Boyz n the Hood is a film which was produced in 1991 depicting the American hood. It was directed by John Singleton and its main characters were Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Regina King and Angela Basset. The movie reveals the way of life in the urban and poor South Central Los Angeles. Boyz n the Hood was declared ‘culturally significant’ in 2002 by the United States Library of Congress and preserved it in the National Film Registry (Singleton, 1991).
The story begins in 1984 with four youths on their way to school. One of them is Tre Styles who is ten years old. The youths stop to observe a crime scene before getting to school. In school, Tre is suspended for three days because of fighting a classmate in front of his teacher. His mother sends him off to live with his father, Furious Styles after she fails to control and discipline him (Singleton, 1991). When Tre arrives at his father’s place, he is immediately put to work cleaning up the entire lawn and other household duties. Furious is of the opinion that responsibility will mould Tre into a responsible young man.
Tre is reunited with his childhood playmates, Doughboy, Ricky and Chris, who live in his father’s neighbourhood. Doughboy and Ricky are half brothers (same mother) with contrasting personalities. Doughboy is street smart and typically aggressive while Ricky is trusting and naive. They live with their mother. It appears that Furious is the only father present in the neighbourhood. He is seen taking Tre on a fishing expedition and teaches him about irresponsible sex and fatherhood. When they return, they find Chris and Doughboy being arrested after they were caught stealing (Singleton, 1991).
The movies next scene is seven years later. Doughboy has been released from jail and Chris is in a wheelchair presumed to be the result of a bullet injury. Ricky is a talented running-back at Crenshaw High and lives with his mother, girlfriend and newly-born son. Tre has a steady job and hopes to go to college. One day a college coach spots Ricky and promises him an athletic scholarship if he attains a minimum of 700 SAT score. Ricky takes the test, but is not sure of passing as he struggles to answer the questions (Singleton, 1991). Furious later discusses gentrification with the young boys and some citizens. He continues to explain how the urban poor destroy themselves with drug abuse and violence and advises them to end the self-defeating cycle. Later that evening, Ricky is drawn into a fight by a man called Ferris. Doughboy defends Ricky by drawing a pistol which causes the scene to degenerate into a gunfight though no one is hurt. This however sparks a feud between Ricky and Ferris’ gang. Unfortunately, Ricky is gunned down by Ferris and dies. His death coincides with the release of his SAT scores where he had scored 710, which would have been enough to secure him the scholarship (Singleton, 1991).
Doughboy, Tre, Monster and Dookie decide to avenge Ricky’s death. Furious finds Tre holding a pistol and persuades him not to get involved in the fight. Tre however sneaks out of the house to join his friends as they look for Ferris but he pulls out after reflecting on his actions. Doughboy and the other gang members find Ferris and execute him along with his gang members. The movie ends with Doughboy visiting Tre and expressing understanding for his decision. He speculates that he will also be killed because of Ferris’ death and is remorseful. The last scene shows Doughboy crossing the street and disappearing. This indicates his murder which is revealed in the epilogue. He was killed two weeks after Ricky’s burial. Tre proceeds to college.
Social Disorganization Theory
The theory that can best be applied to this movie is the Social Disorganization Theory (SDT). SDT Theory is a relation of ecological theories which links place directly with crime (Hagan, 2011). This theory shows the link between high rates of violence and crime to the ecological features of a neighbourhood. This can be exemplified in youth who come from disadvantaged neighborhoods. They are part of a subculture where delinquency was widely practiced and criminality gained because of the cultural and social settings (Hagan, 2011). This theory specifically applies to street crime, especially in neighborhoods. It does not explain corporate, organized or other forms of criminal behavior. Its main principle is that one’s place of residence determines the likelihood of participation in crime more than individual traits like race, gender or age (Schulenberg, 2003). It basically links crime to a weakening, degeneration or disruption of social controls. When these controls are weakened, crime inevitably results. Characteristics of socially disorganized communities are: residential mobility; population heterogeneity; and poverty.
The SDT Theory fits very well with the movie. The very first scene shows Tre and his young friends examining a crime scene, and follows with his suspension from school for misbehavior. It can be stated that this type of conditioning is harmful for children as it seems to them that crime scenes and death is a normal part of the society. The environment depicted in the movie is also very violent. The hood is characterized by sounds of gunshots and helicopters on patrol. The police are often depicted as being indifferent to crime, often ignoring crimes as unimportant or executing their duties poorly. In fact, Doughboy is seen to be hesitant before executing Ferris, which he does when he realizes that no justice will be done unless he does so himself. This depicts how a social control, justice, is corrupted and has resulted in heightened occurrences of crime (Hagan, 2011).
Another depiction of disrupted social controls is the absence of father figures. Tre is the only youth with a father figure in his life. His father’s influence is seen when he chooses not to be involved in avenging Ricky’s death and his general avoidance of the criminal life. The rest of the boys are not so fortunate, an d this is reflected in their life of crime and unfortunate outcomes.
The movie Boyz n the Hood depicts the degeneration of social controls, characteristic of the Social Disorganization Theory. The boys are part of a society where injustice and crime are rampant and this invariably leads them along the same path. There are also no father figures except for Furious, Tre’s father. This is a demonstration of further weakening of a social control. The young boys have no responsible man to emulate, and therefore get involved in a dangerous lifestyle at an early age (Singleton, 1991). This is however avoided by Tre, the only youth with a father figure. His father’s influence helped him avoid the criminal lifestyle and the associated unfortunate consequences.
Hagan F. (2011). Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods & Criminal Behavior. California: Sage Publications.
Schulenberg, J. L. (2003). The Social Context of Police Discretion with Youth Offenders: An Ecological Analysis. Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice, 45(2), 127-157. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Singleton J. (1991). Boyz n the Hood. Available at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101507/