boyz n the hood

Looking at the the lives of 3 adolescents who reside in the heavily gang influenced ghetto of Los Angeles, Boyz N the Hood by John Singleton does an amazing job in examining and portraying the reality of what it’s like for those who reside in this area. By giving viewers an in-depth look at the struggles and the daily obstacles the 3 boys: Tre, Doughboy, and Ricky face, it gives viewers an even deeper look at the relationship between conformity and deviance (Singleton, 1991). All three of these characters grew up together in the same area but were all influenced by micro and macro level influences which altered their perception and where they reside on the line between conformity and deviance. In this paper, i will examine the lives of Tre, Ricky, Doughboy, and Tre’s father Furious styles through a positivist lense by highlighting which theories can be applied to each character. Tre:The first character which we can apply these positivist theories to is that of Tre Styles. Tre, the character who the film revolves around, is considered to be one of the more conforming characters in the film. He begins living with his mother but after a dispute occurs at his school, he is sent to live with his father and that is where his journey begins. There are plenty of theories which can apply to Tre the first being Social Disorganization. The environment that Tre grows up in has a severe impact on his willingness to engage in deviant or conforming behaviour  (Williams & McShane, 2018). From Tre as a young child and playing on the street and being exposed to such criminal activity as: blood on the ground from an earlier shooting, bullet holes in a poster on the wall, and walking home and witnessing aggravated assault on the road, Tre is exposure at an early age which are immediate and can relate further into his teen years. The next theory is that of the Middle Class Measuring rod through his interaction with his teacher at his elementary school. This can be seen through her influence on Tre’s life and him not adapting to the middle class environment and it failing him in the school (Williams & McShane, 2018). In addition, her being skeptical of Tre’s home environment leading to a very critical and discriminatory approach to Tre’s behaviour. Referencing the same example, there is also clear indication of Strain in the life of Tre, as it was less about anomie but her understanding of the situation and her approach to the conflict. Furthermore, Glaser’s differential identification theory can also be applied to Tre through his relationship with his father. This can be seen as Tre and Furious have a very intimate relationship which can be seen at various times such as when he is open to speaking to his father about sex and women (Williams & McShane, 2018). Tre ultimately tried to replicate his father and his conforming behaviour and this led to very strong positive connections made between the two where Tre has the ability to talk about anything to his father and also keeping him conforming for the most part. Moreover, the next theory is that of the learning perspective (Williams & McShane, 2018). This theory is highlighted in Tre as one of his main aspirations which tends to guide him away from the path of deviance is that he does not want to disappoint his father. When Tre does decide to leave Doughboy’s vehicle, it is because in his head he remembers his father’s lessons taught to him earlier in life and decides to not follow through with their actions.  This highlights the importance of his father’s lessons and teachings have on Tre’s life. In addition, Tre also highlights Social deviance through his complex position on the conforming/deviance spectrum. An example of this in the film is when he creates a fictional story about his first time having sex in order to hide the fact that he hasn’t had sex yet and his deeper fear of being a father. This example highlights Tre’s ability to demonstrate conformity, yet lying to his father due to the social pressure which he let get the best of him. The last theory which is able to be applied to the character of Tre styles is that of Reckless’s’ containment theory through his relationship with his parents and his environment. Not only the presence, but his parents being able to instill core values into Tre and making sure he stays on a conforming path were able to make his ‘sense of self’ view himself as a conforming individual and have a positive effect on his inner containment (Williams & McShane, 2018). Furious’ constant presence and his strong relationship with Tre was able to also affect his outer containment and have those values which were taught be replicated by Tre in his pursuit for conforming behaviour. Furthermore, the next character which is also able to highlight certain positivist theories is Ricky.Ricky:The next character which the theories taught in class can be applied to is Ricky. The first is the labelling perspective. This can be seen as Ricky’s choice for the most part to conform and avoid the deviant path which was chosen by his brother Doughboy. An example of this perspective is due to him and Doughboy having different dads, his mother labelled Ricky from an early age as a good son and would show hope in Ricky’s football career and try to keep him on the path to achieve this goal. This affirmation on his mom’s part on Ricky was able to highlight the different type of learning which Ricky received in comparison to his brother (Williams & McShane, 2018). In addition, Ricky also had a complex position on the conforming/deviant spectrum as we were able to see social deviance on his part. An example of his social deviance is him being a father and having a child before being married or done school. This highlights that in a macro-level societal view, Ricky did take part in partial deviance due to his actions. The next theory which can be applied is Albert Cohen’s strain theory. Even though Ricky’s aspirations to become a successful football player aligned with cultural goals and his means were legitimate, he still was a victim to economic strain. This was because living in the poor socio-economic house that he grew up in, made it hard for him to achieve his goal and provide for his child (Gervais: October 19, 2017). In reference to this, this leads to Ricky’s main conflict is that he needs to score a high score on his SATs so he can get his football scholarship. This is a clear example of Cohen’s middle class measuring rod as his high school is filled with middle class expectations which make it extremely hard for Ricky to achieve his desired score and other low class students which cannot live up to these expectations and turn to deviance (Gervais: October 19, 2017). Moreover, we are also able to see biological positivism in Ricky through two examples. The first being the way in which his mom is constantly positively labelling him, and in him taking the SAT’s. Through both examples, bio-positivism is seen as it would argue that deviance is a genetic disorder and it is because of Ricky’s father ability to conform that he himself conforms and his mom treats him as such. Moreover, we see the problematic and racialized assumptions which come from the SAT’s and how they are often culturally discriminatory and biased (White, 2013).  The last theory which can be applied to the life of Ricky is Cooley’s self theory and Ricky’s perception of himself. Due to his childhood, and his mother’s constant affirmation, Ricky lived up to the perception of those around him and was able to pass the SAT’s and continue with his conforming behaviour before he passes away (Williams & McShane, 2018). In addition, another character which was able to highlight plenty of theories was Ricky’s brother Doughboy.Doughboy:Unlike both Tre and Ricky, Doughboy was often on the opposite side of the spectrum as he more often than not took part in deviant behaviour. This was not always the case however as he often shifts along the spectrum. This is done by Doughboy through examples such as him constantly trying to protect Ricky in cases such as protecting his football and then avenging his death. These redeeming characteristics by Doughboy show his complexity on the spectrum and his social conformity. The next theory for Doughboy is that of functionalism. We are able to see this theory evident as it provides an explanation for Doughboy’s deviant behaviour and justifies it as him adapting to abnormal circumstances which can include: a lack of affection from his mother, residing in a poor socio-economic neighbourhood, and having a poor sense of self. This allows us to assume that Doughboy was simply reacting to his surroundings in his social systems (Pfohl, 1994). Furthermore, another theory which is illustrated by Doughboy is that of Cloward and Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory. This theory can be highlighted as Doughboy and his friends were acting in deviance as a group response to a shared problem which was an unequal access to illegitimate means. In addition, they were to be considered a conflict-type gang subculture as they prioritized violence, and laid a heavy focus on protecting turf & reputation (Cloward & Ohlin, 1960). With reference to gang subcultures, the next theory to apply to Doughboy was Miller’s class analysis. Doughboy highlighted this theory as he possessed a few of the major focal concerns such as: toughness and smartness. He showed toughness as he was very much aggressive, and smartness as he was able to thrive on the streets and was able to manipulate his circumstances to maximize his advantages. Furthermore, he did not have a proper learning environment which led him to go into gangs in the first place (Cullen 2013). The next theory which we can see is that of Merton’s strain. This can be seen as he is seen to be an innovator. This is because he is successfully achieving the implied cultural goals yet it is rejecting legitimate means and is doing it by drug dealing (Merton, 1938). Moreover, his behaviour can also be justified as it is simply him reacting to his abnormal (lack of resources and low socioeconomic status) circumstances and thus it is a normal response. Another form of strain theory which can be seen is that of Cohen’s strain theory. This is because his gang delinquency is justified and considered to be an emotional act as he is not able to achieve the middle class values. To further build upon this, Doughboy’s actions are more often than not meant to achieve a form of short term sensation instead of long term sensation such as him wanting to immediately avenge Ricky’s death (Gervais: October 19, 2017). Another theory which is seen in the character of Doughboy is that of Cooley’s self theory as he is fulfilling his anticipated reaction. At an early scene in the film, his mother is yelling at him while he is getting ready and she is constantly reminding him how “he aint shit and aint gonna be shit”. This quotation signifies how the anticipated reaction for Doughboy is that he will just stay in the hood and will not amount to anything  and his inner concept tends to believe this allowing him to fulfill this anticipated reaction (Williams & McShane, 2018). Building upon this, another theory which is evident is Lemert’s primary and secondary deviation through the informal influences of the people around him. Referencing the same example, those in his immediate environment are constantly reminding him his worth and ultimately contributing to him feeling like he will not amount to anything. This leads him to adopt and adapt to the deviant lifestyle he possesses. Before Doughboy lives up to his label, Becker’s master status is fairly visible early on as he is re-negotiates his master status. An example of this is at his homecoming party he reaffirms one of his friends that he “ain’t no criminal” and that “[he] can read”. This quotation highlights Doughboy having the ability to renegotiate his perception and to remind people that he is not a criminal and that is not his primary identity (Williams & McShane, 2018). In addition, bio-positivism can also be seen in Doughboy’s life. An example of this is Doughboy’s absence of a father and his criminal behaviour. Bio-positivism comes in here and offers the explanation that the reason for his behaviour is a genetic cause and because Doughboy’s father was also a criminal and it is because Doughboy is an example of an atavistic throwback that he participates in deviancy.  The last theory which is illustrated through Doughboy is that of symbolic interactionism. This can be seen through his environment and factors inside which make him prone to being a delinquent as he lived in an area which normalized violence and had drugs and gangs so visible that made his future and path predetermined (Williams & McShane, 2018). In addition, it also could be seen as he did partake in the deviant lifestyle such as him not being in high school like Tre and Ricky, serving multiple jail sentences, and him owning a gun (Williams & McShane, 2018). The final character which these criminological theories can be applied to is that of Furious Styles. Furious:The final character which is able to illustrate plenty of criminology theories within him is the father of Tre, Furious Styles. The first theory which can be applied to him is Merton’s strain theory. This theory can be seen as Furious fits under the ritualism category. An example of this is when he tells his wife how he is doing and he says “living, that’s enough for me”. This highlights that though he is conforming to legitimate accepted means, he is not striving for more and not trying to achieve the cultural goals (Merton, 1938). Moreover, the next theory which furious is able to symbolize is critical/conflict criminology. This can be seen as he is very concerned and very critical with the world around him and is able to acknowledge and fight against the racial oppression which is fairly evident in the ‘hood’. An example of this is when he is dismissing the black police officer saying the n word. This highlights how he is critically concerned with the political assumptions of the cop and is able to stand against the officer (Williams & McShane, 2018). Another theory which is highlighted by Furious’ character is the labeling perspective. This can also be seen by referencing his conversation with the officer and his stereotypical assumptions upon Furious and his son (Williams & McShane, 2018). The next theory which can be seen in the case of Furious is that of social disorganization. This is because furious is able to acknowledge the lack of association between the community and the problematic environment that they live in. An example of this is when he is telling Tre all about what his friends were doing when his mother was pregnant and how he doesn’t want Tre to end up like all of his friends in the hood who would end up in a different fashion then Tre (Williams & McShane, 2018). The last theory which can be applied to Furious Styles is the learning perspective. All throughout the film Furious is trying as much as he can to keep Tre out of deviance and trying to make him responsible. Furious’ positive reinforcement parenting style and him constantly supporting his son instill pro-community goals and expectations in Tre’s life. When he brings Tre to the billboard sign where he teaches his son about the racial inequalities in the society (Williams & McShane, 2018). This highlights how Furious believes not only in Tre but also believes in his parenting which ultimately leads to the success in Tre’s life. Criticisms, Solutions, and Takeaways:What is also important is to critically consider the strengths, inappropriateness and limitations of the deterministic positivist perspectives’ abilities to explain ‘deviance’ / ‘crime’ and their contexts as emphasized in this film. The first is that it only highlights one part of the story. This can be seen as most of these theories remain focused on the individual level and analyze the actions and immediate lives of the characters. It is only by the character of Furious where we are able to examine and understand the societal contexts and get a more deep and more complete lense of the situation. It is also inappropriate as it can be considered at times racist and stereotypical (Carrier & Walby, 2014). An example of this is when biological positivism is able to be seen in the life of Doughboy and how his father could be a reason for his deviant lifestyle. This highlights how biological positivism can often be stereotypical and racist in its way of thinking as they explain that Doughboy’s actions can be traced back to his father who could also be a criminal. Another critique which is noted in this film is the ecological fallacy. This is represented by Tre and Ricky and their ability to conform to societal values for the most part. They highlight this fallacy as even though they grow up in a bad community, this does not mean they need to go to deviance and they can still follow the path of deviance. Moreover, the heavy usage of determinism erases the agency of choice of the individual. By using these theories to explain the reason Doughboy or any of the characters choose to commit any acts of deviance, we are limiting their personal decision-making and removing their agency as an individual. The last critique is that of hollywood’s stereotypical depiction of the hood. There are plenty of examples of this in the film such as the constant helicopter noises in the back or the billboard sign in Crenshaw, each of these show a very stereotypical view of the hood which is used to glorify their surroundings. However, with being able to acknowledge the limitations, it is now fundamental to acknowledge what can be done to address the limitations. What should be done to address these limitations is to first be able to admit to the stereotypical way of thinking which comes from these deterministic theories as the first way to improve upon these theories is to acknowledge where they are at fault. The next way is to now focus not only on one aspect of the picture but to expand our perception onto a much broader lense. By using critical and classical criminology, it allows us to examine all the factors which can play a role in one partaking in a deviant lifestyle and what explanations can come for where they fall on the conformity-deviant spectrum. There are plenty of takeaways which I was able to get from this film. This first being that we should never undervalue the importance of thinking, not only that but thinking theoretically with our heart (Cohen 1973). The next takeaway I have is that for us as students to maximize the potential of accountability and constantly be able to situate that accountability (Cohen 1973). In addition, positivism does in fact offer some valuable explanations on crime as it provides a foundation to base the research on why deviance occurs in society. However it is crucial for us to also examine the broader contexts of the situation for us to get a more complete and equitable lense. Conclusion:In summation, Boyz ‘n the Hood by John Singleton does an excellent job in highlighting the everyday struggle which those who reside in what is to be considered ‘the hood’ face. He does this by giving an in-depth look at the lives of three children who each grew up with different external influences and see how they all land on the conformity-deviance spectrum. Through the thorough examination of the characters Tre, Ricky, Doughboy, and Tre’s father Furious Styles, one is able to notice a wide variety of criminological theories which are applied and justify the circumstances and decisions which each character faces and inevitably why they had conforming or deviant behaviour.

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