Why Must We Be "Nappily" Ever After??
Today in the family group chat my cousin recommended everyone watch the movie Nappily Ever After on Netflix. So I watched it… and now I have all these thoughts rumbling through my head… And I just feel need to explain why I loved the message of the movie but disliked some of the storyline.
First, a short summary to provide some major points in the movie so that you will be able to understand my discussion. I will not reveal everything but if you do not want me to spoil the movie for you then you should definitely watch it before reading my post.
For those who do not know Nappily Ever After is an American romantic comedy (which I think is not a fitting category) film based on the novel of the same name by Trisha R. Thomas. (I have not read the novel but after watching the movie I am curious to read it.) The film begins depicting the protagonist Violet, played by actress Sanaa Lathan, as a successful black woman who has her whole life together. Great job, great boyfriend, beautiful long straight hair – sounds like a perfect life, right? The movie then progresses into an incident of Violet being extremely disappointed on her birthday because her boyfriend did not propose to her. The absence of a proposal then leads to a dramatic break up. Subsequently, following the break up she begins to struggle in other areas of her life as well, such as work and losing her beautiful hair by a mishap at a salon. Impulsively, Violet makes a drastic change to her hair as a symbol of her realizing that she has not been living her life to her fullest potential.
Okay so now that you have the gist of the plot, allow me to vent my thoughts, please and thank you.
Admittedly, overall this film does a great job of creating the message that there is essential importance in loving yourself and being able to freely express yourself as well. However, the events leading up to the main character’s enlightenment just kind of left me slightly unsettled. The first thing that bothered me about this film was Violet’s mother Paulette, played by Lynn Whitfield (sidebar: why does Lynn Whitfield always play a wicked character in every movie she acts in!?! lol). Paulette was obsessed with the idealism of having a perfect image, which she then consciously embedded into her daughter Violet. Violet grew up with a mother that routinely coached her to always keep it together and display a spotless public image, especially with the appearance of her hair. Now I totally understand that the point of this aspect is to establish a rapport of why Violet feels as if she has to upkeep this perfect image. But, I was just so annoyed that this woman was completely brainwashed into being obsessed with keeping her hair long and straight while habitually illustrating this cookie cutter “ideal” life. I completely cringe at the scene of Violet getting out bed early in the morning before her boyfriend woke up just to have her mother come over to her house and straighten her hair. Right here we already see a certain standard of beauty, which I personally rebuke. If there are women in the world who actually go to the ends of the earth in order to upkeep a certain look for a man, sweetheart let me give you a hug and let you know that perfection is miserable and eventually, just like Violet, you will burnout. Black women really deserve better storylines than the typical girl who learns to love herself from a relationship, hair or anything else external that other people think make us who we are. Like we get it, this story has been told before over and over again and now we would like to progress through life to better things.
Now on the other hand, I LOVED the break up scene when Violet’s boyfriend explains to her that she is to perfect and does not know how to relax and have fun. I love this scene because it pinpoints Violet’s flaws. I think awareness of our flaws is important because there is beauty in imperfection and power in the ability to grow and evolve those flaws into fascinating attributes. It bothered me that Violet’s epiphany was centered around her realationship status, the break up and the appearance of her hair because those are external factors that should be influenced by her happiness instead of her happiness being influenced by them. However, the symbol of Violet drastically changing her hair as she begins to realize that she is not living her best life is definitely relatable. I myself have had phases in my life when I decided to impulsively cut or dyed my hair and in that moment I did not realize that the change I wanted was not physical but was related to me wanting to alter my current circumstances.
One last point I want to highlight is the subtle reoccurring theme of natural hair becoming a growing market that should be embraced. I totally LOVE and support this notion!! There is nothing wrong with having long straight hair and there is nothing wrong with having puffy coiled curls. There is beauty in diversity, which is why women switch up their hair so much. My mother, who is a cosmetologist, always taught me there is no such thing as good hair. Your hair will grow and be healthy as long as you take care of it. I STRONGLY dislike the word nappy (which is used in the title) because it has a degrading connotation, especially when it is being used to describe African American hair. If there is any black woman around you right now while you are reading this, I want you to go to her and regardless of whatever hairstyle she is rocking verbally tell her, the crown (yes I said crown!!) on her head is gorgeous!! So if it was up to me I would alter the title just a little bit but then again controversy brings ratings, so you all can see why my thoughts are kind of divided.