Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

Queerguru’s shaven head Contributing Editor Andrew Hebden reviews MANSCAPING : an intimate story about mens hair


Having shaved his own head from the age of 13 this reviewer almost coughed up a furball when Queerguru’s Editor in Chief suggested that this documentary about hair was for me. Turns out this one-hour film, ostensibly about the barbershop, has more to say about the breadth of LGBTQ+ experience than you might expect.

The documentary is structured around three voices The first is that of Devan Shimoyama, an artist from Pennsylvania. As a black gay man, the barbershop presented multiple challenges. Barber shops have always been considered the Black Man’s Country Club, a black male empowered space of debate, community, and celebration.  A heartbeat of #Black Excellence. Yet within these spaces, he feels they represent only a certain type of black masculinity that rejects his sexuality. The alternative, a barbershop that sees itself as catering to Caucasian customers’ hair, makes him feel equally ostracized. He translates these issues into his art. Using collage, he concocts passionate images of beautiful black, queer hair using materials like enamel and crystal that more often end up on drag queens than on canvas. 

The second voice is from the owner of Big Bro’s Barber shop. As a trans man he has always struggled to find somewhere he could comfortably have his hair cut. Hair, being such a performative aspect of gender, always put him in situations where his trans identity was front and center, for the wrong reasons. The expectations of the traditional barber are often as demanding as the expectations of their customers. To combat this, he became a barber himself. He felt his comfort with his gender expression would attract an inclusive trans customer base that was not being serviced elsewhere. The most radical part of his business is not, however, its recognition of trans identity. His business model embraces the fact that trans people struggle to find work due to prejudice and therefore are, by default, lower income. So, he employs dynamic pricing at the three levels of Default, Accessible and Generous so that his customers can either receive a subsidy or subsidize their fellow customers. This is particularly attractive to some customers who feel they pay a ‘No Penis Tax’ when they have to pay more to get a short hair cut at a women’s hairdresser for more than a barber would charge. 

On a totally different note, the third testimony is from the Naked Barber, who could not be called anything other than Dick. Preaching a philosophy of acceptance and self-love he cuts, trims, and waxes hair from all parts of the body. In a semi-fantasy experience, his customers can either sit in the barber chair or hoist themselves into his sling to make their nooks and crannies more easily accessible. It taps into the intimacy of the barber experience where someone receives half an hour of attention from someone who is determined to make them look and feel as good as possible. It is an odd meeting of porn fantasy and the basic desire to be recognized and valued as an individual. The barber’s nudity also helps his customers overcome any unwanted feelings of vulnerability and self-consciousness they might have. Supposedly. This particular barber didn’t build his success on just his inner beauty. But, hey, we are all out here hustling. 

Manscaping succeeds because it introduces so many elements of the LGBTQ+ experience through a single vantage point. Racism, sexism, economic disadvantage, the struggle for self-love and acceptance are explored via hair without lecturing or condescension. The three voices smartly manage to express listening, which is what fifty percent of talking should be.

Manscaping is directed by Broderick Fox and will be screening at Queer Screen’s 29th Mardi Gras Film Festival in Sydney



Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing, and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement, he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre, and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.

Posted by queerguru  at  16:52


Genres:  documentary, international

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