If you know me well, you know my love for movies. Occasionally I like to rewatch some of my favorite movies; last night had the chance to rewatch Boyz N the Hood.. and I must say, WOW. It was eye opening, mind blowing, to say the least, throughout this essay, I will attempt to illustrate some of the issues inner cities are still facing today. Perhaps, this movie is a portal to a reality many don't know of. I have been blessed to have come from the ghetto but that's another story.. So without further ado! Here's what I think.
In 1991, John Singleton (director) gave birth to the movie that would set the trend for future “hood movies” by portraying the troubles of inner-city youth among black males. Boyz N the Hood, a movie full of raving fanatics, many mainstream reviewers, both then and 23 years later, still give points of view that seem to miss the message that Singleton tries to portrait through Boyz N the Hood. As a result, an observer like myself, can conclude that after so many years and so many “hood” movies, most mainstream audiences still don’t really get it. Although the movie has its unique artistic approaches, the prevailing theme is that strong Black male role models are desperately needed to ensure the moral and positive psychosocial development in the upbringing of a black child.
I think it’s important to deal with the issue of the strong, Black woman. In general, she gets a really bad rep among Black men who seek to take the lead within their households and communities. She’s often viewed as domineering and has a lot to say especially when not asked. What most people, even African Americans, fail to realize is that this type of Black woman was created, and her mindset was established on the plantation hundreds of years ago (Nojma). Often, Black men were dehumanized, beaten and then murdered in front of their terrified families, leaving the women defenseless and dependent upon White male dominance for her survival (Nojma). According to the Willie Lynch letter, the roles of her male and female children eventually became reversed, as the mother and sister become the strong, dominant protectors and the male child has to depend upon the mother for his protection and survival and learns his instincts and ways from her instead of a strong, Black male figure (Nojma).
What most people, especially top reviewers, fail to miss about what Singleton does to the Black female image is that he carefully presents her as a woman that needs and deserves to be understood (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). She has the greatest of intentions, but she lacks the tools to be effective as the dominant parent. The primary tool needed is a strong, Black male figure in the children’s lives to create love, balance and protection. (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). In the case of Doughboy and Ricky, their mother couldn’t keep a man because of her mouth. Her upbringing produced a woman who had no faith in her own power as a woman and she tries to dominate men with her tough talk and demeanor. In this case, her son, Doughboy, catches all the fire, first because he is a male and second, because she hates his father. Doughboy and Ricky’s mom is not all that bad if Furious, (Trey’s Father), would’ve given her a chance. As he stated, she was just too mouthy (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”).
The “hoochie” played by Regina King was also a character to be given distinctive notice. Serving often as the comic relief, her character can very easily be passed off as stock quality (Brunner). But, to the understanding spirit, she, too needs for her brothers to be level-headed leaders and promote a more tolerable atmosphere wherever she is. The Crenshaw street scene displays an event that could’ve been avoided if only cooler heads prevailed. Regina King makes a comment that was meant for Doughboy, but fortunately for her, it went completely over his head (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). In this respect, a man reacting as a result of his hurt feelings is viewed as an “effeminate” and unacceptable quality…jokingly, of course.
As I stated earlier, the reviewers missed the point, as often they do with these types of movies because they lack the insights to what being a minority is like. This truth is crystal clear in their writing for example (Ebert). What is also clearly evident is that Singleton does possess personal experience to revile and then, uplift the Black female at the same time in his work. He understands the complexity of this woman and only those who have intricate knowledge and historical understanding of minority groups can appreciate the images Singleton presents us with instead of seeing them as stock characters in a smartly, artistic piece (Brunner).
No matter what the environment, family and personal stability in children come through strong value systems that promote love and positive emotional development. Noted psychologist, Frances Cress Welsing, once suggested that all children need their “lap time” (Sussman). What Singleton brings to the forefront in his film, is that lap time is a lifelong endeavor. Once a child is weaned from his mother, he has to continue to receive proper nurturing from his environment in order to grow properly and function well in society. Singleton drives this notion home early in the scene where Riva is dropping her son off to live with his father, Furious (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). She tells him, that she loves him and that the experience will be better for him. When she pulls away from the curb, one can feel the pain of loss Trey must feel at the departure of his sweet loving mother into the rough reception of his harsh disciplinarian father. Right away, Furious drops the bomb at his son and puts him to work. Lap time does continue, but it changes its face. (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). Singleton makes this clear, first, in the fact that Trey begins to understand his relationship within his own family unit. Once he is able to understand how he is to view himself within the family unit, he will understand how to view himself against the world outside of his household.
As a result of Furious’s influence and teaching, he unwittingly becomes a strong male figure to his friends, Doughboy, and Ricky, who desperately need it. Just as his father predicted. Trey gives Ricky advice to stay on the right path and to seriously consider his future based on the choices he would make at that present time. In the end, after Ricky dies, Trey becomes the strong brother that Doughboy needs to feel relevant in the world…even if for a short time “Trey: You still got a brother left” (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). Reviewers, again, miss the point by looking at the movie from a statistical, observant point of view instead of truly understanding what Singleton meant with what was described by one reviewer as “Black male neglect” (Howe). Some reviewers understand that there is societal neglect of Black men and highlight that within their writings. However, this issue that is addressed within the work is viewed as an aspect that adds to the artistic value of Singleton’s work and not the soul of it (Howe).
Lastly, the prevailing top reviewer’s attitudes about strong Black men continue to negate from the reality that strong, Black male figures are not a threat to American society, at large. Often, many decent strong Black men are seen in the same light… primarily because they are Black. Since the days of slavery, strong and intelligent Black men were either destroyed or disciplined to be submissive. In short, a Black man could be dead or exist in an effeminate, emasculated state, subordinate to his White masters (Nojma). In the African American male’s natural state, he is anything but subordinate to the status quo. This is evident in Furious Style’s way of speaking and thought processes, in the way he raises his son, his ownership of property, his owning his own business, etc. This becomes evident when he goes into the roughest neighborhood to show his son and Ricky what happens when a neighborhood is gentrified. As a crowd gathers, Trey becomes terrified, but not Furious. Furious has no fear of his own people because he understands them and can effectively communicate with them (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). He represents perfect love, because perfect love drives out all fear. He is the perfect example of a smart, strong, Black man and he is respected for that among his own.
Unfortunately, people like him are a threat to the establishment because he won’t play hard or exhibit any hatred toward his own to gain acceptance within the status quo (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). The reviewers of this film do acknowledge that men like Furious Styles are important in a child’s life. Most top reviewers believe that, however, from their standpoint it is seen for its artistic value (Maslin). Most top reviewers miss the point in how their attitudes and the attitudes of the status quo contribute to the further emasculation of Black men. They ppraise the presence of them in artistry, but systematically keep them at bay, in prisons on trumped up charges or resigned to a life of criminality by narrowing their choices for survival. Ricky and Doughboy could’ve been great, too, if they had the opportunities…or had the longevity (Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood”). All children are born with promise, but that promise has to be shaped and molded with the right forces at work. These things take time.
In conclusion, Boyz N the Hood was the beginning of a line of films portraying the harsh realities of inner-city youth, not just in Los Angeles, but nationwide. The film brought to the light to the issues of extreme societal neglect of Black men. It brought to the forefront the very real understanding that what happens to Black men anywhere affects an entire community, everywhere and on many levels. The preservation of the Black male is crucially important in order to hold the Black community together. No matter how hopeless the situation appears for the Black community, there is still hope if our society can come together.
Brunner, Rob. “Boyz N the Hood” Rev. of Boyz N the Hood, dir. John Singleton. Entertainment Weekly. 13 July 2011. Print.
Ebert, Roger. “Boyz N the Hood” Rev. of Boyz N the Hood, dir. John Singleton. RogerEbert.com. 12 July 1991. Print.
Howe, Desson. “Boyz N the Hood” Rev. of Boyz N the Hood, dir. John Singleton. Washington Post. 12 July 1991. Print.
Maslin, Janet. “A Chance to Confound Fate” Rev. of Boyz N the Hood, dir. John Singleton. The New York Times. 12 July 1991. Print.
Muhammad, Nojma. “Willie Lynch, Black Women and the Stockholm Syndrome.” FCN Publishing 16 September 2013. Web. 2016.
Sussman, Alison. “Welsing, Frances Cress 1935—“ Encyclopedia.com. Encyclopedia.com. 1994. Web. 16 April 2016.