Hair places

Marvel’s ‘She-Hulk’: Why Does Her Hair Straighten When She Hulks Out?

Tatiana Maslany wears a sparkly dress as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk

A new clip from Marvel’s She-Hulk Disney+ series came out a few days ago, showing off some of the new powers that Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) gains when she hulks out. The clip looks awesome! This show is going to be a lot of fun. There has, however, been some criticism of Jennifer’s Hulk form, mainly that she’s not muscular enough. I’m afraid that, after seeing two trailers and the new clip, I need to add to the criticism: I wish Jennifer’s hair didn’t lose most of its curl when she becomes She-Hulk.

You’ll admit that the curly-to-wavy transformation is weird, right? There’s no logical reason for it. When she’s in her normal form, Jennifer’s hair is curly (I’d say between a 3A and 3B texture, same as mine), but when she transforms, it suddenly lengthens and relaxes into a completely different texture. What on Earth? Why? I know that’s what She-Hulk looks like in the comics, but if you’re letting curly-haired Tatiana Maslany keep her natural texture in her human form, why change it when she’s a hulk?

The most likely answer is something that curly haired people, especially women, are all too familiar with. According to Western beauty standards, straight hair (with maybe some gentle waves) is considered ideal. Take, for example, Rapunzel and Mother Gothel in Disney’s Tangled: Rapunzel’s long blond hair makes her beautiful, while Gothel’s dark curly hair establishes her as the evil “other.” Straight hair—that is, white people’s hair—is the standard against which all other hair types are judged.

Black people, especially Black women, are intimately familiar with this type of racism. Marita Golden writes about it in her essay “My Black Hair.” She describes getting her hair straightened with a hot comb, trying to avoid “that awful, horrible place where my hair was on my head in its natural state, not hurting me or anybody else, but coarse, tightly curled, and, to the eyes of so many around me, unacceptable …. I was not to face the world until my hair looked as near as it could to ‘good hair,’ also known as ‘White girl’s hair.””

The vast majority of our culture’s anti-curl venom is directed at Black women, but other curly-haired people get some of it, too. I say this from experience, as a Jewish woman. When my hair first started growing in curly during puberty (that happens a lot, actually—one of my stylists called it the “puberty perm”), the pressure to straighten it quickly reached a fever pitch. Kids called me names and ostracized me at school. I mean, they got bizarrely angry about my hair.

Grownups asked if I’d stuck a fork in a light socket. Women encouraged me to use chemical straighteners and sleep with my hair wrapped in tomato cans. Once, I found a curly haircut in a magazine and my mom brought me to a stylist to try to replicate it. Instead, the stylist gave me a blowout and then bragged about how straight she’d gotten it. Grownups claimed to love curly hair, but talked out of both sides of their mouths. “Oh, you’re blessed with natural curls!” they’d coo. “Now change your hair completely!”

Part of the problem was that I didn’t know there were any hair products for curly hair, so my hair was always dry, brittle, and frizzy. Even now, when I want to get something as simple as cleanser, I have to go to specialty stores or the tiny section of the drugstore set aside for textured hair. If I want to get a haircut from someone who’s trained to cut curly hair, I have to pay twice as much. Curly hair is not considered normal.

So, to see Jennifer’s hair lose most of its curl, and then watch her friends in the trailer tell her how great she looks? It’s disappointing, and something I’ve seen way too many times.

Will She-Hulk explain why Jennifer’s hair changes so much? Will they at least hang a lampshade on it? Maybe. And look, I’m still going to love this show. I’ll still shout “HULK SMASH! GET IT, GIRL!” everytime Jennifer does something awesome. But I’ll be quietly mourning the curly-haired She-Hulk who could have been.

At least I’ll still have my beloved Layla El-Faouly, a.k.a. Scarlet Scarab, who has the best hair in the entire MCU.

(featured image: Marvel)

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