauty that center in  white women’s looks and these images have been created and maintained to be deemed through media channels (Thompson, 2009 & Patton, 2006) . These media depictions do not include black women thus leaves black women’s natural hairstyles seen as unprofessional or unpresentable (White, 2005).   Media outlets distribute and reproduce ideas of beauty stereotypes that are parallel to White’s aesthetics (Ellington, 20014). Therefore, this causes black women to struggle with self-esteem, mental health, cultural boundaries (Ellington, 2014).

However, there have been a shift in media representation of black hair and/or the natural hair movement in film. Media producers have noticed that black women have embraced their natural hair media outlets have started to produce advertisements and films that are reflected in the current climate (Thomas, 2013).However, there has been a lack of films mainly  discussing black hair with the exception of Spike Lee’s films Jungle Fever and School Daze ( Banks, 2000). The lack of scholarship and empirical investigation of natural hair representation in films results in the need for exploring this phenomena. This exploration will assisting will getting equality of representation for black women.

Framing Theory

       Goffman (1974) created the framing theory which focus on assisting people on how to categorize what they perceive in day-to-day events. Goffman noted that frames are “ schemata of interpretation”  that center in assisting individuals to consider simple nuances as meaningful notion (Goffman, 1974, p.21). According to Semeko and Valkenburg (2000), inquiries dealt  with frames mainly dealt with communication such as mass media outlets. Several scholars from different disciplines have defined and/or contributed to the framing theory. Gitlin (1980) noted that frames are tools that guide how media reporters organize large amount of news and distribute them to large audiences. Furthermore, “persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation, and presentation, of selection, emphasis, and exclusion,’’ organizing the information for both the journalists and their audiences (Gitlin, 1980, p. 7). The framing theory, which is an extension of the agenda-setting theory, explores the particular way a conflict or topic is described in news media content. This framing can impact the way a conflict or topic is perceived by audience members (Pan & Kosicki, 1993)

According to Entman (1993), the approach to framing deals with the idea of perceived reality and communication within a text. Moreso, it is the idea of highlighting a certain conflict, “ causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described (p. 52).

According to Borach (2011) Gamson grew the idea of frame when the scholar stated that a frame is “central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1987, p. 143). Furthermore, a frame could be seen as an enhanced sector of discourse that is often referred to as a package. This package has symbolic tools that signify the existence of frames and policy positions ( Gamson & Modigliani, 1987).  Palmer (2002) stated that a theme is a notion that brings together semantic details to a story and/or events. In other words, a theme is centered in meaning (Chong & Druckman, 2007).The framing theory will be used to explore discourse in the two texts Netflix’s film Nappily Ever After, a movie that supports the natural hair movement, and Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, a documentary that explored the production or black hair. The purpose of this inquiry is to discover the similar and different discourse film of media producers discussing natural hair in film.

(Method)

   This scholarship will use the textual analysis qualitative methodology to explore this phenomena. A textual analysis was chosen as the purpose of this method is “to understand the ways in which members of various cultures and subcultures make sense of who they are, and of how they fit into the world in which they live” (McKee, 2003, p.1). The textual analysis involves the production of interpretation of texts. A text is considered things that humans produce meanings from (McKee, 2003).  Furthermore, the framing theory will be used as the theoretical lens to discover discourse frames about black hair in the two texts (Goffman, 1974). Gilti’s  (1980) perspective of frames will be used to guide the analysis of the texts.Gittin (1980) pinpointed that

“persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation, and presentation, of selection, emphasis, and exclusion,’’ are some ways journalist approach a news story  (p.7). This analysis will approach framing of discourse through what the way media producers decided to frame actors or interviewers and interviewee ‘ discourse about black hair.

Themes

The study explored the discourse frames about black hair in the two films Chris Rock’s Good Hair and Neflix’s Nappily Ever After. This found that ten themes were presented in the films Good Hair and Netflix’ s Nappily Ever.  They are production, financial responsibility, relationship intimacy, gender expectations, nappy hair and good hair, age appropriateness, hair is a crown, and maintenance. Below, I have listed the following themes, their descriptions and some framed discourse about hair that was found in the two texts.

                                                Chris Rock’s Good Hair Documentary

 Production

    Hair production was apart of both texts framing in discourse. The theme production entitles discourse that discusses how hair is produced in relation to marketing/sales and ownership.Below, is a discussion of hair show competition that brings in a lot of revenue in regards to hair sales.

          Chris Rock: Bronner Brothers Hair Show.Twice a year, for over sixty years, the Bronner

          Brothers have hosted this massive hair show with over 120,000 hair professionals in

          attendance,over twenty-eight major hotels booked exclusively, and over $60 million

          pumped into the Atlanta economy. 

          Bernard Bronner: My father started it sixty years ago, and the show was actually a

          seminar to teach the people buying the products how to use the products. And sixty years

          later, the number-one purpose of the hair show, to come learn how to use new products.

          Certain products, we index triple what the white market does. We’re at 12/ of the population,

          but we buy 80/ of the ha

          Chris Rock– God likes hair? – Yeah. Tonsure. That’s the word we keep hearin’. Tonsure.

          Eighty-five percent of lndia’s population have had their hair shaved at least twice in a

          lifetime in a religious ceremony known as tonsure…The hair collected here is auctioned

          off to exporters who distribute it around the planet. But its chief destination is the weave

          capital of the world, Los Angeles.

         Chris Rock- Dudley Products, a $35-million black-owned hair empire that employs

         thousands of people worldwide. Greensboro is the home of the Dudley Mansion,

         the Dudley Beauty School,Mr.Dudley himself, and, of course, Dudley Manufacturing.

         Dudley Products have been valued at up to $100 million.The plant itseLf is worth over ten.

         It employs hundreds of people and is situated on over 47,000 acre of prime North Carolina

         real estate. In short, Mr. Dudley is a nap impresario. Bad hair has been very good for Mr.

         Dudley. What’s he doing’?

 

Finanical Responsibility

   Throughout this movie text, discourse will framed that talked about the marital obligation that is required when black women decided to buy hair and up-keep their styles. Below, is a discussion with the narrator ( Chris Rock)  and hair sellers, famous entertainers, social justice advocates, and hair journalists.

         Hair Seller– The black hair business is a $9 billion business. Sixty percent to seventy percent

         of the business is the weave hair alone. The margin is 125/, 150/ percent

         Pepa– Let me tell you, them prices can go up. One of these can run you $5,000.

         Revendard Al Sharpton– You want me to go to work and invest in you puttin’ some

         hair on the back of your head that ain’t yours. I mean, I can’t even write it off on my

         income tax. Maybe I should have, as part of my dependents, your weave. ‘Cause your

         weave costs as much as some children. That’s ridiculous.

Relationship Intimacy

 

   This theme is defined as discourse that was framed that pinpointed the experiences of black women sexual life and the relationship with their hair. Below, comedians, entertainers,

Hair clients, and the narrator are participating in this conversation.

           Chris Rock– So you can’t touch your woman’s hair?

           Hair Client- Hell, no! Not a black woman, right after she get it done. ”Nigga, I just got this

           done. Now let me wrap this up before we do anything

           Chris Rock-  So if you’re makin’ love to one of these women and you want to roll

           your  hands through their hair, you just got to really put all the… Put all your effort

           in the bangs.

           Andre Harrell– My advice for men when they’re making love to a woman who has a

           weave is keep your hands on the titties. That’s probably the safest

            Hair Client– You grab it during sex, it’s going to tear the relationship’s ass up.

           It’s going to hurt the relationship, definitely, if you grab it during sex, ’cause it’s going

           to go here, there. They don’t want you pulling that tail!

           Megan Good- No. We don’t play those games. He’s got to be really special for me

           to get my hair wet. Taking a shower together could be more intimate than having sex.

 

 

Gender Expectations

    In Chris Rock’s Good Hair, media producers framed women and men conversations about hair in regards to men’s expectations and women’s expectations.

          Andre Harrell:  When you look at a woman’s hair, it’s a fantasy come true

          if they can really pull that off. So, for me, yeah, hair’s real important.

          Nia Long– A black man automatically knows, out the gate, especially if his mama’s

          black, so he’s already grown up in a household with a black woman. So he kind of

          understands the importance of getting the hair done and of the woman looking good,

          and he wants his woman to look good. Yeah, he probably has to make a bit of an

          investment in that area and just know that’s part of being a black woman, and I’m

          going to embrace that.

          Chris Rock– Now, do you seek out women with natural hair ’cause it’s more affordable?

          Men– Absolutely.

Nappily and Good Hair

 

     In Chris Rock’s Good Hair, media producers framed discourse about hair texture in perceptions of good hair and nappy. Below, conversations  that define the theme Nappy & Good Hair are listed.

        Nia Long:  Well, there’s always this sort of pressure within the black community,

        like, ”Oh, if you have good hair, ”you’re prettier or better than the brown-skinned

        girl ”that wears the Afro or the dreads or the natural hairstyle.”: The lighter, brighter,

        the better. And that’s the thing that causes great dissension within the black community

        and with black women.

        Tracie Thomas: You know,I look in the black hair books,and it’s like all the hair is

       straight.It was a hard, like, decision in the beginning. I said, ”No, I’m going to be

       Strong against all the forces ”that are going to try to get me to straighten my hair.”

Below, are conversations that are framed in the discourse of nappy. A hair stylist (Tanya) and client are having a conversation about nappy hair.

        Tanya: Well, I’m happy to be nappy. How about that?

        Hair Client: Oh, Lord. See, Tanya, don’t take it there. She doesn’t want to be nappy. No, I’m

         not saying– I  know my hair can get very coarse, but…

        Tanya (hairdresser) : Ooh, and then they try to find a better word for it. Yes! Dress it up,

         baby. It’s okay.

        Hair Client: That’s a stigma. Chris, are you listening? It’s not called bad. Nappy’s not bad.

        Tanya: Well, actually–

        Hair Client: It can still be good. It’s just nappy

Age Appropriateness

     In this section, this theme is derived on the framed discourse about children’s relationship with the ideals of hair.

              Eve– I was nine. I remember the exact day. And I was, like, ”Mama, I want to get my

              hair done.”l want a relaxer.”

              Ice- T– I relaxed my hair when I was in the tenth grade.

              Dr. Melanye Maclin-Carroll- Of course, they go to the drugstore and they see Kiddie 

              Perm. Well, a kiddie perm is really the same as any aduIt perm. It’s just milder. But it’s still

              that same chemical, that hydroxide chemical that can be very damaging. I mean, I have 

              had mothers that are starting to give their girls, their little girls perms, and they’re not even

              two years old yet.

Hair Is A Crown

       In Chris Rock’s Good Hair film, media producers framed discourse about black hair  being treated and viewed as a crown or something religious.

            Maya Angelo: Well, I would say that hair is a woman’s glory, and that you

            Share that glory with your family.And they get to see you braiding it, and they

            get to see you washing it, and they get to–It’s a glory.

            Lauren London- There is no good hair. Hair is hair. You have to embrace what

            God’s given you naturally and keep it moving.

            Tracie Thoms– Natural hair is freedom

 

        Nappily Ever After

 

     This section focused on the themes found  in the Netflix’s Nappily Ever After film. The themes that were found in text  through the lens of framing discourse are Production, financial responsibility, relationship intimacy, gender expectations, nappy & good hair, hair maitance, and hair is a crown. A description is given to all of the themes

Production

 

   This theme is defined as the way media producer framed how hair and/or hair products are being produced and/or sold in the movies. Below, the main character (Violet) is presenting a marketing pitch to a chair executive (Tyson) for her friend Will.

            Violet– Will wants women to change the way we are thinking about

             our hair. He wants us to know that there is beauty in our natural hair,

             regardless of what type of hair we have. And his product line, YOU,

             helps us bring out that natural beauty.

             Tyson– But why would I push a product that totally undercuts what I’m

              already selling?

             Violet- Listen, women can wear weaves if they want to.They can straighten

              their hair if they want to. It’s a choice. There’s nothing wrong with that.

              But we also need them to know that there is beauty in their natural hair.

              Large grocery store chains didn’t ignore the health food craze, they integrated

              it and kept their customers. The shift has already begun with hair and beauty,

              and women of color are one of the biggest markets there is for hair. Let us be

              the first to offer them something that protects,rather than destroys, their hair.

Financial Responsibility  This theme is defined by the way in which discourse about how much it cost to style or up keep black hair. Below, is a scene from the movie when Violet is wet from the water that smashed on her by playing kids.

                   Violet– Mom? Call me back.I… I can’t get into my normal salon.I need help.

                    Call me as soon as you get this.

                   Natasha- He is not proposing to you because of your hair.

                    Wendy– Violet, he loves you for who you are.

                   Natasha-  All right, all right, look. I’m going to call my hairstylist and see if she can fit

                                you in.

                   Violet– Uh, offer money.

                   Natasha- All right, how much?

                    Violet– Fifty. One hundred. Two hundred dollars to whoever has the next appointment.

Below, is a conversation between Will’s daughter Zoe and Violet. Violet is at the salon getting her hair done before her birthday dinner. This discourse are frames of how the financial part of hair is discussed in the film.

 

                    Violet– You know, it’s rude to stare.

                     Zoe– Pay me five dollars, and I’ll stop.

                     Violet– Excuse me?

                     Zoe- You just paid Jackie $200 not to get her hair done.

                     Violet– Sorry, no deal.

                     Zoe– You know, you can sponsor, like, six kids from Uganda with

                       that money you’re spending for hair.

 

Relationship Intimacy

 

Relationship Intimacy is defined as a theme that deals with how sexaual relationships and the relationship to hair is framed in the text. There were three scenes that communicated a code that centered in the premise of black hair. In a romantic scene Violet and her boyfriend Ricky are participating in romantic itntercoruse. Violet stops Ricky from touching her hair in the scene. The second scene is Ricky boyfriend were in an argument and he stated that “You don’t drink. We’ve never just got buck wild in the shower, or just acted silly together.” Thirdly, when Violet decided to loosen up and style her hair in a natural way, her Ricky boyfriend participated in sexual intercouse in the shower.                         

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Age Appropriateness  This section entitled the discuss the discourse about youth girls relationship to hair in the film. Below, is a scrence Violet discussing the looks of Zoe (Will’s daughter) hair in the hair salon.

            Jackie– Girl, she does whatever flies into her head.

            Violet– My mama would have popped me good for running my mouth  and

            having hair looking that crazy.

In this sense, Violet’s mom (Paulette) is have a conversation with Zoe.

           Paulette– Well, nice to meet you, Zoe. What a pretty dress And your hair. It’s so unusual.

           Zoe- Does “unusual” mean “good”? ‘Cause I know I look dope.

In this scene, Violet and Zoe are having a conversation about her hair.

           Zoe– My dad won’t let me perm my hair. He says the chemicals go right to your brain.

           Violet-You don’t need to do that. Now, just walk across the porch.Okay, stop. See how your

           right foot is angled out? Try to walk with your feet straighter. Stand up straighter. Hold your

           head up. Look at that, you just grew two inches!

          Violet– Sure. I always wanted braids when I was younger. But my mom never let me.

 

 

Nappy & Good Hair

 

    In this section, a discussion of hair will be discussed as it relations to the discourse frames of the text. Below, is a conversation that Will and Violet are having about black women hair decisions.

              Will-Yeah. I mean, look. What, we make up 12% of the population, right?

               But yet, we buy 70% of all wigs and weaves. What does that say?

              Violet- Mm… We hate our hair?

              Will-You hate your hair. Ever since your mama’s drug you into the shop, kicking

               and screaming, to get a perm. You know, I swear, I feel like a vet putting down

               an animal. You know, you hate to do it, but it’s part of the job. I’m just trying to

               change the world one head at a time. Starting with that one. you know, I tell her

               every day she’s beautiful. You know, but I’m battling TV, commercials, magazines,

               telling her that long, straight hair is what makes you beautiful.

Below, is a conversation between Violet and her mother Paulette.

             Violet– When I was ten, we went to some company picnics for Dad at some… park…

              and I jumped into the pool.Do you remember that?

              Paulette– Oh, Lord, I…

              Violet- My hair turned into a little fist, and all the kids were laughing at me.

              You yanked me out of the pool, shoved me into the car, and we left.And?

               I wonder who I   would be if you had just hugged me and told me I was still beautiful.

 

Gender Expectations

 

    This theme is defined on how black hair is viewed in relationship roles of black women and their partners. Below, are conversation about hair in frames of relationship perspectives. In this conversation WIll (hair stylist) is persuading a woman that embracing their natural hair is beautiful.

           Hair Client– What was I thinking?You talked me into this. This is your fault.

           Will– My fault? You want to blame me for making you look damn good,I’ll take it.

                     But  this… This is all God’s work.

            Hair Client– But brothers love long hair.

          Will– What brothers want…is a woman who’s real

 

Below, is a conversation of Violet reacting to a stylist inpropering doing her hair.

          Violet-You can think whatever you want about me right now,but in a few hours,

          my man will be proposing to me, so I suggest you go to one of those thousand

          hair supplies on this block and buy me the best hair money can buy,and figure

          out a way to attach it to my head!

 

Below, is a conversation of Violet boyfriend/fiance and her getting ready for their engagement party.

          Ricky– Just wondering if you could do something with your hair tonight.

          Violet– Like what?

          Ricky- I don’t know. Like, make it straight.

          Violet– Why?

          Ricky- I just need everything to be perfect tonight.

 

Maintenance

    This theme is about how discourse about hair up keep was presented in the text. Below, is a conversation about Violet telling her friends about how it feels to be not be consumed in her hair.

                       Natasha– Oh, my gosh.Vi, I thought Common made bald sexy,

                       but he ain’t got nothin’ on you.

                       Natasha–Mm-hmm.So, what’s it like? Waking up in the morning and

                       not having to worry about your hair.

                      Violet- I am so used to looking at myself in the mirror all the time, and now

                       I never do. It’s only when I catch somebody’s reaction that it all comes back.

Below, is a conversation that Will and Violet are having about hair.

Will-You see, most women, they tell you that they get their hair relaxed because it’s more manageable. But anybody’s hair is manageable if you got the right products. Now, my products, they take away those excuses.

Violet- Oh…Well, thank you. You know what the funny thing is? I’ve gained so much time not having to think about my hair. I mean, it was like a second job. It’s been really nice.

Below, is a conversation of Violet and her friends eating lunch outside.

Violet- Good girl. What’s the forecast?

April– Mainly sunny. Highs in the mid-70s, seven percent relative humidity, and a five percent chance of precipitation.

                        Violet- Perfect. Tell the girls, lunch on the patio is on.

                        Violet– Does that look like a rain cloud

 

(Findings)

      This study found that discourse frames about black hair are produced differently in both texts. The codes or themes that were found in the discourse of these films are production, financial responsibility, relationship intimacy, genders exceptions, nappily and good hair, age appropriateness, hair is a crown , and maintenance. This section will discuss how the framing of themes was different in each film  First, production about black hair is framed differently in the two films. In the Good Hair Film production of black hair is framed through the lens of a black-owned hair shows that brings in millions of dollars in Atlanta, a hair manufacturing company that make relaxer (sodium hydroxide) that makes millions of dollars, and the production of hair in  India. However, in the film Nappily Ever After the discussion of production is framed through the lens of manufacturing natural hair products and giving women the choice to embrace their natural hair through selling these products or add weave.

Second,  the theme Good & Bad Hair were framed differently in both films.  In the film  Good Hair discourse were presented that focused on the concept that nappy hair ( african hair) was not good hair and the energy black women put into to have hair that is straight and long. However, in the film Nappily Ever After, the good hair and bad hair center on rejecting the ideals of black women getting perms and wearing weavers. The media producers are advocating the black women embrace their natural hair.

Lastly, it is important to note that the maintenance appears heavily in Nappily Ever After film much more than the Good Hair film.  Nappily Ever After  framed discussed dealt with the occurrences when Violet (main character) would schedule lunch with her friends on the patio only after her assistant (April check the weather). Secondly, the energy Violet takes not to get her hair wet when doing day-to-day activities. Also, the theme Hair Is A Crown is not heavily presented in Nappily Ever After film but is present in Good Hair. In the film Good Hair, a discussion about why hair is so important derived at the biblical concept that hair is a woman’s glory, an experience that is shared in the black community and a gift from God that should be an expression of freedom. However, the only thing closest to the hair is a crown in Nappily Ever After is when Paulette does Violet’s hair from childhood to adulthood, however, this is not enough text to indicate that this theme was present in this movie.

 This section will discuss how the framing of black hair were discussed similarly in each text.  First, the theme of financial responsibility was presented in both texts. Furthermore, financial responsibility was discussed through the same lens. Each film discussed the notion that it illogical to spend the amount of money on women that black women spend. Second, the theme gender exceptions were framed in the same way in each film.  Good Hair and Nappily Ever After communicated that men like women (black) hair to be straight and long and that a woman’s hair is very important, especially black women’s hair.  Next, the theme relationship intimacy was presence in both of the texts.

In Good Hair there were discourse that were framed in regards to black men understand that they did not touch black women during sexual intercourse. In Nappily Ever After, a major sexual intercoruse happen when Violet refuses to allow her boyfriend to touch her hair. Lastly, the theme Age appropriateness were represented as  both similar and different in the two films. Both film discussed the inappropriateness of the kids in this text getting perms and that these perms are not necessary for the child to feel and know that he or she is beautiful or like the men in the community. However, both film discourse is framed in agreeing that a child’s hair is deemed (kept or done) when it is straight (hot comb) or relaxed ( sodium hydroxide). 

      The items found in this textual analysis communicates that there is different and similarity in how black women hair are being framed in film when considering to ten year time frame. In the next section, a discussion will be presented on what this means to the scholarship of black hair and frame discourse analysis.

(Discussion)

     The purpose of this study was to explore two films, Good Hair and Nappily Ever After discourse framed of black hair. These two films were from two different genres ( documentary and drama film) and time frame (2009 and 2018). The findings of this study suggest that there are similarities and differences in however media producers produce discourse frames of black women hair in these two concepts. Findings indicated that there has been some changes in the way media procedures frame conversations about black women. However, there are still more discourses that are represented in the way such as black men perceptions about black women’s hair. There are still expectations of black women that are embedded in whites’ standard of beauty (Byrd & Tharps,2001). 

The themes that were discovered from the media text Good Hair were gender exceptions, age appropriateness, production, financial responsibility, relationship intimacy, nappy and good hair, and hair is a crown. The themes there were discovered from Netflix’s Nappily Ever After are production, relationship intimacy, nappy and good hair, gender exceptions, age appropriateness, maintenance,and financial responsibility. The themes that were found in this study were congruent to previous studied found in of literature review.  Banks (2000) stated that black hair texture ranged from categories of good and/or bad. This found with the framing of the film Good Hair.

Next, the theme of maintenance in Netflix’s Nappily Ever After  was supported by the literature sated in R.R. Hall et al (2013), that black do not swim or partake in sports that deals with water because of their hair. This idea of black women altering day-to-day activities because of the upkeep of hair is seem heavility in Nappily Ever After text and in Good Hair when in regards to gender expectations of the do and don’ts of black women hair.

   Furthermore, the theoretical implications for this study was to highlight discourses that are present in media frames of black hair. Framing theory was a core lens in this story that largely assisted in the selecting codes that produce the themes in this study (Goffman, 1984).  The practical implications for study is to challenge media procedures to be consiuojlo of the frames that place on the conversation of black hair in films.  However, a limitation of this study is that the two texts are not in the same genre therefore discourse frames may be different if a researcher would use two documents such as Good Hair or two drama films like Nappily Ever After. Despite the limitations,  this research has opportunities such as exploring discourse frames in youtube videos of natural hair, facebook frames of supportiness in natural hair support groups on facebook. Exploring these topics can heighten the awareness hair in our society.

 

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