Connecting Boyz in the Hood With Strain Theory … Research Paper
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Boyz in the Hood is a movie set in a black neighbourhood in South Central Los Angeles, California. It depicts the reality that young black men face, which is the possibility of death from murder and that from the hands of another black man. In this black neighbourhood, it is normal to witness a drive-by-shooting and violence is nothing new (Frederic & Brussat, n.d.).
A black mother Reva Styles (Angela Basset) has trouble disciplining her son Tre Styles (Desi Hines II). She knows that he can have a bright future, but he doesn't have the ability to focus on it. At her wits end, she chooses to send him to her ex-husband Furious (Lawrence Fishbourne) who she charges to make a man out of him (Frederic & Brussat, n.d.).
The boy thus moves to Crenshaw, a violent black neighbourhood in South Central Los Angeles. In this neighbourhood, thefts are a regular thing as is the presence of police surveillance. Furious, however, is determined to teach his son to be a man and he sets out to fulfil this duty, despite the odds against him. He manages to teach his son to be responsible, respectful and keep away from violence.
The lessons that Tre's father puts in him are instrumental in his life seven years later, when he lives in a place where people are fear-bound because of the gangs that rule the area. He dates a girl with similar values as his and whose desire is to free herself from the kind of life they live through education. He has a friend Ricky (Morris Chestnut) who is keen on attaining a scholarship through football. Doughboy (Ice Cube), Ricky's older brother, bears scars from the street, including time in prison (Frederic & Brussat, n.d.).
Tragedy hits them when there is a deadly altercation with a gang that murders Ricky. It is the norm in the neighbourhood to pay back deed for deed, and thus Ricky's friends and his brother thirst for revenge. Tre finds himself in a situation where he must choose the path that he will take from there on. He feels the pressures from Ricky's brother and his friends, but ultimately he must make up his own mind (Frederic & Brussat, n.d.).
This is the one thing that sets this movie apart from others; it is set in violent neighbourhoods. It reveals the moral dilemma that many face when forced to choose a path that may alienate them from the only world that they know. It flows with values that were inculcated in the young man by a father who took up his duty to train his son to become a man (Frederic & Brussat, n.d.).
It demonstrates such depth of character as is rare even in lives lived away from this violence. John Singleton who wrote and directed the film strived to bring out ideals, such as responsibility, respect and sensitivity. It brings out hope in humanity, the virtue of friendship and joys of life that the audience can identify with (Frederic & Brussat, n.d.).
The Strain Theory
According to Agnew (1992), strain occurs in situations where those in relationships, of whatever kind, treat a person in a way that the person prefers not to be so. It is a word that has been used differently though. For example, emotional responses to certain experiences, how individuals gauge a situation, and objective occurrences (Agnew, 2001).
The Strain Theory puts forward the result of strain, which would include emotions that are undesirable, such as anger and defeat. Some of these negative emotions result in untoward responses, such as crime. These responses are geared toward reducing the strain felt in a situation or circumstance (Agnew, 2001).
One may try to reduce strain by seeking revenge for something, or resorting to theft in order to reduce the strain from lacking funds to meet a need. All these form the General Strain Theory. This theory stands on older ones, but brings in new classes of strain. These include: classes such as goal blockage where one fails to attain their objectives of justice; the evidence of negative stimuli, such as bodily harm and verbal assault; and lack of positive stimuli, which occurs when one experiences the loss of someone, or something that evoked these positive responses.
The new classes under the General Strain Theory lean more towards law breaking and delinquency. The inclusion of these has given this theory more value (Agnew, 2001).
Connecting the Strain Theory with Boyz in the Hood
The director of the movie carefully crafted it to bring out the choices that the individuals had to make and the struggle to make the right decision. When Ricky is killed, a choice is presented to his brother and his best friend. The choice to take revenge or to walk the high road (Boyz N the Hood, 1991).
At the start, they make the decision to take revenge. However, when Tre considers the decision further, he realizes that he will be risking his own life for nothing. He has worked hard and come this far and it would be a mistake to lose everything for the sake of revenge. Doughboy, on the other hand, makes the decision to continue with the revenge (Boyz N the Hood, 1991).
The movie also brings out the fact that for those who live in harsh circumstances, and who do not have access to economic freedom of choices, have more serious consequences on their lives. For those with a focus on improving their lives, such as Tre, the choice made leads him further down the road. Unfortunately, those who have lost hope, such as Doughboy, experience the strain that society brings (Boyz N the Hood, 1991).
Many researchers who have focused on gangs have put up theories that reflect the strain of society. Mesner and Rosenfeld put forward that society strains people through norms and standards (Freng, 2009). They remain unattainable, unless one has the ability to seek the American Dream. Even individuals who come from terrible social backgrounds have the ability to reach their objectives and become successful.
This has been reflected in the film when Tre and Ricky actively pursue their goals. The reason put forward for this is that these people have a goal to work towards in their lives. They are, thus, not strained by society as those who don't have them. According to Agnew (1985), this theory implies that when the goal being pursued is blocked or non-existent, delinquency is the consequence. This has been demonstrated by Doughboy in the movie.
It is generally accepted that African-Americans have experienced strain from their society for a long time. One of the reasons for this is the stigma that they have experienced from society, which has resulted in strain. Messer and Roosevelt put forward a theory that due to strain experienced in the society for various reasons, such as economic or social reasons, decisions come up on whether to uphold or break the values that society holds (Freng, 2009).
Society judges these decisions, resulting in strain. Doughboy reflects this all the way. His brother shines in sports and as a result, is always in the 'limelight'. According to Agnew (1985 p. 151-167), even receiving poor grades in school can lead to strain, and eventually delinquency. Those who society expects little of, such as Doughboy, are more likely to be strained.
Freng (2009) notes Cohen's Theory of Strain, stating that someone of status is unlikely to be strained, and thus will most likely not join a gang. They do not need a status because they already have one. However, the opposite is true. When one lacks status, they are more likely to join a gang (Freng, 2009).
This is the situation that is facing Doughboy, who, though not explicitly mentioned as a gang member, exhibits gang like behaviour with his thirst and drive for revenge. Social programs can intervene here before he becomes a pariah in society. They can help the person to have goals that will prevent him from joining a gang or lower the risk of the same (Freng, 2009).
This movie has brought out the reality of the challenges that face many people whose lives are lived in such circumstances. Social problems, such as poverty and crime, as well as how they impact relationships, have come out quite clearly. It is a movie that can provoke discussions as well as open the minds of young African-American males to the choices that they have, and that they can make in life (Akers & Sellers, 2009, p.183).
The movie brings out the reality that the African-American male faces the risk of falling victim to gangs and the violence around them. The Strain Theory, thus, applies well to the movie (Akers & Sellers, 2009, p.183). Akers and Sellers (2009 p.1830) go on to say that the person under strain here, who is Doughboy, is at the risk of joining gang life because of the numerous strains he has experienced. Other people in the movie… [END OF PREVIEW]
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