It’s a fools errand to describe the importance of the barbershop to African American men. In a society where equality feels ethereal, sometimes you can find it waiting for a cut. No matter what titles we hold in the outside world, The young lawyer, the aspring Mc, the established doctor, the….independently employed, all are equal, provided you have something to add to the conversation.
I’ve heard the barbershop described as a country club for black men, but that’s inaccurate. True we hangout, but you more than that, you grow up in the shop. For many of us we come to the shop first as a young child watching our fathers, uncle, or older brother, in conversation with other men. Part of being in the shop is being exposed to the conversation. Economics, religion Race relations, politics, sports, clothing, and of course the PhD level conversations about ….are all part of the discourse. It makes perfect sense that LeBron James chose this as the setting for his talk show on HBO.
The Shop is an engrossing show. It’s an unguarded, uncensored conversation about sports, entertainment, race, and the pitfalls of success. Despite the seriousness of the topics, the conversation is just as funny, and irreverent as what you would expect from the barbershop. LeBron James is simply compelling, as he opens up in a way that many modern athletes never do. His story about discovering what a pantry was after attending Catholic School is telling and touching, and makes even the most cynical thankful for the success he’s had.
I do feel that show suffers from the fact that we don’t hear enough from everyone else. Despite a huge cast we really only here from LeBron, his business partner Maverick Carter, and John Stewart, granted is the scene stealer you expect him to be. The few moments we get with Candice Parker are good, but I definitely wanted to hear more. The same is true for Draymond Green, especially considering the rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and Lebron’s former team the Cleveland Cavaliers.
A key complaint about the show is its language, which is explicit. My response to many of these complaints is…..have the people complaining not been to a barbershop? The language on the show is harsh, so are many of the topics that are discussed. In a world of the Walking Dead, Power, and Breaking Bad the complaints seem pointless. The black barbershop had been a common ground where black men, and women can have frank conversations about the society they are seeking to navigate.
It will be interesting to see how viable the show will be long term. But the initial episode has made me a fan and I’ll be stopping by the The Shop for each episode. And I don’t even have to tip the barber.