THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"AMERICAN MULLET"

There are two types of people in the world: those who think mullets are cool, and those who think they are ridiculously out-of-fashion. (I am in the latter group.) For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, a mullet is a haircut that combines close-cropped hair on top and long hair down the back. It is commonly associated with rednecks, lesbians, and heavy metal fans. I live and work in central Pennsylvania, so I have seen a lot of mullets in my day. Although it’s just a haircut, there is a certain undeniable curiosity about the mullet. Why does it refuse to die? Filmmaker Jennifer Arnold set out to learn more in her fresh, funny documentary American Mullet, now available on DVD.

The filmmaker interviews a variety of people who have the haircut (which is often described as “business in the front, party in the back”). One guy wears his because he already looks like country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and wants to capitalize on that. The other theories are about as diverse as you can get. A nightclub DJ is quoted as saying some women like men with mullets because they actually have repressed desires “ to be with a woman.” Dating a mullet-wearing guy allows these repressed homosexual feelings to come out. O-kay.

A number of mulleted lesbians are also interviewed. One declares (somewhat insightfully) that the mullet is “both butch and feminine” at the same time, hence its popularity among the lesbian community. Another suggests that it is “genderless,” thereby transcending sexuality and allowing the wearer to enter a more androgynous zone. Someone also points out the irony that the mullet is most seen on “working class white guys and lesbians – two groups you’d think would have nothing in common.”

The film also allows mullet-haters to speak. The idea of it being a genderless haircut doesn’t fly with everyone. One guy advises mullet-wearers to “make up your fucking mind.” We also meet a hairdresser who is so appalled by the mullet that he refuses to give it to customers.

American Mullet is a gentle documentary. Unlike many non-fiction films, it doesn’t make any pretense of exploring something dramatic or socially relevant. It is a fun documentary, aiming only to provide insight into a haircut that has moved beyond fad into cultural permanence. The people who speak about the mullet –pro and con – run the gamut from being eloquent to being somewhat odd. What’s clear, though, is that many of the mullet-wearers interviewed in the film shatter the mullet stereotype. The majority of them are clearly intelligent people. Granted, they may have bad taste in hairstyles, but they are no fools.

In the end, that might be exactly the point of this frequently amusing film. Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you also can’t judge a person by their hair.

( out of four)


American Mullet is unrated but contains some adult language. The running time is 52 minutes.

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