Collective Connections: A Barbershop For Everyone
By John Bucher (@johnkbucher)
There remain a few human connections we all share in our ever-changing journey of cultural and technological advancement. We all eat. We all drink. We all sleep. We all search for relationship with another person. One of the other lingering cords binding us all together is the occasional need to deal with the hair that grows on our head. At some point in everyone’s life, we must make decisions about how much of it to keep and how much of it to remove. For some, as we age, those decisions become fewer and further between. However, the rite of passage in having another person help you deal with removing your hair transcends cultures, countries, socio-economic classes, and every political stance one could dream up. We are all bound by the strands that push through our scalp and reach toward something above us.
The Barbershop franchise celebrates and examines this reality. Western thinking tends to overlook and dismiss truth disguised as comedy, especially when that comedy exists outside the cultural comforts one holds. But, for the record, let me say this – Barbershop: The Next Cut is the truth. I’m thankful that the courage exists within the Black community to create a film like this, because to be frank, White culture doesn’t have it in them right now and it’s a film America needs. Rarely can we digest laughter, pain, and truth in the same setting. The film takes on highly political issues without being condescending or even making them feel political. Guns, gangs, zoning, racism, political corruption on both sides of the aisle, difficulties between fathers and sons, peer pressure, sexual politics – all are given serious dialogue in Barbershop, yet it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling alienated by the film’s discussion. Instead, we are welcomed into the discourse. Don’t misunderstand. Some of the most trying issues America has faced in recent years come up in Barbershop. But these potentially divisive topics are being discussed exactly where they should be – in the place we all gather to share our common needs. Barbershops are wonderful metaphors. They represent churches, schools, and even halls of government in many ways – the places where these things need a greater level of discussion.
Creating art that dares to enter in to timely topics usually fails. Often, the seriousness of the problems associated with the issues drives the creators to fence themselves into the genre of drama – a genre that the masses purposefully sometimes avoid. Smart artists with something to say know that comedies, horror films, and action movies are actually better vehicles for mass culture communication than small independent fare, though both are certainly needed. My heart swelled as I heard Ice Cube tell his son he loved him in the film. I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness as I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had heard a Black man say this to his son in a movie. And that’s truthfully because Black men don’t usually get the opportunity to say that in films. Our culture is far more comfortable watching a Black man embody a stereotype that assures our subconscious worldview about who Black men are. And that has to change. Black men love their sons too, and it’s important we see that on screens. But it cannot and will not change if films where moments like this occur don’t produce box office gold.
The risk Black filmmakers run when creating a movie like this is that audiences outside their own community may write it off as “not for them.” If we are ever to move beyond the sorts of racial, spiritual, and cultural problems America seems to continually manifest, we (White people, like myself) need to be willing to step into other communities – but not to “help” or “change things”. We need to be willing to simply listen to other voices. We can help – but only when asked to and only in the ways we are asked to. If you really want to help, put your money behind movies like this. Head to the Barbershop this weekend. Get a fresh cut and walk out changed.
Barbershop: The Next Cut is playing in theaters nationwide.