Boyz n the Hood ★★★½

Typing this right now from my home, I'm about as far as I can possibly be from the havoc and chaos that serves as the setting of 1991's Boyz n the Hood -- a brilliant social, political, race and class commentary.


Not only does the movie touch upon the cycle of violence that ripples throughout Black neighborhoods, the loss of innocence of a community's youth as part of that cycle, but the death of the American dream as well.

As the American dream reflected in the 1990s in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, and in Boyz n the Hood, isn't the same American dream that flourished throughout the 1950s in suburban American, this American dream here is encapsulated in one word: surviving.


And so is the lives of those in the film, a group of friends who are, much like most poor Black communities, shaped by their circumstances and conditions -- rather than the other way around. The film continuously highlights racial stereotypes that plague society and the conditions that allow them to persist in communities and embed themselves in young Black children until they are transformed into self-fulfilling prophecies.

Trey, the film's protagonist, is commended in the beginning of the movie for his intelligence and wide vocabulary by his teacher while she speaks to his mother, though the teacher soon becomes inquisitive toward his mother, questioning if she's at fault for his ill behavior, as opposed to being raised in a society that encourages violence and toxic masculinity among its Black men and children.

The teacher proceeds to ask Trey's mother about her education and if she received a valid one or one at all, in turn, his mother is insulted and comments that  she is, in fact, studying to earn her master's degree - a statement meant to shock the teacher and maybe even the viewer -- indicative of a wide-spread racist stereotype that Black people aren't as smart as their white counterparts.


Though the film comments regularly on racial stereotypes, one of the most striking aspects of this film is within its first 20 or so minutes -- a scene that is a parallel to another film about children growing up and coming of age, Stand by Me, while I haven't seen it, I know enough about it to be unnerved by the parallel the director of Boyz n the Hood is making.


In fact, after watching the movie I was browsing through reviews of it on here, one of which included the sentence, "I wonder why this movie copied a Stand by Me scene. That was unnecessary."

While I wouldn't really describe it as necessary or unnecessary, the choice to parallel that one specific scene has incredible meaning to it. It's a parallel of course, but one that is a stark contrast between two films when looking deeper into the meaning of the scenes from each film -- the scene in which a group of friends are hanging out and one of them asks the others if they would like to see a dead body. 

In Stand by Me, the presence of a dead body is a rarity, it's an exciting and new thing in the monotony of suburban life. However, while in Boyz n the Hood the same sentence is said in the same context of friends hanging out, the presence of a dead body is almost normal, going to see it isn't exciting or an adventure, rather, it's just a way to end boredom.