Méduse, Cheveux Afro et Autres Mythes (Medusa, Afro-hair and other myths) is a very short documentary by Johanna Makabi and Adèle Albrespy, who travel to London, Paris, Dakar and Marseille and ask Black residents about their experiences and thoughts concerning black hair.
Chris Rock did this in his 2009 documentary, Good Hair, but his focus was on Black Americans. However, their stories are similar to Black Americans in how, from a very early age, it was ingrained into many Black people’s minds that that straight hair was seen as more preferable, if not desirable.
Makabi and Albrespy interview a handful of women and men who all share similar experiences of being young and seeing their kinky curly hair as bothersome and longed for straight beautiful hair instead. Some of the men interviewed said that straight hair was prettier to touch because it was so soft. That mentality is something that is ingrained into many young and impressionable minds: to have the straightest of hair so that one is considered beautiful, and what led to the United States producing $9 billion in black hair products.
The “good hair” wish is a staple in the Black community, because having soft and straight hair meant a form of acceptance that also needed no explanation to anyone outside of the straight-haired community. People understand straight hair, so when a person with straight person goes to the salon, they don’t have to ask and seek out someone who understands their hair. They don’t have worry about getting a new hairstyle and then having to give a mini-lecture to groups of their friends and peers about what is going on with their hair. They also never have to constantly say “please don’t touch it.” They don’t have to worry about going “all natural” and getting bombarded with stares, questions, disbelief and glares from their peers and strangers. One of the women in the documentary even talked about finally cutting off her chemically-damaged hair and sporting a short afro, only to be ridiculed by her family and friends.
As noted in the documentary, this comes from generations of being told that black hair was unattractive and leading to black people hiding their hair under wraps or scarves or make it more Eurocentric, so that it would pass in society.
Meduse shows how hard this can be for many Black women, especially those who have hidden behind their hair their entire lives. One woman says that she learned to style her hair herself, but still gets weaves (which can be just as damaging) and stated that no one has ever seen her natural yet damaged hair, except for her hairstylist. Another woman mentions that she hadn’t really seen her natural hair and wasn’t sure what to do with it, but eventually figured it out. And, a man interviewed said that he gets constantly made fun of for sporting his “Jackson 5” afro.
It is a process for many Black women to have to rediscover their own hair when deciding to go natural. However, the natural hair movement has helped the transition, with many websites popping up to give some guidance to those who decide to go natural, especially in societies where Black hair is still seen as substandard. Meduse also touches on the political aspect of black hair, from going natural to the U.S. military (who just rolled back restrictions on styles a few years ago). The movement seems to be making its mark in the United States as well, with a rise of Black hair products and a decrease of chemical straightening products and relaxers. This acceptance has helped the movement grow and become more common in Black communities. Essentially, Meduse is about embracing and loving all of yourself hair included.