Interpersonal Communication in Boyz in the Hood

Boyz in the Hood (1991), directed by John Singleton, examines the obstacles that individuals in 1980s Crenshaw, California are forced to face and the struggles endured to overcome them. The film focuses on Tre Styles and Ricky Baker, two friends from different backgrounds who attempt to overcome their struggles together. These obstacles include, but are not limited to, Tre and Ricky’s individual and shared socio-economic status, the stigma associated with youths from Crenshaw, and personal life goals and ambitions.

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In the film, language helps the viewer understand how the characters view themselves and how they view each other. One term that is used frequently and in a derogatory manner is n-. The term appears to be used as an attempt to subjugate individuals. For instance, when Furious Styles, Tre’s father, calls the police after shooting at an intruder, one of the police officers — who is paradoxically also black — uses the term to insinuate people from and in Crenshaw, regardless of their education or background, are below him simply because he works in an authoritative position. This term is also used by Doughboy, Ricky’s brother, towards his gangster friends (Boyz in the Hood, 1991). While the term has derogatory connotations, Doughboy has embraced the word as a term of endearment. At the same time, n- is still used to refer to people from the neighborhood. It is interesting to see how Doughboy’s language and attitude change when an outsider is introduced and welcomed into his home. When he first meets Lewis Crump, a scout from USC, he immediately changes his tone because he recognizes that Crump may be Ricky’s only opportunity to get out of Crenshaw. Additionally, men frequently refer to women as bitches and hoes in a failed attempt to demean and subjugate them. Examples of the use of these terms can be seen at the BBQ at Ricky’s house and at the car rally later on in the film.

Self can also be defined in the way characters dress themselves and how they socialize with others. For instance, the way in which Tre and Ricky dress as young children is foreshadowing of their future selves. In the scene where Ricky gets his football taken away, Ricky is seen wearing a football jersey, an early indication that football will be his life goal. Seven years later, Ricky is a high school football star and is working on getting a scholarship to USC to continue pursuing his goal. In the same scene, Tre is wearing a Georgetown University shirt, which hints at his academic ambitions that are eventually realized at the end of the film. Likewise, Doughboy’s manner of dress allows the audience to see how he identifies himself as a gang member, a life that will he will lead and ultimately contribute to his death at the end of the film (McLeod, 2008).

Doughboy’s self-identity also affects others in the film. Associating with Doughboy automatically ropes in Tre and Ricky into his problems. Because of their association and friendship with Doughboy, Tre and Ricky are targeted by a rival gang even though they themselves are not gang members. Doughboy’s gang affiliation also leads Brenda, Ricky and Doughboy’s mother, to blame Doughboy from Ricky’s death (McLeod, 2008; Boyz in the Hood, 1991).

The relationships that are formed and developed in Boyz in the Hood (1991) strengthen the characters and allow them to achieve their goals. Through the use of engagement strategies, strong relationships are formed between Tre and Furious, Tre and Ricky, and Tre and Brandi. The engagement strategies used by Furious towards Tre are altruism, which is an intrinsic part of his paternal responsibilities; the assumption that he and his son are equal; and conversational rule keeping coupled with listening (Changing the Distance Between You, 2010). Altruism is demonstrated by his willingness to take care of Tre after Tre’s mother, Reva, leaves him at Furious’s house. Moreover, Furious treats his son as an equal and uses this attitude to teach him how to be a responsible man. Through the use of conversational rule keeping and listening, Furious and Tre develop a strong relationship that enables Tre to approach his father if and when he has problems in his life (Boyz in the Hood, 1991). The engagement strategies Tre uses in the development of his friendship with Ricky are self-inclusion, the assumption of equality, and similarity (Changing the Distance Between You, 2010). Self-inclusion is demonstrated by Tre making time to hang out with Ricky, such as going over to his house for a BBQ. Moreover, Tre assumes he and Ricky are equal because they share similar backgrounds and have grown up together. As their friendship develops, they also share similar life goals that they hope will get them out of Crenshaw. Likewise, Tre utilizes the same engagement strategies with Brandi, his girlfriend. Tre makes time to hang out with Brandi and get to know her better. It is important for Tre to make this effort since he and Brandi do not go to the same school. Tre also treats Brandi as an equal and never refers to her in derogatory terms. This not only demonstrates that Tre considers her to be an equal, but also shows that he respects her as a person. Tre and Brandi also share similar life goals of going away to school and getting out of Crenshaw, which they are eventually able to do at the end of the film (Boyz in the Hood, 1991).

There are also relationships that are influenced and are demonstrative of disengagement techniques. These relationships include Tre and Reva, Tre and Doughboy, and Tre and Brandi. In the film, Reva disengages herself from Tre after resolving to send him to live with Furious and reasons that sending her son away is the only way to teach him how to be a man (Review Guide For Interpersonal Communication Test 3, n.d.). Furthermore, Reva shifts parental responsibility to Furious at least until she is able to accomplish her personal life and educational goals. Tre uses disengagement strategies to remove himself from Doughboy’s quest for vengeance against the gang members that murdered Ricky. Tre knows his involvement in this quest goes against everything his father has taught him and what he has worked towards, and Doughboy understands why Tre had to distance himself from the situation. Lastly, Tre and Brandi disengage themselves, not against other people, but from Crenshaw. They know that the only way to escape the violence they have had to live with is by working hard to get into college and being successful in their future endeavors. Tre and Brandi are able to successfully disengage themselves from the dangerous neighborhood by moving to Atlanta, Georgia to attend college.

In the film there are two important friendships that influence Tre in his endeavors and future pursuits. The first friendship is the one he develops with Ricky. The two grow up together and share similar experiences. They attend the same high school and have similar academic goals. They trust each other and are each other’s confidant. There are tensions that arise between the two, but they are mostly restricted to how Ricky wants to approach the future. It is evident when Ricky is talking to Tre about joining the Army that Tre does not support Ricky’s decision, but as his friend, he cannot turn his back on him. While Ricky helps Tre follow his academic and life goals, Brandi gives Tre the opportunity to visualize what his life can be life after he has accomplished his goal of leaving Crenshaw and going to college. As Tre and Brandi get to know each other, sex is one of the most evident sources of tension as Brandi fears that getting pregnant before she is able to accomplish her goals will prevent her from living the life she wants and escaping Crenshaw.

Through the various complex relationships in Boyz in the Hood (1991), Singleton is able to demonstrate how relationships are formed and dissolved and the factors that bring people together. Moreover, the film provides insight into the issues people have to deal with and the steps they take to overcome these obstacles.


Boyz in the Hood. (1991). Directed by John Singleton. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Accessed 23 February 2013, from Netflix Instant Streaming.

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Review Guide For Interpersonal Communication Test 3. (n.d.). University Center Rochester.

Retrieved 23 February 2013, from