The Movie Barbershop and the Black Image

Last week I wrote about Rosa Parks and some aspects of her activism that many people were probably unaware of.  Although I had planned to write about Paul Robeson that same week, I instead devoted two posts to Mrs. Parks because a stamp was issued in her honor last Monday on what would have been her 100th birthday.

Today I would still like to mention Mrs. Parks, but only briefly, within the context of the film “Barbershop.”  There’s a scene in this movie where about 14 people, including barbers and customers, are in a Black barbershop talking about civil rights. One of the older Black barbers, Eddie, says that Rosa Parks didn’t do anything “but sit her Black ass down” because she was tired. Eddie tells the group that she “dam sure wasn’t special” because a lot of folks had done that prior to her and were also jailed.  He says the thing that sets Rosa apart was the fact she was an NAACP secretary who knew Dr. King.  Eddie tells his listeners that Blacks need to stop lying about Rosa Parks.

Comedy or not, it was disturbing to see this movie carve out time to denigrate and diminish Mrs. Parks, and it was distressing to witness how the film portrayed Black women in general. “Barbershop” devotes considerable time to Black women being angry or strictly sex objects, and scant screen time to men treating them tenderly.  Time is alloted, however, for heterosexual men to interact tenderly with each other. Here are some examples of how Blacks are portrayed:

A Black man (Calvin) starts to leave home.  He does not kiss or even touch his pregnant Black wife (Jennifer) so she motions him over and kisses him.  I believe he briefly touches her face but he mostly keeps his hands at his side although he does smile and kiss her belly. She initiates the physical contact.

A young man gets his hair cut at Calvin’s barbershop and stiffs him, but he returns later to pay his bill.  He tells Calvin he got a job that will allow him to provide for his baby girl.  Calvin refuses to take the money and he touches the young man’s shoulder, lightly punches his chest, straightens the young man’s tie in a fatherly manner and smiles.

Calvin and Jennifer are sitting on the couch and she’s drinking hot tea.  They converse. He neither smiles at her nor touches her and when he exits the house he doesn’t kiss her goodbye.

Calvin bails his friend Ricky out of prison. Calvin smiles at him and they embrace and slap hands.

A white man drives up to the barbershop with his Black girlfriend.  They exit the vehicle, he passionately kisses her goodbye, grabs her butt and lodges his finger in the crack of her rear end.

A shapely Black woman enters the shop to pick up her young son. She bends over and all eyes are on her butt.

Terry goes to the home of her boyfriend Kevin and she discovers a woman under his bed. Terry becomes enraged.

Kevin goes to the shop to talk to Terry.  She breaks up with him.  He tells her she “ain’t even all that fine.  You’re just average.”   He says he was just with her because she was good in bed.  She pushes him in the face a few times and when she turns to leave he attempts to slug her but a man socks him.

A black woman takes a bat to what she thinks is her man’s car and she knocks out all of the windows and bashes his car in.

A man leaves a card and flowers at Terry’s locker.  They talk for about a minute in private.  She tells him the card made her feel “all gentle.”  They exchange smiles but don’t enter into a relationship.

There are at least seven Black women who make an appearance in this film and at least 12 men.  Given those odds, one would think there would be at least one decent Black love relationship where the couple affectionately interact.  Too many screenwriters employ a Black-male Black-female issue formula and a Black bro-mance formula. This film is no exception.


4 responses to this post.

  1. You’ve given me a good list of reasons to never watch that movie.


  2. My family and I recently watched that movie and picked up some of the same things. A hot mess.


    • Time’s devoted to one Black man insulting & almost assaulting a Black female, and to other men sexualizing Black females. Beyond a 60 second scene, Black females are not cherished. Very dangerous conditioning.


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