Directed by John Singleton and released in 1991, Boyz n the Hood is the story of a group of African American boys growing up in one of the worst possible places in America- the Crenshaw neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. The movie is a typical urban crime movie, revolving around the violence perpetrated by members of two different gangs and around social issues related to life in the hood. Though never clearly stated in the movie, the filmmakers allude to the two most dangerous gangs in America, the Bloods and the Crips, and to the pointlessness and irrationality of the crimes they commit.
The movie is narrated through the eyes of Tre, a boy who must go through a series of dramas in his path to adulthood. The main problems faced by youth in the neighborhood are police abuses, gang shootings and the lack of adult supervision (Diawara 1995). Tre however had the luck of having responsible and educated parents, and therefore, received a better chance in life than her friends. It is particularly his wise and experienced father who teaches him has to be a responsible and moral person, and who keeps him away from gang violence and directs his attention towards college. In the movie, his destiny contrasts with that of his friends from across the street. His friends Darren (Doughboy), and Ricky are very different and represent types of African American boys that can be found in the hood. Darren is though and his early experiences with violence turned it into a drug dealer and a convict. Ricky instead loves football and tries to make a future for himself through it.
Violence in the movie is always present in the form of street shootings. Shootings are not directly shown in the beginning, but rather, they are implied. The children look at a wall that had been perforated by bullets, and later, noises of shotguns are heard from the streets, as they are part of the normal lives of these people.
While the three boys are never shown as gang members, and are not violent in particular (Though Doughboy is a drug dealer and spent his adolescence in correction facilities), it may be argued that at least Doughboy and his childhood friend Chris, are members of the most dangerous gang in America, the Crips, which is rooted in L.A., because they dress in blue several times, which is the representative color of the gang. The Crips are notorious rivals of the Bloods, whose representative color is read (Schatzberg 1994). These two gangs were only beginning to develop and cross the boundaries of Los Angeles in the 1980s, when the story is set (Schatzberg 1994). The Bloods are shown several times in the movie, first when Tre and his friends are children, and then, as they become young men. They are in all instances threatened by the Bloods, and are afraid of them, even though they are all African American and live in the same neighborhood. The dispute between these two gangs is a dispute over the control of the hood (Diawara 1995).
In this environment, the lives of the three boys are permanently in danger, as the possibility of insulting someone and getting killed for it is never far. This threat becomes reality when Ricky is killed by a group of gang members whom he had had a dispute with. In revenge, Doughboy gathers his own gang and goes after the murderers, killing them and thus, continuing the cycle of deaths. At the end of the movie, the titles show that Doughboy himself is killed two weeks later, as a proof of the lack of hope that reigns in the hood.
Diawara, M.(1995). Black American cinema: the new realism. In M. Martin (Ed.). Cinemas of the Black diaspora: diversity, dependence and oppositionality (pp. 405-431). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Schatzberg, R.(1994). African-American organized crime. In K. Chin, R. Kelly and R. Schatzberg (Eds.). Handbook of organized crime in the United States (pp.189-213). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.