The Revelation of Risk Factors from a Movie Boyz N the Hood

Abstract

In the main body, I summarize and discuss the cultural importance of the movie, “Boyz n the Hood” written and directed by John Singleton. I examine how elements of the movie provide evidence for theories relating to delinquency. By using peer reviewed journals, I correlate many of the outcomes presented in the movie to the findings and conclusions of experimental research done to show what factors contribute to the increased likelihood of delinquency. Consistent with the research and theories, the movie shows that environmental factors can give rise to a life of delinquency. The findings and film also show that a childhood with strong parental support can diminish the effects of risk factors associated with delinquency.

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Risk Factors

The movie “Boyz n the Hood”, written and directed by John Singleton, is known today as a classic film in black culture. In 1991, however, when the film was released, it was simply a glimpse into the lifestyle of those living in South Central Los Angeles during the 1980s. It highlighted the untold stories of African Americans growing up in an area that was filled with violence, drugs, sex, gangs, and most notably, the police. At the time, this reality for thousands of people was not given much attention in mainstream media. Much of America chose to ignore or was unaware of all the issues faced by those living in the communities of South Los Angeles. John Singleton’s movie also marked a pivotal time for black cinema. It was nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, making Singleton the youngest person ever and the first African American to be nominated. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The movie also launched numerous careers and is considered the break out film for actors such as Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Nia Long. The film not only broke down barriers for African American filmmakers, directors, and actors, but it created a whole new sub-genre of movies.

The movie focuses on three friends, all black males, and their up-bringing in SouthCentral Los Angeles. Even though the friends grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools for most of their lives, slight differences essentially made them destined for different things. However, they had similar opportunities and resources to choose their own paths. Tre is a high school senior who aspires to go to college. After he got into trouble from fighting in school when he was younger, his mother sent him to live with his no-nonsense, stricter, father in South Central. Ricky and Doughboy are brothers living in the same neighborhood, but unlike Tre, they lack a father figure in the home. Ricky is an All-American football player aspiring to play college football after graduation. 

He also has a son out-of-wedlock who he aspires to provide a better lifestyle than the one he had to endure. Doughboy chose to drop out of high school, and has just been released from prison. He now spends most of his time hanging out in the streets with his friend and dealing drugs. At this point in the film the three friends are on completely different paths in life but they are all still surrounded by the pressures and dangers of life in South Central. Not only did the boys have to navigate through the common threats of drugs and violence, but they also had to learn how to be a black man in America. This is another phenomenon that many Americans failed to realize existed, and still exist today.

The movie features several scenes showing conversations between Tre and his father. In these scenes his father is giving him advice on safe sex and other things that he feels his son needs to know in order to be a successful black man and make it out of the streets. One of the most important lessons is dealing with the police. This is a conversation that many parents have with their young black sons, due to the fact that encounters with the police may not result in their son returning home safely. The movie vividly shows the persistent presence of police during the time. Throughout the film, there is background sound of police sirens and helicopters which are to represent the police constantly patrolling the area. The movie also features a police encounter with Tre and Ricky. Such scenes were included to show that the crime of being black in America is not something that is fictional or an idea that blacks were making up. Certain neighborhoods are targeted and highly policed due to the demographics of people who live in them. The movie goes on to show how the three friends lives turn out. Ricky needs a 700 SAT score in order to be eligible for an athletic scholarship at The University of Southern California. He takes the SAT, but not confident is his intelligence, he has already accepted defeat.

Tre and Ricky feel the pressures of being involved in the gang culture of the neighborhood, and like any other teenager, they just want to hang out and have fun. They find themselves spending time with Doughboy and his crew. There is an altercation one night with rival gang members, but all three boys are able to make it home safely. They continue on with their everyday lives, because incidents like such are just apart of life living in South Central. The climax of the movie is reached when the rival gang member runs into Tre and Ricky as they are walking home, and guns Ricky down in alley. Tre is left to hold his friend in his cold blood and watches as he drifts away. The audience learns soon after, that Ricky did indeed achieve an SAT score higher than 700 and would have been able to go to school, escaping the violence of his community.

Unfortunately, he was not able to do so. Naturally, his brother Doughboy and friend Tre areinfuriated and seek revenge on the person who took their loved one away from them. Tre decides to back out, but Doughboy follows through killing his brother’s killer. At the end of the film, it is revealed that Doughboy was killed two weeks later. Tre graduated and went off to college. The movie’s ending shows the cycle of violence, and how one murder leads to a killing spree with everyone trying to avenge the death of their loved one. It also reveals that different paths can still result in the same outcome due to a person’s environmental factors and mentality. This movie covers several topics discussed in the course, and is filled with many theories relating to delinquency. The most prevalent theory throughout the movie is the social context of delinquency. This theme focuses on how a youth’s environment influences the likelihood of delinquent behavior. The main subject of the movie is life in South Central Los Angeles, and the risk factors that are associated with being raised in the area.

According to the article, “It Just Depends on the Environment’, research supports the themes and examples displayed in the movie. The findings include: context characteristics inform decisions about simultaneous substance use and determine simultaneous substance use patterns. Context characteristics include social characteristics, physical characteristics, and situational characteristics. “S​ocial characteristics​ refer to the number and type of social contacts that are present in the context. ​Physical characteristics​ include the location… as well as characteristics of the location…. Finally, the ​situational characteristics​ of a substance use context are changeable factors such as the presence of parental monitoring and the time of day.”

All of these findings are consistent with details in the film. Gang culture is very prevalent in South Central, and it is very hard to avoid. This is especially true, when someone you know or are very close with is involved with gangs. The pressure to “fit in” or hang out with friends who may participate in such culture is one that many teenagers give in to. Many times Tre and Ricky find themselves in dangerous situations simply because they were hanging with Ricky’s older brother, Doughboy. These situations involving gang members are essentially what led to Ricky and Doughboy’s deaths. Not only are gangs very prevalent in the area, but so are drugs. When Doughboy came home for prison, it was very easy for him to engage in selling drugs. He gravitated towards the things he saw everyday in his environment, leading him down a path of delinquency.

The socioeconomic status of the community is also an influential factor in determining the likelihood of delinquent behavior. According to the findings in the article “The Effect of Socioeconomic Status on Delinquency Across Urban and Rural Contexts”, low socioeconomic status is a risk factor for adolescent delinquency. The conclusion was fascinating in that low socioeconomic status was only a risk factor in urban contexts, not in rural contexts. This not only supports the increased likelihood of those growing up in South Central to be inclined to a life of delinquency, but it also adds support to the lack of awareness from other parts of the nation. At the end of the movie, Doughboy says, “Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood”. To a certain extent, all of these statements are true. If you are from an area that is not surrounded by the risk factors experienced by those living in an urban, low socioeconomic area, then a person may not know what everyday life is like in these areas. This is also a time when it was not being heavily covered by the media, so you were not exposed to or educated about the everyday challenges that residents in such areas face. Another topic in the course discussed lower-class youths being involved in more frequent and more serious offenses than their middle-class counterparts. This is easily seen throughout the film, as it the boys are from what would be considered a lower class, lower income community.

Tre’s father embodies the concept of the theme delinquency and social policy. This theme looks at the affects of society proposing and enacting means by which the youth can realize their potential leading to productive and satisfying lives. He was very adamant about his son being better than him and not falling into the traps and cycles present in South Central.

He was a tough disciplinarian who did not want his son to follow in the footsteps of his friends or in his own. Evidence from articles such as, “Positive Parents and Negative Peers”, suggest that support from parents can act as a buffer, protecting the child against negative peer associations that can lead to early delinquency. This is clear in the film. Tre was the only one of his friends who had a father figure in the home, as well as strong parental support. Ricky and Doughboy had a mother, but she was not as stern as Tre’s father. The containment theory suggests that positive experiences in the home will lead to the development of a positive self-concept and therefore shielding youth from delinquency. Tre’s father constantly reassured Tre as a young African American male, encouraging him that he could be better and do anything that he aspired to do. He exposed him to more than what he was being taught in school and learning from the streets of South Central Los Angeles. Tre in turn set high goals, and in the end he was able to accomplish them. He had the opportunity to succumb to peer pressure, and make a life changing decision that would have more than likely had negative consequences leading him down a path of imprisonment or further delinquency. He chose to remove himself from the situation, and it may be the reason he is the only one of the three friends to survive and make it out of the dangerous streets of South Central Los Angeles.

In closing, the highly acclaimed film, “Boyz n the Hood” not only revealed what it was like to grow up in a community filled with high risk factors for delinquency, but it provided evidence for several theories relating to juvenile delinquency. It also showed how a strong support system may be all the difference in a child’s future. 

References

  1. Columbia Pictures. (1991). ​Boyz N The Hood​.
  2. Connolly, E. J., Lewis, R. H., & Boisvert, D. L. (2017). The Effect of Socioeconomic Status on Delinquency Across Urban and Rural Contexts. ​Criminal Justice Review​, ​42​(3), 237–253. doi: 10.1177/0734016817724200
  3. Obenson, T. (2019, April 30). How John Singleton Made History as the Oscars’ First Black Best Director Nominee. Retrieved November 23, 2019, fromhttps://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/john-singleton-oscars-first-black-best-director-nominee-boyz-n-the-hood-1202129312/.
  4. Walters, G. D. (2019). Positive Parents and Negative Peers: Assessing the Nature and Order of Caregiver and Friend Effects in Predicting Early Delinquency. ​Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice​, ​18​(1), 96–114. doi: 10.1177/1541204019831751
  5. Wolf, J. P., Lipperman-Kreda, S., & Bersamin, M. (2019). “It Just Depends on the Environment”: Patterns and Decisions of Substance Use and Co-use by Adolescents. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse​, ​28​(3), 143–149. doi: 10.1080/1067828x.2019.1637316
07 April 2022

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