by Zani Tsabedze
Nappily Ever After is a Netflix romantic comedy about a woman named Violet, who aspires – more than anything – to get married and live the “perfect” life that her mother raised her to believe she needs to live. She is obsessed with appearing to be perfect at all times and tries to maintain a standard, mainstream ideal of what a beautiful woman is. The film touches on some political issues regarding black women’s hair and the way we navigate the dynamics of our hair as black women.
However, if you are hoping for anything more than a romantic comedy, then you may be disappointed. The movie was marketed quite directly as a movie about hair. Even the name of the film is a fun Afro-style twist on the term “happily ever after”. But those who may have already read the book will already know that this isn’t as much a hair story as it is a story about a girl who has dating issues and happens to have a bit of a hair issue attached to it.
The movie includes voice-over narration by the main character. This is usually likely to happen when a movie is adapted from a novel. I personally don’t like this at all, I think it takes the viewer out of the story and makes us immediately aware of the fact that we are watching fiction. Whereas when you just watch a story play out, it’s easier to be immersed in the story and feel like you’re there with the characters. Voice-over narration almost feels like we’re being read a bedtime story. They aren’t really necessary as there are always other creative ways to communicate messages to an audience, through images, action, conversations between characters etc. But the film makes up for it by making good use of subliminal imagery, e.g. having the little girl play with a white Barbie doll’s silky hair whilst she goes through the painful process of getting her hair straightened with a hot comb.
The film is divided into different chapters and phases similar to the book. It successfully captures the essence of how black women can express themselves through their hairstyles. Violet’s wig phase showed how different wigs can bring out different personas in a woman.
A pure drama may have been more impactful for this subject matter. Most of the jokes in this comedy didn’t really have impact and the fact that it is a comedy almost gives it an excuse to gloss over some of the important issues regarding the “natural hair” conversation. It’s okay for a black film to just be a fun romantic comedy that doesn’t deal with political issues – it wouldn’t be fair to demand that all black movies be about making statements. We should be allowed to be as diverse in our genres and topics as“white” films. But the marketing of this movie focused very heavily on the conversation of black women’s hair, which is very political at the moment. It’s even been classified as a movement. It comes with an understanding of the history of African hair and is linked to all sorts of oppressive ideologies.The science of black hair is complex and we are still in the stage of discovering and learning to understand the texture of our hair without chemicals in it. This story had the opportunity to explore that a bit further and it just didn’t at all.
So the main issue is that it seems to be trying to be all about black women’s hair but it merely incorporates hair in quite a vague and subtle way. We wanted more. We wanted to really connect with her struggle and maybe even learn something. But a lot of black women found that at times, we couldn’t even really relate to Violet all that much. The most relatable character in the movie is actually a little girl named Zoe. She’s the easy-going, charismatic and funny daughter of the “natural hair” hairdresser.
What we at Girl Boss appreciate most about this movie is the moral of the story that is delivered at the end. It teaches that the self-worth of a woman should not be determined or dictated by men, but by herself. We echo the ideal that beauty comes from within. A Girl Boss does not seek validation from others.
Girl Boss rating: 5/10