You might say the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpon are having a bad hair day.
The activists, who called upon Barbershop's brain trust to apologize for including some cutting insults directed at the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in the hit movie, were themselves taken to task by a group of real-life barbers, who are demanding Jackson and Sharpon says they're sorry for inciting the flap.
Members of the National Association of Cosmetologists, a Los Angeles-based organization that claims to represent 50,000 haircutters across the country, called a news conference this week to say Jackson and Sharpton "irresponsible" to ask producers of the MGM comedy to edit out jokes poking fun at icons like King and Parks.
The group's chief executive, James Stern, said he and his band of haircutters watched the movie in its entirety and found nothing odious about the remarks.
"Reverend Jackson did not consider the future of black filmmakers," Stern told Reuters. "We, as blacks, have to let the movie studios know that when [Jackson] is wrong, we're willing to speak out for ourselves."
Stern also noted that such perfunctory criticism could have a harmful effect on African-American screenwriters, who might feel the need to stifle their creativity, because they fear some group might disagree with the views presented in their scripts.
In Barbershop, a cranky cosmetologist named Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) slams Dr. King for his affairs and says Rosa Parks was just "tired" when she refused to move to the back of the bus and didn't make the heroic act that history deems the turning point in the civil-rights movement. Eddie is quickly shot down by his fellow haircutters.
Of course, Stern and his fellow barbers have another motivation for their outburst. They say all the controversy has put their profession, um, in the crosshairs.
The group says Jackson and Sharpton's rants have fueled a negative view of barbers that has supposedly hurt local haircutters. Stern says his group may even consider a defamation lawsuit against Jackson, Sharpton and other critics if they don't repent for their attacks.
Talk about your split ends.
Coproducers George Tillman Jr. and Robert Teitel tried to put the Barbershop brouhaha behind them a month ago, issuing a statement saying they meant no disrespect and "did not mean to offend anyone."
But that didn't stop Jackson from calling on the filmmakers to snip the offending remarks from future prints of the film, as well as the DVD and VHS releases. However, the producers and the film's distributor, MGM, nixed that idea.
If nothing else, the controversy has helped Barbershop's box office.
Since its release last month, the PG-13 comedy, directed by Tim Story and featuring an ensemble led by rappers Ice Cube and Eve, has been a surprise hit, grossing more than $70 million. Plans are already underway for a sequel.