American Mullet

Review by Adam Blair

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.

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