Visual Rewrite – scarletthief

 Your Son’s Messed Up Haircut


When the Ad begins the audience is shown a young African American teenager with a light mustache getting a haircut by an African American woman in the middle of a kitchen in the day time. The small kitchen does not contain updated appliances as seen by the small white fridge and the beige oven on the left of the screen; it is nicely cleaned except for the table in the foreground with two mirrors, a comb, a spray bottle, and a rag or towel. From the size of the kitchen, we can assume the house is similarly small and the family is middle class, possibly low middle class. The young man  is wearing a clean t-shirt and jeans with a bored expression on his face. However these clothing choices can let us assume several points. One is that the teen is not wearing brand name clothes, signifying either the lack of extra income of his parents or a lack income he may get from his parents as allowance to buy expensive products. Of course, on a less serious note, he may just not like wearing clothes from Hollister or Ralph Lauren polo tees, or finds spending money on such clothes unnecessary for contentment.

The boredom we can see on the young man’s face may be due to getting his haircut by the woman being a frequent occurrence. Having his hair cut at home frequently by the woman, who is possibly his mother, signifies the family’s thriftiness since they choose not to spend money on getting their hair professionally done. He is sitting on a chair with a towel partially covering his upper torso while the woman is focusing on the back of his hair with the shaver in her right hand. She also is in clean casual clothes, appropriate for being at home.


The woman uses the shaver, but immediately following the cut her eyes widen and an openmouthed frown appears on her face. She doesn’t curl her body into herself, so she doesn’t fear a violent reaction from the boy for her mistake. Her body instead backs up slightly from the surprise of her actions. This signifies a mishap in the haircut where she must have messed up and either cut to much or shaved the area completely.


The woman, who is confirmed to be his mother after what the young man says (based on the one syllable word we can discern from the video), leans closer to study the area she shaved as if in disbelief that she had made such a mistake. Her close examination can also signify her concern for her son’s well being. What good mother would want their son to have a bad haircut? The son, noticing something went wrong, shifts his eyes upward  with a propped up eyebrow and asks, “Mom?” and the text, “(A) Try to fix it,” appears on the screen. The boy does not make a fuss from what can be observed during these two seconds. He neither throws a tantrum nor reacts negatively to her mistake. The lack of a negative reaction means he doesn’t have violent tendencies when faced with problems and isn’t quick to anger when something doesn’t go his way. If he had a bad family life, he could very well be a temperamental and violent young man instead of the calm and quizzical young man we see in the video.


The camera moves to the back left of his head where the spot the mom shaved is now shown to the audience. The young man is holding a mirror  with his right hand to see his haircut. What is revealed is all but a single patch of hair in the middle of the shaved square. But how can he see the spot if we the audience only see his face in the mirror he is holding?


The camera returns to the front of the scene. The mother is seen to be holding a mirror behind her son’s head to help him see the spot. She is holding her hand up in a placating manner with wide eyes and saying something similar to “Like it never happened” at 8 seconds where the text said, “Try to fix it.” Even when he sees the “damage” he doesn’t react in a negative fashion and instead is quietly studying the spot. While the placating manner in which she holds her hand could mean the boy may react negatively, the audience sees this action more comedically as the small patch of hair in the middle of the bald spot makes a funny picture. No tension is found in this scene.


The mom is the only one in this close up camera shot with the text on the screen saying, “(B) Work with what you’ve got.” The mother may have shaved more of the hair to hide the mistake she made. The camera angle is meant for the unveiling of the haircut to be more surprising. Instead of trying to fix it, she chose to work with what she got.


The mother nods her head with a satisfied looked on her face as the camera shifts to the side of the son’s head. The haircut resembles a lizard lying on the middle of his head with the feet of the lizard on the side and the tail down the back of his head. The messed up hair cut is no longer obvious as she used her mistake to make an interesting haircut. Again he only studies the cut calmly, not appearing to hate the unique cut.


The scene moves to the family room of the house based on the sitting area and the television. The father and little brother of the young man sit with their backs to the camera on a teal couch. The young man has a smile on his face while looking at his family and another text is seen at the bottom of the screen, “(C) Show solidarity.” The father and brother are looking toward the young man, and probably smiling back at him since he is smiling. The family is a healthy and happy family from what we can observe. They seem to enjoy each other’s presence since they are all in the same room. Did they all get the lizard haircut? It doesn’t look like it because the son’s hair in this scene is not in the odd lizard cut and the brother and father do not have the lizard cut which would be obvious since their back is to the camera. So what haircut did they all get that makes them the same?


As the mom entered the camera, the whole family turns their head and a bald patch is revealed on the side of their head similar to the son’s bald patch at the beginning of the video. The brother and father shaved their head similar to his in order to keep him from feeling like the odd one out, reminding me of when families shave their head if one of the family members has cancer and goes through chemotherapy because of the hair loss from the treatment. She did not “Try to fix it” or “Work with what (she) got.” Everyone is all smiles and the atmosphere is light.


The final scene contains the mother finishing up the haircut as he holds the mirror to see the final cut. The mom went with “B) Work with you’ve got,” and shaved his hair in a less unique (not lizard), but nicely done, haircut as seen by the smiles on both of their faces. The mother wraps her arms around his shoulders and tightens her hug as he says “Thanks Mom.”

The final text on the screen says, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent,” and the logo for AdoptUSKids. She messed up, but the familial love between the mother and son and the entire family can be seen in the video. We, as the audience, couldn’t even tell the young man was adopted. He never feared asking if something was wrong in the first few seconds, or feared the mother’s reaction to his reactions. The brother and father also treated him as if they were blood relatives as seen by their support for the odd bald spot if they chose option “C) Show solidarity.” The mother’s hug further supports our observation that she really and truly loves him. The meaningful squeeze after the initial hug is often used to show support and care for  the person being hugged.


At the end, we learn that the ad is promoting adoption of children and based on the final quote, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a parent,” is hoping to encourage parents who may be afraid they won’t be good parents and role models to their child. The fear of doing something wrong is normal, but because of the mother’s haircut disaster, something fun always came out of the disaster no matter the choice the mom and the family made. Either the lizard hair or the whole family supporting the son by having their own bald spots shaved on their heads were fun choices the mom could have made. The ad wants the public to see that adoption can lead to fun memories and days full of love and happiness and that you don’t have to be related by blood to feel like a family.


4 thoughts on “Visual Rewrite – scarletthief”

  1. Your first paragraph shows a nice attention to detail, Scarlett, but a reluctance to Analyze. You don’t, for example, care to guess that giving a child a haircut in the kitchen is an act of earnest economy. The family does not like to waste money on extravagances like professional grooming. Your grade will improve to the degree you interpret the visuals, not merely report them.

    You mention the appliances, their somewhat dated appearance, but draw no conclusion. Are you afraid to be insensitive? Remember that the filmmakers deliberately chose this house and kitchen from a universe of settings. They WANT us to draw conclusions. Your job is to surmise what messages they want to send us visually.

    Ask yourself important questions NOT ONLY about what is shown, but also about what is not shown. Does the mother over-react to her mistake? Does she fear a violent reaction? Is she afraid the boy will throw a tantrum? Does he for his part make a scene? If not, why not? What is the psychological message of her initial concern, her assessment phase, her willingness to show the boy what she has done, his quizzical but not panicked reaction?

    See what I mean? We are making subconscious judgments at every second. Share the impressions and explain how the filmmakers achieve them.

    Good work on the storyline. Now tell us the subtext.
    GRADE: M


  2. This is beautiful work, Scarlett. You very nicely combine keen observations about the visual components of the ad with your own impressions of how the filmmakers wanted viewers to react to them. Your analysis of the hug is very impressive, as is your careful explanation of what doesn’t happen when the boy realizes his mom and messed up.

    Two things left.
    1. Your title fails for grammar, so the grade below is provisional.
    2. You missed the implication of the A, B, C. Clearly this is multiple choice. We see the results of all three choices, not necessarily because they all occurred, but because they are all possible reactions to the initial screwup. Do you agree? Or do you think it’s more likely the boy sits back down a third time for yet another haircut after Mom has already messed up on two prior occasions? My reading of the ad is that she went with B: Work with what you’ve got. The high-fade haircut is her solution to having clipped too much hair low on the boy’s head.



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