Set in 1976, this movie features the staple afros, braids and other various styles of black hair at that time. The interesting thing of note is that the family of Drew Tate, the main character in the movie, is depicted as working class and activist. The father wears a Black Panther beret and his sister-in-law calls him “Black Panther”.
Class is played out in this story through hair where you have Drew’s mother wearing braid extensions wrapped African style with a scarf, before Bo Derek made them popular, as well as Drew’s father covering his afro with a Black Panther beret. On the other hand, you have the bourgeoisie family Drew is going to be staying with for the summer for 14 days with his aunt’s hair in a relaxed Barbie Doll hairstyle, and the uncle wearing more “American” head gear that looks like a golfing cap. The class difference is accentuated between the two men with the Black Panther guy wanting to shake the Golf Cap guy in a black way, and the Golf Cap saying “This is America” and shaking his hand in a traditional manner.
Drew Tate is depressed about being at Inkwell Beach until he sees a vision of what he obviously views as loveliness out of his window. A girl with hair longer than most black women I know is dancing on the beach and the wind is blowing in her hair. An extremely typical scene of female beauty and seduction.
The hair infatuation is continued when Junior (Drew’s cousin) and Drew see three black girls on the Inkwell Beach (which is an all-black beach), Rachelle says hello to them. Junior points them out, Rachelle is medium skin toned with short hair, Sheila is dark-skinned with longish hair and Darlene in back of them is light-skinned with long hair. The only one Drew comments on is Darlene.
Drew is also seeing a shrink and mental has problems. The Black Panther guy rejects his son Drew seeing a psychiatrist.
The Golf cap guy takes his cap off for the first time in the movie as he talks with the beret guy about Malcolm X, who he sees as a demi-god and a charlatan. His hair is cut very low, very conservatively. Black Panther beret is called Kenny (Kenneth) Tate, Drew’s father. Golf Cap is named Spencer.
Junior and Drew go to a party with two of Junior’s friends and the first girl Junior chooses to dance with has a long ponytail and is medium-skinned in colour. And when Drew goes up to a group of girls to ask for a dance, he asks the girl with the longest hair, who rejects him. Later he tries to ask the girl from the beach to dance whose hair is so long she tosses it from one side of her chest over to the other.
The psychiatrist is wearing a head wrap and dressed in African garb with a bunch of cuckoo clocks in her office.
Every girl Drew takes interest in has long processed looking hair, even though this is supposed to be taking place in 1976 when afros were widely worn by both men and women. Every guy seen with a girl has long hair. Even Drew’s mother is wearing a form of long hair with her husband.
The boys go to Jungle Beach because it’s a nude beach. Drew bumps into a black man with a white woman. The ultimate in many black man’s fancy. The next scene follows Drew with the dreadlocked psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist has some beautiful locks that Drew likes because they’re different. The psychiatrist takes out a comb and starts doing Drew’s hair while they talk. This is the kind of therapy that I would love. She gives Drew a really nice neo-dread hairstyle. And they spend time talking about the fire he started in his house. It’s like the hair signifies some type of healing and renewal from the psychiatrist to the patient.
Lauren Kelly, the dancer who Drew fancies did a Christie Barbie Doll commercial when she was young. She looks the type who would do a commercial like that.
Spencer and Kenny come to blows because Spencer doesn’t think that Kenny can play tennis. He comments that he shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This is an important thing to note about style over substance. A crucial topic of this thesis.
The dreadlocked psychiatrist is still seen without a man in her life, just having different hair and education.
Drew sleeps with a long-haired married woman but when he goes and says goodbye, he goes to the psychiatrist to thank her. It’s like this message is that all he needed was some sex to be alright.
Mother of Drew named Brenda Tate.
Heather Lee is the woman Drew slept with. Spencer Phillips is the uncle and his wife, Brenda’s sister, is named Francis.