Hair [Olivia Coppin, UK, 2018]
The ubiquitous issue of ‘body-shaming’ seems by all means a modern one, a term that exists within a millennial taxonomy under which one could also confidently expect to find a ‘meme’, ‘selfie’ or ‘troll’. But, the sentiments to which this ‘hip’ vocabulary pertains are, of course, age-old and universally understood. In Hair, Olivia Coppin places body-shaming under the microscope and zooms in on the sociopolitical pitfalls that still occur in a postmodern world that isn’t perhaps as forward-thinking as many would have us believe.
After a colleague’s leaving party at work, Nina (played by Coppin) returns home to her boyfriend Billy, but as they prepare for sleep, she realizes she has forgotten to shave her legs. This moment plants the kernel of intrigue in Nina’s mind as to how long the hair on her legs might grow if she were to abandon shaving altogether; an initially innocent passing thought that quickly becomes something of a passion project. Nina pursues her line of experimentation, much to the chagrin of Billy, who humiliates her in the presence of friends. In a more private and ‘gloves-off’ moment, he tells her how he really feels, “What am I meant to say? ‘Oh yeah! It’s great my girlfriend wants to look like a man.’ It’s embarrassing”.
For Billy this is an unnatural and clichéd feminist statement, unworthy of praise amongst greater historic accomplishments, an indication of a skewed male perspective born out of old-fashioned cultural traditions. For Nina it is simply a matter of personal freedom and a statement of self-discovery, “It’s about me, Billy! I’m doing what I want to do for me!”
Despite its ostensibly simple premise, the film’s underlying theme is one of greater dialectical complexity, and one that is treated with balanced sensitivity by Coppin. In this respect, Hair proves to be an engaging and thoughtful take on a topical issue, delivered with an unfussy, ‘kitchen-sink’ visual style and capable performances from the lead cast.