LOS ANGELES (AP) – Several scenes in the movie “Bad Hair” were so gruesome that some cast members secondly suspected their own use of hair weave or extensions.
The dark comedy horror is “just a movie,” they say, but the story’s underlying messages of damaging hair weave and false beauty standards for black women had a lasting effect.
The film, a period piece set in 1989, follows an ambitious young woman who – after being criticized for her haircut – gets a long weave to succeed at her music television network. Eventually, she discovers that her newly applied hair is possessed, taking over her body and harming others.
“Bad Hair,” out on Hulu Friday, has certainly left an impression on Emmy-nominated actor Laverne Cox, who thought twice while wearing her 28-inch lace-up wig after watching an early screener of the movie.
“I was just shocked by this hair on my head,” said Cox, who plays Virgie, a mysterious hairstylist. “There is something bizarre when you think about it.”
Hair extensions are usually cut, glued or sewn into natural hair. A weave is a popular method in which hair wefts are sewn onto braided hair and styled in any way. Lace-front wigs can be applied with tape or glue. The hair can be synthetic or human.
“For example, I wear someone else’s hair,” Cox continued. “Something like that literally made someone grow. If you break it down and think about it, someone probably harvested it, shipped it and processed it. After watching this movie, it’s hard not to be confronted with it.”
Elle Lorraine, who stars as Anna, said she struggled to watch her character’s gruesome scene get her screwed in the head while she was clearly in pain and discomfort.
“That was the hardest scene for me to watch because I feel the trauma the character is going through,” she said. ‘It’s literally sewing someone’s hair into your head. It’s a movie, of course. … But the trauma I experienced from looking at it every time just reminds me of something about what I’m taking myself through and how I want to move on with what I’m putting into my body. “
Lena Waithe, who plays Brook-Lynne, said the film touches on the issue of workplace compliance through the main character and her new boss.
“When you work in an office where everyone is mean, you are also often mean to be part of the crowd,” Waithe said. “It’s really about energy and how a person can come in and transform the whole office based on what they want and what they want to be surrounded by. … It’s more about what kind of environment you want to create in a workspace. The person at the top is what the rest of the company looks like. “
Filmmaker Justin Simien said the idea of ”Bad Hair” came to him after watching a few Asian horror movies about demonized hair. He then thought to himself, “Why isn’t there an American version of this?”
“Some of my favorite horror movies are psychological thrillers,” said Simien, who directed and wrote Netflix’s Dear White People. “The truth of the Black American experience is that without supernatural things it is already pretty gruesome.”
From there Simien conducted his research. He said the writing process started with talking to some of his best friends who are black women. He invited several of them to a retreat in Palm Springs, California, where he learned more about their plight in corporate America.
“As a black queer filmmaker, telling female stories is my way of connecting with popular culture,” said Simien, who named a number of characters after his mother and sisters. “I wanted to speak with an experience that I saw as an ally from my point of view. But I have never literally walked in those shoes. “
Lorraine believes that Simien conveyed the perspective of a black woman in an excellent way, while challenging social norms.
“It’s about beauty ideals buried in European ideas and European looks,” said Lorraine. “This is confronting. It thinks about it out loud. It’s wrapped in comedy and folklore. … We look at colorism and the stereotypes of how we define it. Many definitions that have been given to us, such as assuming what we have given ourselves, we take back. “
Follow AP Entertainment writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31