Boyz in the Hood (1991), directed by John Singleton, examines the obstacles that individuals in 1980s Crenshaw, California are forced to face and the struggles endured to overcome them. The film focuses on Tre Styles and Ricky Baker, two friends from different backgrounds who attempt to overcome their struggles together. These obstacles include, but are not limited to, Tre and Ricky's individual and shared socio-economic status, the stigma associated with youths from Crenshaw, and personal life goals and ambitions.
In the film, language helps the viewer understand how the characters view themselves and how they view each other. One term that is used frequently and in a derogatory manner is n-. The term appears to be used as an attempt to subjugate individuals. For instance, when Furious Styles, Tre's father, calls the police after shooting at an intruder, one of the police officers -- who is paradoxically also black -- uses the term to insinuate people from and in Crenshaw, regardless of their education or background, are below him simply because he works in an authoritative position. This term is also used by Doughboy, Ricky's brother, towards his gangster friends (Boyz in the Hood, 1991). While the term has derogatory connotations, Doughboy has embraced the word as a term of endearment. At the same time, n- is still used to refer to people from the neighborhood. It is interesting to see how Doughboy's language and attitude change when an outsider is introduced and welcomed into his home. When he first meets Lewis Crump, a scout from USC, he immediately changes his tone because he recognizes that Crump may be Ricky's only opportunity to get out of Crenshaw. Additionally, men frequently refer to women as bitches and hoes in a failed attempt to demean and subjugate them. Examples of the use of these terms can be seen at the BBQ at Ricky's house and at the car rally later on in the film.
Self can also be defined in the way characters dress themselves and how they socialize with others. For instance, the way in which Tre and Ricky dress as young children is foreshadowing of their future selves. In the scene where Ricky gets his football taken away, Ricky is seen wearing a football jersey, an early indication that football will be his life goal. Seven years later, Ricky is a high school football star and is working on getting a scholarship to USC to continue pursuing his goal. In the same scene, Tre is wearing a Georgetown University shirt, which hints at his academic ambitions that are eventually realized at the end of the film. Likewise, Doughboy's manner of dress allows the audience to see how he identifies himself as a gang member, a life that will he will lead and ultimately contribute to his death at the end of the film (McLeod, 2008).
Doughboy's self-identity also affects others in the film. Associating with Doughboy automatically ropes in Tre and Ricky into his problems. Because of their association and friendship with Doughboy, Tre and Ricky are targeted by a rival gang even though they themselves are not gang members. Doughboy's gang affiliation also leads Brenda, Ricky and Doughboy's mother, to blame Doughboy from Ricky's death (McLeod, 2008; Boyz in the Hood, 1991).
The relationships that are formed and developed in Boyz in the Hood (1991) strengthen the characters and allow them to achieve their goals. Through the use of engagement strategies, strong relationships are formed between Tre and Furious, Tre and Ricky, and Tre and Brandi. The engagement strategies used by Furious towards Tre are altruism, which is an intrinsic part of his paternal responsibilities; the assumption that he and his son are equal; and conversational rule keeping coupled with listening (Changing the Distance Between You, 2010). Altruism is demonstrated by his willingness to take care of Tre after Tre's mother, Reva, leaves him at Furious's house. Moreover, Furious treats his son as an equal and uses this attitude to teach him how to be a responsible man. Through the use of conversational rule keeping and listening, Furious and Tre develop a strong relationship that enables Tre to approach his father if and when he has problems in his life (Boyz in the Hood, 1991).…