CultureFilm / TVSex & Gender

watch your local barbershop get a black queer makeover

January 11, 2019
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Desiring escape is such a queer circumstance. I recall most of my childhood being about escaping a situation and breaking into a more warm, queer-friendly atmosphere. One of the main locations of my queer discomfort was the barbershop. The barbershop is where many Black people go to refine their roles in Black life. There’s just nothing more Black mother than seeing a Black mother entertain her sons as they wait to get a haircut.There’s nothing more Black man than the hand slap that shows both strength and exchanges money. The discourse around the daily happenings in America — all perspectives steeped in a Black care and perspective — is loud and rhythmic. The barbershop was my radicalization into a Black normal. This would be exciting if I were not an odd, queer, strange, eccentric, transgressive — you get the point. As much as I edited my queer performance, the Barbershop has always been a place where I’m hyper-aware of my otherness and my failure to properly train the details of who I am how to behave normally.

Buzzed, a short film written and co-directed by Michael Jemison is described as “a colorful film and photo series that re-envisions the black barbershop for queer Black people.” The short film breathlessly uses polarizing atmospheres and aesthetic to clearly define the difference between the Black straight reality and the Black queer fantasy. The struggle and journey following the main queer character into their own barbershop experience that, through a pile of butterflies, transformed into a queer paradise. The Stylistics’ “People Make The World Go Round” is the soundtrack to this queer revelation that could take place on any MLK Boulevard.

Representation itself can’t be radical; showing a thing can’t be seen as inherently revolutionary. It’s the messages and ideas being transported by these representations that are of the most importance. Buzzed represents Black queerness, but it also grappled with Black queer topics, fears, and thoughts that may only entirely be understood by those who have experienced it.

And this is what makes Buzzed an exciting experience: it offers those it represents an artistic catharsis by seeing our anxieties and fantasies play out in a way that feels controlled and inspired by us. It also makes people who are accustomed to the Black normal to think about things outside of the limits of their own experience and create empathy for the queer experience that happens inside a day you might see as mundane.

Michael Jemison’s creation of “Buzzed” and their other work is shaping to look like one of our great auteurs with such a strong grip on storytelling, atmosphere, and the casual pleasure and horror that comes with being both queer and Black — and in need of a line-up.