115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

“I am an Invisible Man”: Boyz N the Hood and The Literary and Cinematic Imagination

Joi Carr, Pepperdine University

 What does John Singleton and Boyz N the Hood have to do with Ellison’s luminous opus, Invisible Man, or Melvin Van Peebles revolutionary film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song?  Singleton’s self-aware narrative explicates an invisible man. This interdisciplinary approach provides an in-depth critical perspective of Boyz, as the embodiment of the blues—how it intimates a world beyond the symbolic world Singleton posits.

Proposal: 

In 1991, Boyz n the Hood made history as an important film text and the impetus for a critical national conversation about American urban life in African American communities, especially for young urban black males. John Singleton, Boyz writer and director, steps into a long history of voices striving to speak about—through aesthetic language—this intangible striving toward actualizing oneself in such a historically challenging milieu. Author and poet, Richard Wright argues that black artists, black poets and authors in particular, are transfixed on voicing their experiential knowledge of America—sadly the “horror” of it as a native citizen. Its ubiquity (stories of oppression and terror) speaks more about America than the artist. The artifacts they produce, with its particularity, is wholly American. Wright (1996) asserts that African American writers are constrained to speak through and to their blues existence. This multi-generational lore, produced by sculptors, painters, poets, authors, playwrights, and filmmakers, provides an anthropological study of America writ large. These distinct tales created by African American’s often forge aesthetic innovation as they seek to emote a truth, rather than simply explain this unceasing communal reality. This interdisciplinary approach to the film provides an in-depth critical perspective of Boyz N the Hood, as the embodiment of the blues—how Boyz intimates a world beyond the symbolic world Singleton posits, its fictive stance pivots to a constituent truth in the real world. What does John Singleton and Boyz N the Hood have to do with Ellison’s luminous opus, Invisible Man, or Melvin Van Peebles revolutionary film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song?  Singleton’s self-aware narrative explicates an invisible man.

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