Boyz N the Hood is a classic African American film that can be critically analyzed through the lens of race and gender issues in the media. The first thing that I noticed when watching the film through such lens was the usage of common signs throughout the film that were found on the street and around the neighborhood. These signs served as a visual reinforcement to the paths that these young kids were on in the neighborhoods in which they grew up.
For example, immediately after a title card displaying a dismal statistic directly correlating with the theme of Boyz N the Hood was followed by an opening shot of a red “Stop” sign on the street over which an airplane flew past as if to signify the rest of the world is going on not giving a care in a world to the issues that the children in this neighborhood are facing.
There was also a “One-Way” street sign in the background of two shots when the children were either walking to or from school. There was also a glaring red “Wrong Way” sign just before the dead body, which serves as a message that the crime committed is not the right way of doing things, and also a subtle visual hint that these kids are going down a one-way path that can lead them the wrong way in life. To top it off the writer and director made sure to add yellow police caution tape in order to signify to the audience that these types of scenarios in this film and in real life deserve our cautious attention; however, in the film the kids ignored the caution tape which leads to the next few scenes of Trae losing his temper and being sent to live with his dad who teaches him how to use caution and ultimately sets him on a path in which he is able to rise above all the warning signs displayed and reiterated throughout this film indicating that there was only one way, the wrong way, to live and survive in this neighborhood. Near the end of the film, there was one more sign that stood out by the dead bodies of the guys who killed Ricky that highlighted the word exit. However, I was glad to see a title card at the very end of the film with uplifting information stating that Trae went on to college at Morehouse University in Atlanta, GA. The use of the street signs, statistics and written information was always in this movie. Although I had never paid much attention to them before, it could be possible that they served to engrave this powerful message about these Boys who grew up in this neighborhood into my psyche when I since a younger girl watching this film at different stages in my life.
Now that I watched it this week, I was saddened to see the drawing of the elementary school aged students portraying a colored man in a white t-shirt with his hands up facing a what seems to be a black and white police car. This movie was produced back in 1991 and more nearly twenty-five years later in 2015, black men are still being profiled, brutally harassed, and killed by police officers even when they’re hands are up in the air with no weapon on or near their bodies. That hurts.
Addressable stereotypes in this film includes the use of the term Indian as a slip of the tongue by a white female American teacher who quickly corrected her mishap by rephrasing her terminology to Native Americans during her reference regarding the early settlers of America.
Another stereotype perpetuated in this film is that of the Self Hating Black Man portrayed as the African American cop in this film who hates “niggas” like Trae in his own words.
Another issue brought to light in this film focuses on humans with physical disabilities like Little Chris who was stuck in a wheelchair throughout his adult life. Just a dialogue of one word, “Mannn… ,” with a sincere expression of disappointment highlights how people with physical limitations are often left out during a mission by those who are mobile and without limitation as in the scene in which Little Chris sees the rest of his friends drive off to go search for the guys who killed Ricky.
I think that Native Americans are still stereotypically referred to as Indians in the media. However, I think the self-hating black man stereotype is less perpetuated now than it was in the past. Nonetheless, the self-hating black man stereotype has been replaced by other stereotypes about stereotypical features of black men that could cause black men to hate or devalue themselves if left unaddressed.
Finally, I think that thugs in films are often still depicted as violent African Americans and, or minority men who assault people recklessly similar to the stereotypical roles found in Boyz N the Hood depicted by minor African American characters like the youthful teenagers in the gang who stole Ricky’s football when he was a kid.