Globalization, beauty regimes, and mediascapes in the New India

Authored by: Radhika Parameswaran

The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415527699
eBook ISBN: 9780203066911
Adobe ISBN: 9781135076955

10.4324/9780203066911.ch33

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Abstract

When black actor and comedian Chris Rock’s young daughter asks, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair,” this celebrity parent undertakes a personal journey of enlightenment, as chronicled in the documentary film Good Hair (2009), to find answers. Good Hair tracks Rock’s quest to untangle the social, economic, and historical strands of power and profit that convert hair from seemingly lifeless fiber into a pulsating and polymorphous signifier of beauty norms. Guiding viewers through a hectic itinerary, Rock visits beauty salons and barbershops, the spectacular Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta, and, finally, the Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupathi, India. Here South Indian women sacrifice their hair, thereby supplying most of the prized raw material for the global hair extension industry. During his sojourn in India, the actor-comedian and concerned father advises a puzzled young Indian woman with long, thick black hair, tamed into a ponytail, to “run the other way” if she spots any black women in the vicinity. Rock’s enactment of cruel comedy in this cross-cultural exchange portrays black women as simultaneously abject and predatory consumers of innocent Indian women’s “good hair.” The hidden raced, classed, and gendered flows of desire, dominance, commodities, and currency that fuel globalization—the economic processes that produce deeply interconnected modes of life in the industrialized world—also rise to the surface in this scene where the comedian’s joke fails to register with a potential female “supplier” of good hair in India.

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