Hood: slang for neighborhood or black area/life. Before 1991 this concept of hood life was never before portrayed or looked into until John Singleton produced the black social drama Boyz N the Hood. This is the first film by a black director that actually goes deep inside the ghetto or inner city. Singleton carefully directs this film so that it appears to mirror the real world “having value as a kind of anthropological study of an unfamiliar way of life” (Thompson 2).
Set in lower-middle-class, predominately black, south central Los Angeles, a neighborhood where constant gunshots regularly interrupt study time and the sound of police helicopters flying above is a familiar tune, Boyz N the Hood is basically the story of three teenage friends coming
of age in black urban America. It is their story of street life where friendship, pain, danger, and love combine to form their harsh reality.
Unlike previous films Singleton addresses issues that relate more to the younger generation of that time. Tre, the main character is obviously the one who is on the right track toward adulthood. He has a job, plans to go to college and, “most important (as writer-director Singleton sees it, at any rate) he lives with his father” (Tornquist 1). Brothers Doughboy and Ricky, on the other hand, live with their mother and are not good role models. Doughboy drives a fancy car but doesn’t appear to have a job, and has been in and out of prison. Ricky does a little better, being a talented football player who hopes to go to USC on a scholarship, but who is already a father while in High school at the age of seventeen. Singleton also portrays issues dealing with premarital sex, family, crime, single parent homes, drugs, and violence.
From this powerful drama several other films have mirrored its plot and themes. Since this films production other films such as: Menace II Society, New Jack City, Clockers, Strapped, Set it Off, and Juice have followed.
MENACE II SOCIETY
This film directed by brothers Allan and Albert Hughes was also set in the inner city. This film showed the struggle of a young man trying to overcome his surroundings and leave the “hood”. Menace II Society is an excellent film that “proved one is not always a product of his environment” (Walker 4). The Hughes brothers depicted typical life in this film showing, sex, violence, murder, drugs, and community.
NEW JACK CITY
This is a film following the life of Nino Brown. He has become an “American success story with a twist” (Rosenbush “menace”). Brown is the main character who is young, smart, handsome, rich, successful, and prominent in his community. But, Brown is a big time drug lord and head of a gang and two cops are out to put an end to him. This late ‘90’s drama was directed by Mario Van Peebles set in New York City. This film also had all of the conventions of “New jack cinemas/black social dramas”.
Set it Off
After a lifetime of being exploited by unscrupulous employers, pushed around by sleazy boyfriends, persecuted by the police, and unable to escape from the undertow of ghetto life by socially approved means, a group of four women arm themselves and bust up banks in order to get enough money to escape the life they’ve grown to know and hate. Directed by Gary Grey Set it off, is also a conventional black social drama differing only that it uses women. “ Four friends take finances, and the law, into their own hands to free themselves from their going-nowhere, south-central L.A. lives” (Thompson 2).
Directed by Ernest Dickerson, Juice is the story of best friends Q, Bishop, Raheem, and Steal living in a world where fun and danger exist side by side, and violence is powerfully seductive. These four Harlem friends take on their neighborhoods and each other to get the power and respect they call Juice. “ This film is about more than poverty in the inner cities, its about gang life and trust” (Dickerson 1).
Boyz in the Hood was more than a look into the inner cities of America. It helped to lay the way for a certain type of film noir called New Jack cinema or black social drama. Even though today black films are venturing beyond ghetto violence, these films definitely left a mark on black America.