Alert the rose-bearers and shake up your Soul Glo: today we celebrate one of the most iconic men’s grooming movies of all time: Coming to America.

The year was 1988 and, similar to The Cosby Show on TV, for the first time a predominantly African-American film was accessible to—and beloved by—young white adolescents.

Grooming had a lot to do with that: black people’s hair was different than white people’s hair, and it was okay to laugh at that. Black barbers were imposing forces who didn’t actually cut people’s hair, and it was okay to laugh at that. Topless women manually cleaned the genitals of African princes, and… well, every kid in America wished he had a royal penis.

There are a lot of firsts here. It’s the first time Eddie Murphy plays a handful of characters simultaneously, including an old white Jewish guy watching Eddie Murphy cut Eddie Murphy’s hair. In the same scene, a baby-faced Cuba Gooding Jr. (silently) makes his big-screen debut, as does the (not at all silent) satirizing of African-American barbershops (which proved to be quite lucrative over the next 20 years).

As exceptional as Eddie and Arsenio are in the film, though, for our money there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer gleefully admit he has sex with his bathers.

Let it glo.

—C.B.S.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • C. Brian Smith