Golden Oldies: Boyz n the Hood

This week we sent one lucky reader to see the 90s classic, Boyz n The Hood. Calum Trenaman is that lucky reader, and he fills us in on if this lived up to his expectations. Being screened to celebrate its 25th anniversary, he examines how it relates to more recent events.

Calum Trenaman
5th December 2016

To mark the 25 year anniversary of the release of Boyz N The Hood, it has been shown up and down the country in independent cinemas. While the 90s garms and the ‘gangsta’ title may seem a little outdated, in 2016, it is more relevant than ever. There are huge parallels between the film and the current Black Lives Matter movement in the US.

The film depicts the turbulent and inescapable struggle of young black people in ‘the Hood’ in California. It focuses on the paths of three young black men, each disillusioned with their tough existence. One tries to get out through his intellect, guided by his father to avoid a life of crime; one tries to get out through his sporting prowess; the last doesn’t try to get out, instead living a life of crime and danger, going in and out of jail along the way.

It may seem odd for a middle-class white boy like myself to feel such an affinity with this film, but to me, it is close to perfection in every area. The acting is superb and it is backed by an outstanding script, which vividly depicts the modern-day problems and treatment of African-Americans. It depicts the social injustices they face, and how there is a never-ending cycle of violence and crime that begets more. Larry Fishburne’s Furious Styles acts as a choric Voice of God, speaking of these injustices and how they must combat them not only to his fellow ‘brothers’, but also to the audience.

"Director John Singleton's point is an important one: brotherhood"

Cuba Gooding Jr. puts in the performance of a lifetime. I really do not know why he won an Oscar for Jerry Maguire, but I believe he deserved it for this performance. Playing the angry, bitter Trey, he seeks nothing but to escape. He also shows that no matter how hard a person tries, the Hood always finds a way.

It is significant however that white people, of whom there are few, don’t seem to be the representation of institutional subjugation. It is a black police officer who most vividly represents this, violently oppressing his fellow African-American.

And, it is in opposition to this that director John Singleton is making his point: brotherhood. It is hard enough to prosper in this environment without hurting one another. They must stick together and stop their pursuit of individualistic gain. The film closes with the profound but effective subtitle: ‘Increase the Peace’.

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