Influential film director John Daniel Singleton recently died on April 28, 2019. He was 51 years old. Boyz n the Hood was Singleton’s magnum opus. Singleton wrote and directed the film right out of college when he was just 23 years old and the film even got him nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. Singleton was the first African American ever nominated for the award and, at 24, he was also the youngest person ever nominated for the award.
Singleton was one of the first to shed light on the realities for African Americans and the adversities they encounter as they exist in this world. He also dealt with a plethora of social problems that extended beyond the African American community.
Boyz n the Hood is chalk full of social commentary. The film begins with a white teacher wrongfully informing her students on how the Pilgrims and the Native Americans broke bread together on Thanksgiving. She appears to have a problem with a young Black student named Tre’s behavior, because she invites him to teach her class in her stead, alluding to his hubris. Tre proceeds to explain to the class how they all originate from Africa, as do all humans. Then, Tre gets into a fight with another Black student in the class leading to Tre being suspended and his mother receiving a call from the teacher about his behavior. The teacher implies that Tre’s behavior problems might have to do with his mother’s participation in the workforce and her continuing education. At this point, Singleton is illustrating how young women in the United States are made to feel that they had to make a choice between motherhood and their careers and encounter social pressure and judgement regardless of the path they take.
Tre’s mother is not with his father, and she identifies Tre’s lack of a father figure as the source of his behavioral problems. In order to address this, she takes Tre to live with his father. At first, Tre is upset, and he wants to return to his mom. However, through interacting and learning from one another their relationship evolves. At one point in the film, someone attempts to rob Tre and his father, and the police don’t arrive until hours after Tre’s father calls them. The community is not surprised, illuminating yet another theme, the police brutality and racial discrimination Black people experience daily. Further exploration of social problems such as gentrification and gun violence culminate in the death of Ricky, one of Tre’s childhood best friends. Ricky was recruited for a football scholarship at the University of Southern California, Singleton’s alma mater. The movie ends on the note that Ricky’s brother was killed as well reminding us again of the violence and sadness that plagues their community.
Boyz n The Hood was monumental in its portrayal of social injustices and the people who live through them. Singleton ingeniously portrayed Black people in a way they hadn’t been before. He should not only be celebrated for Boyz n the Hood, but also for expanding the representation of racial minorities in mainstream media. Singleton will always be remembered for bringing these social problems to light and paving the way for social change.