Documentary DVD released by Palm Pictures
Directed by Jennifer Arnold; Produced by Tom Gorai,
Dorka Keehn and Allison Hebble
On Camera Host: Mathew Bose
Not rated; 52 minutes.
American Mullet has a lock on the best documentary
about hair that I've ever seen, an honor only slightly less
valuable for it's being the only documentary about hair I've
ever seen. But don't be distressed: like the short-in-front,
long-in-back hairstyle it celebrates, American Mullet
is actually an interesting combination (please note that "interesting"
doesn't always mean "attractive.")
The film starts out with a tone of affectionate disbelief,
something on the order of "can you believe what some
people have coming out of their skulls?" But as director
Jennifer Arnold and on-camera interviewer Mathew Bose talk
to more and more people sporting varieties of the sh'long
(short and long), these mulletheads show that they have something
interesting inside their heads as well.
As the hair wars of the 1960s and 70s demonstrated, how you
wear your hair can be a significant statement of who you are,
what group you belong to, your political affiliation and your
sexual orientation. More permanent than clothing, more obvious
(and less painful) than tattoos and body piercings, more malleable
than skin color and features, hair says something about you
before you've spoken a word.
American Mullet makes the point that hockey hair is
more than just a badge of white trashiness or a rock 'n roll
affectation. The mullet, also known as the mud flap, is associated
with a wide range of groups: country and western singers and
fans, lesbians, bikers, blue-collar workers, Native Americans,
Mexican men and soccer players.
Some of those interviewed are self-consciously and post-modernly
aware of all the mullet's connotations, including a club kid
who likes to wear non-matching, ugly clothes that actually
look good on her, as well as a drag king whose persona is
a mulleted, mustachioed break dancer.
A mulleted dyke who leads a gay and lesbian marching band
revels in the hair connection between people who may have
little else in common, like lesbians and blue-collar workers.
A Native American woman notes that her long back hair is her
way of honoring her ancestors.
I'm making this short, rather sweet documentary sound heavier
than it is. Several of the interviews are with people who
just like the style, including a DJ in a country/western bar
and another guy who gets a great ego boost from his resemblance
to former country sensation Billy Ray Cyrus.
Another thing that's nice about this film is that it's short
(less than an hour) and to the point. Unlike many other documentary
and fiction filmmakers, the makers of American Mullet know
when to cut - even if their subjects often don't.