I watched Nappily Ever After on Netflix and it touched my soul. It so correctly displayed the relationship I feel with my own hair. Cutting my hair off was a freeing experience for me but it was hard. When I initially decided to cut my hair off and go natural in high school, the natural hair movement hadn’t really taken off yet. So my new look was not accepted by the girls around me. But it was what I wanted. It was what made me feel like myself.
It took many people in my life a little while to come around to it. Especially since I don’t have type 3 curls and instead dawn type 4 coils. However, I loved it from day one. (Varying degrees of love but love nonetheless.)
Nappily Ever After really connected to my personal hair journey.
So when I was at my local book shop and saw Nappily Ever After gracing the shelf I picked it up immediately. I am aware that, more often than not, the source material differs from the screenplays but MAN I was not prepared for the difference.
While the overall themes of both are basically the same, the stories felt like completely different tales.
If you initially got to know one version and then came in touch with the other, you would be confused.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
What were some major differences between Nappily Ever After the movie + the book?
Book Violet cuts her hair off as a definitive choice.
The largest difference is the way the main character cuts off her hair.
Movie Violet (played by Sanaa Lanthan) is upset at her boyfriend after he gives her a puppy instead of the engagement ring she was expecting. So afterwards she gets super wasted and makes a drunken mistake she must live with. This mistake is driven by the pressure she feels from society to be perfect and look perfect, the centerpiece of the perfection being her hair. Cutting her hair is a big middle finger to all of society from her sunken place.
Book Violet chooses to cut her hair while she’s sober. She goes to a beautician and demands she cut it off. Book Violet comes to this decision after years of mulling it over, the situation with her boyfriend acting as the catalyst for her to take the plunge. She feels like cutting off her hair and getting rid of her perm is an act of self-empowerment.
These are two very different women.
Book Violet was thoughtful. Movie Violet was not.
When I read Book Violet’s story, I couldn’t help but feel like she was done an injustice. Her onscreen character was written as an unstable, emotional woman. And the movie made it seem like cutting your hair off was only something you do because you’re not in your right mind.
Book Violet wasn’t like that at all. I mean, she was emotional, but not in that manner. Book Violet is educated. She understands the history of Black women’s relationship with their hair and makes an educated decision to free herself from the burden of perfectionism and perms. She doesn’t make a crazy decision while she was drunk and have to live with the consequences.
But as I sat in Tina’s chair, twenty years later thinking back to all the hairstyle trials and errors, the dreams of having curly hair like Irene Cara or Lonetta McKee in the movie Sparkle, I came to only one conclusion: I was fed up. The “look” that would allow me to be accepted and privileged to walk amongst the blue-eyed angels and achieve the American dream was all a lie…It was all a fairy tail invented for little girls by some evil hairdressesr to keep us coming back every week so she could continue to pay for her nice buggy while we stayed on foot.
“Just cut it off,” I repeated. “I want it gone.”
Nappily Ever After – the book | Trisha R. Thomas
I have to regularly stand up for my hair as people think I’m crazy for cutting it off, so I’m sad that this part of Book Violet was lost. I’m also sad that the decision makers responsible for the Nappily Ever After movie decided to water down her character for the cheap laugh you get during her drunk scene.
A woman who made a sound decision to cut her hair in the midst of emotional tormoil is much edgier, admirable, and interesting than the cliche troupe of a woman who cuts all her hair off because a man scorned her.
I mean, how many times have we seen that anyways? Like, really?
Movie Clint is shallow and lacks character development
One thing that plesasntly shocked me when I read the Nappily Ever After book was the amount of depth Violet’s love interest, Clint, was given.
The movie really hones in on just Violet’s perspective and I get it. It’s easier, cleaner storytelling. It’s much easier to flesh out one character on screen than to try to follow multiple perspectives. And, it makes it easier to give the movie a clear villain for Violet to overcome.
This is unfortunate as Book Clint is someone Netflix audiences would like to have known.
Book Clint had a backstory.
He had motivations. He had character development. We got to follow him through their breakup as he becomes more self-aware and learns how to find out what he wants in life instead of letting others drag him through life. We watch him grow up and find himself.
Clint closed his eyes, and for the first time didn’t care. He was tired of being goaded into action by someone else’s expectations. He felt a big hook in the side of his mouth where he’d been caught like a fish and led around by whoever held the extended pole. It had been passed from Cedric’s hands to Venus’s with the hook and wire still intact, only this time Venus was on a speedboat. He knew removing the hook would be painful, a little scary at first .Clint couldn’t remember the last time he made a decision without consulting either one of them. But it was time.
Nappily Ever After -the book | Trisha R. Thomas
Movie Clint was just a pretty face who wanted a trophy wife.
Big, big difference and honestly the saddest loss from book to movie.
A man might have a different opinion than me but I felt like Clint was a very well-written male character, given that the author of Nappily Ever After is a woman. He felt like a guy I know. And, whenever I expected her to go the man bashing route (like the movie did) or just write him off as a douche out of touch with the world, she took the time to humanize him.
In the book, Clint wasn’t the villian. He was just a boy stepping into manhood.
Movie Clint was just a dick. He was easy to hate.
Since they stripped the story down for him to be the villain, it made a lot of since for him to just be the villain. But I do prefer the depth of Book Clint.
A lot of characters and drama from the book are left out.
There are so many characters left out of the movie and, honestly, that’s probably for the best. In the book, there’s a whole love triangle thing. There’s a lot of chauvinist stuff happening at her job. A whole situation with a powerful married man and his crazy wife that’s never fully addressed. Just so much…
While I wish Clint’s girlfriend (and his entire characterization) was pulled into the movie, I’m glad the rest was left out. It was just so much drama that the message got lost somewhere in the middle. Every now and then there would be a profound line dropped by a character. But mostly, it became about the drama of these love triangles.
I liked that the movie chose to focus on the message of empowering Black women through hair love rather than drama.
Which one is better? Nappily Ever After the movie or the book?
I don’t really have a preference. I initially loved the movie, but, after reading the book and examining the movie again, I’m not nearly as impressed. And because I loved the movie initially, the book’s story threw me off. I do think they’re both good; but they’re also both flawed.
Overall, Nappily Ever After the movie and Nappily Ever After the book are two separate, stand alone pieces.
I wish I could merge the two and then I’d have a perfect story. However, separately, they’re still great.
The juxtaposition of the book and its movie is intrinsically an ambassador of the power of storytelling. They really detail how perspective and tone impact how/what your audience receives.Subscribe to Get Book Reviews