The idea of popular culture can be epitomized in many mediums nowadays whether it is in films, books, songs or photographs. This paper discusses the way that the `ghetto culture’ is portrayed within various mediums. The first part of this paper will deal with the popular movie `Boyz in the Hood (1991)’ written and directed by John Singleton. Music is known as the avenue where contemporary culture exists – this paper will look at the lyrics in the Crompton’s Most Wanted (CMW) song Growing up in the Hood.
It is clear to see the similarities that exist between the two mediums and how ghetto life is expressed. The third medium that will be analyzed in this discussion is that of African American poetry. The poem to be analyzed here is Ghetto Child by Langston Hughes. This poem can be seen to be in line with the other two artifacts that are analyzed this paper. When as an active audience people view these forms of media together we can see how powerful different forms of literature can be on the human soul.
Boyz in the Hood known as a groundbreaking movie for its hard-hitting realism and its “street’’ outlook. This realism made the film so popular and the reason it had so much interest to both black and white audiences. It is a rare instance when a film about one socio economic group can apply to everyone, however John Singleton was successful in doing this in this piece of work. It has been said that the realism of the film and the fact that there was such a human element to the characters that made the characters seem so real and so close to home (as though Tre or Ricky could be one of your neighbors).
The film also brought black ghetto culture into mainstream movie theatres (this was not the case prior to this where very little is known about African American films before Boyz in the Hood such as Sweet Sweetback’s Badassess Song (1971) – in the past 10 or more years since this film was made it is clear to see that the African American film industry has become more visible. This is a good thing as African American Culture is no longer hidden behind closed doors – people have the chance to see what life is like in the black ghetto culture of the United States.
Singleton wrote and directed a movie that appeals to many different audiences. Critics have praised this film time and time again for the way that it portrays the realistic elements of African American life. A point that is of interest to note that creates a point of difference to a number of films produced prior to Boyz in the Hood was in the way that women are portrayed. Typically, in other films that deal with African American life we (the audience) see women portrayed as servants, prostitutes and welfare mothers. This film is the exception where the stereotype of the black women being unemployed does not exist.
We see a glimpse of it at the start of the film when the teacher was speaking to Tre’s mother on the phone and the teacher insinuated that the mother did not work. However, this stereotype came to a pass quickly. The women who play the main characters especially Tre’s mother are seen as strong educated and successful women. Even at the end of the film Tre’s girlfriend ends up going to college (this is a different action to one that people would expect in such a film). Another way we can look at the way that powerful black women are portrayed in this film is so look at Tre’s mother and see how she carries herself and the way she dresses.
In comparison to many other films where the African American woman is in a lead role we see her struggling in the African American world, however in this film we see Reva (Tre’s mother) as the strong female living in a white world where it is not important whether you are black or white. Another theme/ idea portrayed in this film in relation to the `ghetto culture’ pertains to the way that Tre’s father (Furious) is adamant that he does not want Tre to turn out like the other boys from the ghetto – he wants him to make something of his life and not be one of the kids committing robberies and loitering around liquor stores.
This is a strong and powerful message that Furious portrays throughout the film and one the many reasons why this film was such a success in portraying what life is really like in the `ghetto’. Another theme/ idea that is evident throughout the film is the idea of having a positive role model when growing up in the ghetto. Throughout the film Furious tries to teach Tre what is right and what is wrong. In the early part of the film we see Furious teaching Tre his very first lesson in the scene where Furious shoots at a burglar and talks to Tre about it after wards sitting on the porch waiting for the police to arrive.
Furious: Somebody must have been praying for that fool, cause I swear I aimed right for his head. Tre Age 10: You should have blew it off. Furious: Don’t say that. Don’t say that. Just would’ve contributed to killing another brother. This being a contributing factor to killing another brother is another theme that permeates throughout the film. However, it is the final part of the film when Ricky is chased and murdered that we understand what this whole idea of killing another brother is like and how fragile and fleeting life is if you live in the ghetto.
All Ricky did was annoy a guy the night before which led to his untimely death when he walked down to the corner store to pick up some oatmeal. The audience learns in the final scene that what goes around comes around if you kill one of your `brothers` you in turn will be killed. The shooting scene further indicates the powerful influence that Furious has had on Tre in making the man that he grew up to be. Despite, being so angry with the person that shot Ricky, Tre had a permanent voice in his head that told him that he could not be involved with Doughboy in shooting down the perpetrator responsible for Ricky’s death.
Tre understood that everything his father taught him was for a reason and to protect his son. This is indicative in the credits as two weeks after Ricky was buried Dough boy was murdered and so the `circle of death’ continues. Because Tre lived his life in the image of his father he went to college and escaped from the `hood’ to create a better life for himself. In today’s society music is one of the major forms of expression and because of this it is clear to see how the lyrics in songs come to mean certain things in popular culture.
In looking at the lyrics in Crompton’s Most Wanted (CMW) song Growing up in the Hood we can understand how the artist feels about growing up in the hood and can understand the words in a song in much the same way that you understand an underlying message when you watch a film. In looking at just the one song is it interesting how many different themes and ideas are permeated in a three-minute recording. In this song the artist has made it clear that living in the hood is violent and because of this you constantly live a dangerous lifestyle and are constantly running away from people so that they do not hurt you or try to kill you.
Quick up the stairs so little sucker stop looking Stagger up to the house so I can collect my whooping But watch out ‘cause a little nigga’s up to no good Growin’ up in the hood. The lyrics in this song further describe the fear that exists when one lives in the hood that if you stay in the hood you will die in the hood. The lyrics above indicate the fear that men living in the hood have to come to terms with in everyday of their lives. The song also suggests that when young boys grow up in the hood they are not always aware of what lies ahead. “Growing up in the hood, yea boy, 1984 Was the year my peers didn’t know what was in store.
“ Another idea that is permeated in this song and that is an issue for African Americans living in the ghetto is that of the police. Police are awful to those people who live in the hood – they make them feel as they are dirt and they do not have the right to exist. Police sweat my tip and keep harassing Trying to lock me up ’cause I keep on blasting Community trying to shut me out Through song lyrics it is almost as if the listener feels the pain that the rapper is going through in terms of the way that the police treat him. Music is a powerful way where one person can express how they feel and how deep they feel.
Throughout mainstream media it is clear to see the negative relationship that exists between those in the hood and that of the police. It is indicative in the lyrics to the above song and in the way that the brutality of the police force was described in Boyz in the Hood and in other mainstream films that dealt with the hood culture. Another theme that is expressed through the lyrics in this rap deals with the singers feeling towards his own violence where he feels that because he has existed in that environment for so long that he has become violent to and cannot seem to escape from the violent behavior.
Throughout out the rap, the listen understand that life in the hood is all about women (“bitches’’) and money – those are the man thing that a mans life revolves around in the end. An image of frustration seems to be permeated throughout the rap at the same time and certain lyrics further create this image – “I got hard times and realize … sometimes I wonder… but it just seems that the hood took me under. ’’ It is interesting to note that in ghetto culture that women do not like to be referred to as `bitches`, `hoes` etc they like to be thought of as women and to be called a women.
By referring to women as `bitches’ and the circle will continue – children learn from their parents. In Boyz in the Hood the young men do not seem to respect women and refer to them in derogatory ways and views women as `bitches’ and `hoes’. Doughboy was the character that permeated this stereotype. In the scene where all the young people were at the community barbeque and Tre said to the boys that the women should be the first to eat (he was being polite and being a gentleman). Doughboy was not however. Doughboy: Ho’s gotta eat too. Shalika: Who you callin’ a ho’, I ain’t no ho’.
Doughboy: Oops, I’m sorry, bitch. It is clear to see that throughout the movie that Doughboy has no respect for women/ has grown up speaking to women and referring to them in a particular way. Doughboy: Don’t go to college to be talkin’ to no bitches. Your black ass ‘posed to be learnin’ somethin’. Can’t learn shit talkin’ to no stupid ass bitch. It is through the power of words that we as individuals learn what life is like for others and what life means to a particular person. The last cultural artefact that will be analysed in this paper pertains to that of African American poetry.
The piece of poetry to be analysed here is apiece by C. Highsmith-Hooks called Ghetto Child. Even from the title of the piece we can come to an understanding of what the poem will be about and the fact that the poem is going to feed deep into your soul once you read the poem. This poem is found in the famous collection by C. Highsmith-Hooks called The Soul of a Black Woman. There were a number of reasons why I chose to analyze this poem and relate it to the other two cultural artefacts but the main reason was because this is a poem written by a woman and the other two mediums analyzed were written by men.
Ghetto Child tells the story of a child from the `hood’ whose senseless death is mourned by his mother only. This poem was interesting because it pertained to the very essence of what was conveyed in the other two mediums analyzed that a life in the hood leads to death no matter what way one looks at it. In Boyz in the Hood both Ricky and Doughboy were murdered in the hood. This poem helps the audience understand what it is like for a woman in the `hood’ when she looses a child.
This notion was briefly shown in Boyz in the Hood when Ricky was murdered and his mother broke down. It is always said that it is better reading a book before you see a film. In this same sense it is important to understand that reading a poem is much better than watching a film as you get to understand and create your own imagery and understand the character in your own mind. In Conclusion, it is clear that there are similarities in the way that the `hood culture` is conveyed in the three cultural artefacts – film, music and poetry that were analyzed in this paper.
The major themes explored in these cultural artefacts were that of the permenant violence that surrounds life in the hood – especially for young males. It is a dog eat dog world in the hood and as a young man you need to make a choice about whether or not you will be using a gun because if you do you surely will get killed in the end. Another point that is of interest and has produced ideologies in all three cultural artefacts was how women are viewed in the ghetto.
Males seem to have little respect for women with the except being the character of Tre in Boyz in the Hood where he was taught from an early age how to be a good man and in turn respect women. The other characters in the film had little respect for women and often referred to women as “bitches’’ or “hoes’’. References: Film: Boyz in the Hood (1991) : Written and directed by John Singleton. Lyrics: Growing up in the Hood – CMW Poem: C. Highsmith-Hooks “Ghetto Child’’ in The Soul of a Black Woman: From a Whisper to a Shout (2002).