At the core of the film’s narrative is the relationship and interactions between three young Black males: Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr. ), Darrin “Doughboy” Baker (Ice Cube), and Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut). The audience witnesses how racism, indifference, rampant violence, and the increasing disintegration of the Black family in South Central Los Angeles militate against the coming of age of these three Black males. one of the most damaging structural elements in the film is the Black family itself. The film exposes an increasing dissolution of the Black family in South Central Los Angeles.
The most troubling way in which the film illuminates this is in how Brenda Baker (Tyra Ferrell) feels it necessary to favor her younger son (Ricky Baker) over her older son (Darrin “Doughboy” Baker), because the economic structure (capitalism) dominating her family’s situation compels her to favor him (from her perspective). For Brenda, Ricky, who is a star student-athlete with great potential to not only become a superstar college student-athlete, but also professional athlete, is her family’s only hope of moving into a more favorable position within the capitalist economic system.
The audience witnesses how the lack of meaningful economic and social opportunities for Black families in South Central Los Angeles conjoined with an absent father forces Brenda to not only commodify her children, but also to reify them: Darrin becomes her “waste” and Ricky becomes her financial investment. There are many differences between the realities of an upper class and a lower class society. One may see the difference when analyzing how society has an impact on the choices you make in life, the impact with a father figure in the hood, the impact even just one person can make on many people, and the impact of many other thing as well.
Making choices while living in the hood, many times can decide whether you are going to live or not. In the society in the hood, most of the time you have to shoot first or risk being shot. Singleton refrains from portraying his characters as inner-city misfits but instead he characterizes them as average American teenagers who are caught in a situation in which they have no control. Doughboy is an average American teenager but his behavior is not that of an average teenager. It is a result of the influence from the society he has experienced.
The film compares the differences between the lifestyles of Tre Styles and his friends’, Darren and Ricky Baker. Darren and Ricky are half-brothers who are nothing alike. Singleton demonstrates the importance of male leadership in a home in the ghetto of Los Angeles by comparing the difference between the lifestyles of Tre and his friends. While many adolescents in the hood have close friendships, some form close relationships by assembling gangs and create a world of violence due to alcohol abuse, which together ultimately breeds discrimination.