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"AND""OR"

Boyz 'N The Hood
and Menace II Society A Comparison Of Two Films "I've gone too far to go back and too far to go on" was one of the most powerful lines in "Menace II Society". It represents the thinking of many of the characters in the movies "Boyz N the Hood" and "Menace II Society" who were caught up in the endless cycle of city violence. Actions of characters in both films are directly affected by the people they encounter who act as role models for the developing youths. The violent surroundings they lived and grew up in were difficult to escape and made survival harder as time went on. In each movie, the way role models influenced characters' decisions involving violence is represented very differently. Movies based upon themes of the importance of role models, rely on the fact that role models are needed because "conditions in certain inner cities are hazardous to a child's physical health, mental health, and social adjustment" (Uehara 779). Because it depicts the effects of positive role models on youth in black America, "Boyz N the Hood" is a better movie than "Menace II Society". Directed by Allen and Albert Hughes, "Menace II Society" chronicles the violent summer of 1993 experienced by new high school graduate Caine and a group of friends living in Watts, California. Caine (orphaned years ago when his father was killed and his drug addict mother died of an overdose) lives with his grandparents, devout Christians whose beliefs he rejects. From the opening scene, when a friend, O-Dog, murders two store clerks, Caine's summer is filled with violence. Human life has little value, as even petty disputes lead to cold-blooded murder. Caine not only learns street values embedded in a distortion of the word "respect" but also does nothing to gain respect. To him and his friends respect is only intimidation because of fear ("Menace II Society"). "Boyz N the Hood" is a film about a group of black teenagers in South Central L.A. The main character, Tre, is a 17-year-old on the verge of going to college. He hangs out with his best friend, Ricky, a teenage parent who hopes to win a football scholarship. Both boys are brought down to reality by their dangerous surroundings and by the actions of Ricky's brother and ex-convict, Doughboy. Meanwhile, Tre's divorced father struggles to rescue his son from the violence and negative influences that surround him from all sides ("Boyz N the Hood"). Boyz N the Hood is a better movie because the effects of positive role models are seen through the portrayal of violence, crime, and family values. Although "Menace II Society" looks at the development of the street criminal, the regular scenes of violence often take place without meaning. Constant scenes of gunplay appear throughout the film and only seem to fulfill an entertainment aspect without presenting a strong message. For example, Caine turns to violence after his cousin is killed and murders another teenager. Caine is driven to these actions because he has grown up with violence all around him and was never taught otherwise. Even at a very young age he saw his own father murder another man in his home. After committing murder, Caine only realizes that taking another person's life did not make him strong as he thought it would. On the other hand, constant scenes of violence are not seen throughout "Boyz N the Hood" because of the effect of positive role models. Violence is delayed until the viewers learn more about the characters and develop sympathy and feelings for them. In this way, violence is portrayed in a more meaningful and emotional way rather than just for entertainment. Director John Singleton says that when he depicts violence he is "making you feel something, when somebody dies or something happens you feel something-and I think that's more disturbing than killing a hundred people in a film" ("It's not just black and white" 1). For example, Tre attempts to stay away from violence because his father has taught him many values. Near the end of the movie when Ricky is killed, Tre eventually decides not to use violence because of his father's influence. Another aspect in which both movies engage, is crime. In "Menace II Society", characters are often involved with various types of crimes, but few repercussions follow these actions. An illustration of thoughtless crime is best seen when O-Dog robs a convenience store and kills two clerks. Again, role models do not teach him otherwise which is apparent from his attitude. O-Dog kills without conscience; he enjoys replaying the security camera videotape of his murder to his friends and thinks that it is humorous. Also deprived of values, Caine turns to crime and steals rather than working for what he wants. However, in "Boyz N the Hood", crime is seen much differently. Characters without role models (Doughboy) go to juvenile hall as children and eventually prison for committing crimes. Tre, on the contrary, stays away from trouble such as drugs and alcohol because of the strong influence his father has been. His father teaches him about respect and responsibility when Tre is a child by making him do chores while other children have no one to teach them. Most importantly, each movie is separate in its handling of family values. Throughout "Menace II Society", there are no positive role models to teach younger generations about values. Cain's father sold drugs, his mother was a heroin addict, and their friends were ex-convicts. All of the younger gangsters, including Caine, look up to a friend who was imprisoned for murder. Therefore, it is no surprise that when he becomes older he also turns to drugs and crime. For instance, Caine went to jail for attempting to steal a car, and he robs people at gun-point throughout the movie. However, family values are displayed more effectively in "Boyz N the Hood". Because he lives with his moralistic father, Tre learns many values which in turn affect his actions during the entire movie. For example, his father teaches him that anyone can have a baby, but only a real man can raise his children. As a result, Tre is reluctant to have sex because he understands the responsibilities involved in having children. His actions are altered by having a positive role model whom he respects throughout the movie. This respect is obvious when Tre admits that he rarely lies to his father. By examining role models and their effects on violence, crime, and family values, "Boyz N the Hood" conveys a much deeper message on how the problem of black youth violence should be solved. In the end it appears that the only message portrayed by "Menace II Society" is how a child is transformed into a gang criminal. Unfortunately, Hollywood gangster films often only attempt to "ironically chart the end of the lower-class ethnic family from which gangsters are seen to derive" (Winokur 12). While containing more action than "Boyz N the Hood", "Menace II Society" fails to present a message of how we should solve the problems of gangs, crime, violence, and drugs. However, these movies do allow viewers to see the obvious cause of the cycle of violence in the inner city. No alternatives are presented in "Menace II Society". This allows the film to be told in one summer because we know the end result of immediate violence, death. In "Boyz N the Hood", the story takes place over several years in order to demonstrate the long-term effects of raising children with values. These effects caused by positive role models are best seen by noticing that characters in "Menace II Society" are quick to solve problems with violence, while characters in "Boyz N the Hood" look to the future before making decisions. According to Marian Wright Edelman, "It is time for parents and preachers and teachers and community leaders to fill the huge moral and guidance vacuum with time, attention and positive alternatives to the streets" (4). Therefore, until positive role models are more common, the cycle of inner city violence will be very difficult to end. Works Cited "Boyz N the Hood." Cinemania 96. 1st ed. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1995. Edelman, Marian Wright. "We must not lose what we knew was right then." Ebony Nov 1995: 5 pp. Online. Internet. 27 Feb. 1996 "It's not just black and white." Tharunka Online 3 pp. Online. Internet. 27 Feb. 1997 "Menace II Society." Cinemania 96. 1st ed. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1995. Uehara, Edwina S. "African American Youth Encounters With Violence." Journal of Black Studies July 1996: 768-781 Winokur, Mark. "Eating Children Is Wrong." Sight and Sound Nov 1991: 10-13

 



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