The first movie that made me cry was Boyz in the Hood. Even to this day, I have to be in a certain mood to watch the film. Suffice it to say, this is not a movie that gets watched too often by me. It’s not that it wasn’t good. On the contrary, the film was excellent and if you haven’t seen it, see it. Boyz in the Hood is a coming of age film, written by John Singleton, but it’s a whole lot different than say, 16 Candles. A lot different. Boyz in the Hood is a gritty, painful look at life for teenagers living in South Central Los Angeles. Although they took tests and attended dances, their problems went far beyond acne, a PMS-filled wedding day, and the girl getting the guy with the “perfect” hair. Boyz in the Hood was real, but I wasn’t familiar with this reality that shook me to the core. I just couldn’t see the happy ending and that feeling just caused me to bawl right there in the movie theater. 16 Candles wasn’t my reality either, but I was more familiar with it. I went to school with the Samantha Bakers and the Jake Ryans. They were in my honors classes and science clubs, though they didn’t give me a second glance. I parked my modest car in the school parking lot alongside Porsches, Benzes, Beemers, and Audis like it was no big deal, because it wasn’t. I knew what I needed to do to get those type of cars. And it was my goal was to live in that 2-story colonial in the suburbs with my husband and 2.5 kids, as depicted in that John Hughes, Bratpack film.
But Boyz in the Hood opened my eyes up to a different life that some teenagers have to endure. First, I didn’t know that helicopters had clear airspace in residential districts. Secondly, I saw that these teenagers had more to be concerned about then remembering their biology homework. They had to worry about surviving through high school graduation – like the not-getting-gunned down type surviving. Thirdly, when I first saw Boyz in the Hood, I never even heard of “gentrification.” Upon gathering the courage to watch the movie again recently, I realized that Tre’s father, Furious Styles actually advocated for “self-gentrification.” He describes it here. He implores his people to see value in their own communities and be in control of their destinies. As I am watching this part of the movie, I am doing two things: Admiring the “ah-kitechtural” styles of the neighborhood homes in the background and recognizing their value. I am also scanning the crowd Furious is addressing, noticing that the crowd consists of two types of people. They either are resigned to stay and live (or die) in the manner that they have grown accustomed or they are leaving at the first opportunity, never to return.
Those ready to leave quick, fast, and in a hurry, have dreams that consist of that 2-story colonial, luxury car owning, peaceful life in the suburbs as seen on 16 Candles. They want their children to grow up like Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan. I can’t blame them, though. I wasn’t brought up in the ‘hood but I wanted that too. The problem is, that Samantha and Jake who are now grown, see the value in the property that was left behind by those who fled.