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Selected film and why:  I chose the film Boyz N The Hood to Sociologically Analysis because it’s a reality story of how Black Americans are seen in today’s society.

Overview: Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is sent to live with his father, Furious Styles (Larry Fishburne), in tough South Central Los Angeles. Although his hard-nosed father instills proper values and respect in him, and his devoted girlfriend Brandi (Nia Long) teaches him about faith, Tre’s friends Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut) don’t have the same kind of support and are drawn into the neighborhood’s booming drug and gang culture, with increasingly tragic results.

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Setting: South Central Los Angeles, California 

Characters:  Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King and Angela Bassett. 

Plot: Inner-city Los Angeles takes the form of a tale of three friends growing up together ‘in the ‘hood.’ Half-brothers Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut) are foils for each other’s personality, presenting very different approaches to the tough lives they face. Ricky is the ‘All-American’ athlete, looking to win a football scholarship to USC and seeks salvation through sports, while ‘Dough’ succumbs to the violence, alcohol, and crime surrounding him in his environment, but maintains a strong sense of pride and code of honor. Between these two is their friend Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who is lucky to have a father, ‘Furious’ Styles, to teach him to have the strength of character to do what is right and to always take responsibility for his actions.

 Sociological issues: How Black Americans are perceived in today’s society. These issues consists of teen pregnancy, how not having a positive role model can affect a child’s development, gang involvement, gun violence, and how the streets can destroy a person’s life without the proper guidance.

How they are manifested in the film: This film portrays deviant behavior, sexual act, gun violence, racism, and drugs.

Illumination: There is little hope for a community that is socially disorganized such as the hood. There is no investment of intervention or assistance in helping individuals of the community invest in it themselves. The community needs help reestablishing a connection between individuals and their community. Although, the city only invest in the Classical approach to dealing with crime. There is constant helicopters surveillance because the hood is a ‘hot spot’ for crime. The city is reinforcing the cycle of criminal behavior instead of investing in proactive measures to fix the problem. They have constant surveillance of the problem in hopes of minimizing deviance. The hood needs social change.

Questions:  What is the community doing to help better educate the youth in regards to better opportunities? Does the violence within the community stem from the lack of opportunities? What is suggested that the boys do when violence comes their way, even though they’ve tried their best to avoid it?

Identified social issues in the film “Boyz N The Hood”:  Boyz in the Hood tells the story about life in South Central Los Angeles with the struggle of young black men trying to overcome life in the hood. Social issues presented in this film consist of social, economic and cultural issues that bring about violence, poverty, teen pregnancy, gang involvement and drug abuse.

Sociological theory: The characters in this movie were raised in a very deviant community, however there were many causes as to why they did not all become deviant. Throughout the movie these characters had many chances to engage in deviant behavior but they chose not to because they were trying to take advantage of what little opportunities they were giving. Their behavior and personality was determined by many factors and theories which sociologist study. These theories consist of social control or the conflict theory, the effects of capitalism, and the labeling theory. This movie also shows why class is not determined by race.  As this deviant society is exposed to these theories, a normal society can better understand why this deviance is created. The behavior examined in this film can be explained using a framework of deviance called Conflict Theory. Conflict Theory in terms of deviance explains that engaging in deviant behavior is an attempt to combat the unequal access to social and economic resources and opportunities giving or enjoyed by those in power who have social control. Deviant behavior is the result of social conditions. Though the story is entirely fictional, the living conditions of South Central L.A. shown in the movie is extremely factual. South Central L.A. is notorious for its urban decay and street crime. South Central is considered to be the center of gang violence and poverty in the city of Los Angeles, as it is the birthplace of many famous gangs such as the “Bloods” and the “Crips”. As well as an area with low-income minorities who struggle day to day with life in the hood. The use of conflict theory helps to challenge personal and societal assumptions when analyzing the social issues presented in this film because it focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever?changing nature of society. Today, conflict theorists find social conflict between any groups in which the potential for inequality exists: racial, gender, religious, political, economic, and many more. Conflict theorists note that unequal groups usually have conflicting values and agendas, causing them to compete against one another. This constant competition between groups forms the basis for the ever?changing nature of society. Critics of the conflict perspective point to its overly negative view of society. The theory ultimately attributes humanitarian efforts, kindness, democracy, civil rights, and other positive aspects of society to capitalistic designs to control the masses, not to inherent interests in preserving society and social order. Overall the conflict theory presents society in a different light encouraging social change.

Sociology view

A.    The sociology issue of gang involvement is influenced by the social phenomena of social and economic influences that are important in rundown neighborhoods where the population is primarily lower-class citizens, in perspectives of the film “Boyz N The Hood” the hood. The theory of social disorganization states a person’s physical and social environments are primarily responsible for the behavioral choices that a person makes. At the core of social disorganization theory, is that location matters when it comes to predicting illegal activity. Researchers noted that neighborhoods with the highest crime rates have at least three common problems, physical destruction, poverty, and higher level of ethnic and culture mixing. Researchers also claimed that delinquency was not caused at the individual level, but is a normal response by normal individuals to abnormal conditions. Social disorganization theory is widely used as an important predictor of youth violence and crime.

B.     The strain theory consists of societies that are composed of two core aspects culture and social structure. It is in the realm of culture that our values, beliefs, goals, and identities are developed. These are developed in response to the existing social structure of society, which is supposed to provide the means for us to achieve our goals and live out positive identities. However, the goals that are popular within our culture are not in balance with the means made available within the social structure. When this happens, strain can occur, and deviant behavior is likely to follow. According to this theory, when people cannot attain the legitimate goal of economic success through what society defines as the legitimate means dedication and hard work, they may turn to other illegitimate means of attaining that goal. I chose this perspective to examine the relationship between the social issue and the social phenomena because it explains what most gang member’s experience living in a lower class neighborhood, as well as telling why gang members get involved. Insight provided by this theoretical perspective is how a person really feels before they join a gang, why they join the gang, and what they’re expecting to accomplish by joining a gang. 

C.    With the nation state being among the central markers defining the difference between traditional and modern societies, we can then come to understand how Karl Marx utilized historical materialism to understand society. Marx’s analysis of relations between people and land is a critical read of history and contemporary.  Marx analyzes the place of class struggle within feudalist relations to understand the origins of the capitalist nation state.  Marx discusses the rise of capitalist modernity in the terms of labor relations and private property. In terms of the film “Boyz N The Hood” many African Americans find it extremely difficult to escape such grim conditions in a society based on capitalism. Those in power in a capitalist society, usually the affluent, further such conditions to ensure that the wealthy remain in power. Capitalist societies are dependent on competitive forms of social and economic interaction and upon substantial inequalities in the allocation of social resources. Because of the inequalities working against African Americans in a capitalist society, economic security is not guaranteed. Often many African Americans in South Central L.A. are forced to compete, as they must fend for themselves, finding the best available opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. Unfortunately many of these opportunities involve deviant behavior in the form of crimes through gang affiliations. Deviant behavior in this example is not an innate behavior of African Americans living in South Central but rather a perfectly rational response to the various social and economic inequalities reinforced by a capitalist society. However it is important to note that the people in power are the ones who label such actions as deviant behavior while many African Americans living in South Central see it as a means of survival.

D.    Social disorganization theory, strain theory and cultural deviance theory all fall under the social structure theory. Each of these three sub-theories attempt to explain what causes people to join violent gangs. Although each of these theories deviates in some aspects from the thought of each other they all share the common ground of the social structure theory. Social structure theorists believe that criminality is a result of an offender’s lack of being able to achieve goals through legitimate means. Social learning theorists believe that people deviate from criminal behavior because they have good role models such as family and friends who teach them to obey the law. And social control theorists believe that a person’s behavior is a reflection of the society for which they are a part. It is the internal and external forces that a person is exposed to that determine whether or not they are going to become a deviant (Siegel, 2010). All of these social theories can potentially explain, in part or in whole, why people participate in violent gang activity.

Additional Research:

A.    I chose the two articles of Durkheim and the Normalization of Deviance along with Conduct Problems in Youth: Sociological Perspectives. Durkheim discusses that society’s reliance upon the existence of crime is confirmed by the fact that it will search for such transgressions, even in the absence of delinquent activity. The notion that criminal activity was a normal, functional element of society, one from which the masses tremendously benefited. Durkheim’s definition of criminality recognizes the amount of widespread individuality and uniqueness strewn throughout the world, as demonstrated through varying religions, political beliefs, and personality differences, and which precludes the possibility for uniform customs to exist. The impossibility of establishing one solid “norm,” therefore, lends itself to the existence of several distinct “norms” peppered throughout the realm of human existence, which creates a platform ripe for conflict. The article Conduct Problems in Youth discusses how societies and social processes within societies are arranged or ordered, and how they may change, or become disordered. At first glance, social disorder may seem the proper focus of explanations of criminality, and indeed, there is much interest in the disordered nature of social behavior in the study of crime and delinquency. However, sociological observations of criminality also clearly indicate that there is order within the seemingly disordered expressions of crime and delinquency. Patterns of criminality often display logic and order among offenders, even if these are not consistent with the general patterns of logic and behavior established within “normal” components of society.

B.     Sociological theories that support these researchers are strain theory which revolves around the notion that people naturally aspire to the attainment of dreams and goals, but often lack an organized route by which to achieve such lofty desires. The discrepancy between passionate aspirations and nebulous plans of action often render criminality, in which people resort to unscrupulous deeds to produce their targeted objectives. Other sociological theories that support these researchers are macro-level and micro level theories. Macro-level which focus on the rates of behavior as they are expressed across larger collectivities, such as communities or societies. One issue of interest to macro theories of criminality, for example, would be the differential distribution of crime rates between or among societies or between communities within a society. Micro explanations concentrate on individual behavior but from a societal or environmental point of view. Thus, micro-level explanations are also termed social psychological. Micro approaches to an understanding of crime or delinquency examine the impact on criminality of an individual’s characteristics and attitudes as these are affected by social groups or environmental conditions.

C.    Inferences that can be made about how the social issue of gang involvement is represented in the film using the identified social patterns, differing opinions, and supporting theories of the articles are that no matter how many crimes are committed in the “hood” economically provides a better way to achieve a higher social status. In relation to the movie, Doughboy and the rest of his friends with the exception of his friend Tre and his brother Ricky resorted to a life of crime, selling crack cocaine as a result of the lack of social and economic opportunities available to them. Because of the negligence and the lack of parental guidance from his mother and the absence of a father figure, Doughboy had no role model to guide him on the path of being a productive member of society.

Conclusion

A.    Based on the research of my selected article Durkheim and the Normalization of Deviance I align myself with the theory that deviance is a normal and necessary part of any society because it contributes to the social order. Most people see deviance as all bad but that’s not the case because it also fulfills certain social functions. The affirmation of cultural norms and values was fulfilled by deviance due to seeing a person punished for a deviant act reinforces what a society sees as acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Clarification of right and wrong also response’s to deviant behavior because it helped individuals distinguish between right and wrong. Unification of others in society was brought about from the deviant behavior of 9/11 were people from all over the world were united in their shock and grief. There was a surge in patriotic feeling and a sense of social unity among the citizens of the United States. Last but not least deviance can encourage the dominant society to consider alternative norms and values, which is considered as promoting social change.

B.     The film “Boyz N The Hood” validates social stereotypes because back in the late eighties early nineties their weren’t to many black artists starring in movies. Back then the notion of a black artist who’s not afraid to speak their mind or put their feelings and point of view into their art was new trend. Black culture was both embraced and criticized in this film. The objective was to reveal the constant cycle of murder and the self-fulfilling prophecy due to the pressures of strength. In order to do this, Singleton risks reinforcing the stereotype that young black males are violent. Whether or not stereotypes exist in this film is purely subjective, because, for example, Singleton portrays the reality of “the Hood,” but an outsider may view it as stereotypical. Race politics and arguments are naturally implied, because Singleton’s film addresses societal problems related to race specifically such as police brutality in the film through two scenes involving a black cop abusing his authority and threatening the young black males.  For example, a cop pulled Tre and Ricky over and the black cop presses his loaded gun to Tre’s neck while verbally threatening him. Scenes like this one bring up social problems surrounding race.

C.    In my opinion “Boyz N The Hood” had a positive impact on society because it expressed the importance of how having a supportive structured family or people who care about your well-being could make positive reinforcement in a child’s life. For instance when Reva (Angela Bassett) sends Tre to live with his father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne), in a seedier area of Los Angeles. There, she hopes Furious will be able to teach him how to be a man and instill in him the value of carving out a positive future for oneself, in which he has done. It also demonstrated how not having proper structure growing up in a rough neighborhood or growing up in poverty can destroy the youth’s future. Like Ricky became a teen parent and Doughboy became a delinquent due to not having the proper guidance. This movie also alerted many people of the gang involvement and police brutality that was going on in Los Angeles during that era.

Real-World Relevance   

A.    The social issues represented in “Boyz N The Hood” does accurately represent how the social issue exists in the real world. Here were I reside the teen pregnancy rate is extremely high leading 43 percent per 1000 girls pregnant. The crime rate is through the roof, there were a number of 6 murders due to gang involvement within not even a month apart from one another. With these epidemics I blame the parents for not being positive role models for their children. It’s actually sad to walk outside your door and see a 14 year old walking down the street with a 2 year old, or to be at the store and witness a 17 year old gunned and shot in the head. These are examples of what goes on in my neighborhood.

B.     I would apply the same previously selected classical and contemporary theories to the social issue in the real world. Simply because the world we live in today is steady evolving but its evolving into the same nature that capitalist societies are still being dependent on competitive forms of social and economic interaction and upon substantial inequalities in the allocation of social resources. 

C.    The use of sociological theory can help anyone challenge personal and societal assumptions in approaching social issues in real life by understanding society as a whole, the certain elements of the society such as the family unit religion, and the evolution of social structures. Sociologists focus on how a society is structured, how each and every individual works as part of the whole, how society has changed over the years and predictions of future changes. In other words, sociological theories help people understand society and knowledge of the world as it grows. 

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