Barbershop: The Next Cut

Barbershop: The Next Cut

In Theatres: 
Apr 15, 2016
Running Time: 
112 minutes

Barbershop: The Next Cut was a surprise. It was surprise it was made and that so much of the original cast came back. It was a surprise that Kenya Barris, writer and creator for ABC’s Blackish, wrote the time film too.  The fact the film is much more a meditation on gang violence, coming together despite difference, and community activism, probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was--and it almost would’ve been pleasent too, if it weren’t for that meddling, needling, needless, tainting homophobia.

At the end of Black History Month, Blackish premiered a very special episode address police brutality and systemic racism in the age of Black Lives Matter. As much as my twitter feed had been enjoying the show, we were all a bit wary of the episode. We all wondered what would it address, what would it leave out? Would it go far enough or maintain a distance so that it could so those investors in white privilege would not feel threatened? What we got was an amazing surprise. I detailed, nuanced conversation between generations, ages, stations in life. Characters talked about emotions that run deep, have history, what is useful, what is dangerous.  I never thought a 30 minute sitcom could be so layered, moving, and absolutely reach its mark.

Much of the conversation we relished on that episode of Blackish can be seen working itself out in Barbershop. The men and women in the shop express a myriad of views and opinions on subjects of patriarchy, colorism, violence, etc. Barris makes sure you know that all black people are not monolith. I cannot recall the last time I’d seen such a variety of thought from black people on the big screen. Unsurprisingly, there are shortcuts; the feminist character, Bree (Margot Bingham), does the natural hair and at times (although not always) has beef with another character (played by Nicki Minaj)  who installs weaves.

Barbershop goes even further, including a character of Southeast Asian descent who is accepted and supportive of his black co-workers, but who also is gently reminded that his similar struggle is not the same as being black in the U.S. We may run in the same race, but we’re in different lanes and that’s OK. The inclusion of all these various ideas; characters verging and diverging, expressing opinions I agreed and disagreed with, was invigorating.  Even when tensions ran hot, the love between the characters is clear. Moreover, to see them all come together in effort to stop the violence in their community and make sure their shop is a safe space for all is inspiring.

But then there’s Jerrod (Lamorne Morris).

Jerrod is a nerdy, carefree, awkward black man who isn’t afraid to show his emotions and reactions to various topics. He provides much of the humor in the movie through his zany vulnerability. Jerrod never mentions who he’s attracted to, but there is clearly something building between him and Bree. Jerrod shows fear about having rival gang leaders in the shop. Jerrod dances when he feels good. Best of all, it seems he is comfortable with being different, until someone at the shop questions if he’s gay; and it keeps happening. Even when Jerrod asks Bree out on a date, he is very concerned with seeming gay and seeking confirmation that does not.  With this Jerrod’s refreshingly non-traditional masculinity is shown to be nothing other than the usual, patriarchal, fragile identity that so many man carry.

This obsession with not appearing/not being gay sets everything about Barbershop back 10 steps.  You cannot have a film about liberation and unity while vehemently telling a segment of people that they don’t have a place in your revolution to get free. The exclusion and erasure of any gay people in a Barbershop/Beauty Shop is ludicrous enough to begin with, but this outright rejection just adds insult to injury. Not only does it taint everything with disgusting bigotry, but it gives life to the stereotype that black people are more homophobic than other groups of people. It turns what could be an uplifting antidote to Chiraq into an utter failure.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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