Boyz N Da Hood by John Singleton and Bamboozled by Spike Lee are two films that give insight to Black popular culture and how Black stories are mediated. Issues which are brought up in discourse about Black popular culture is a focus on inauthentic story telling and stereotyping of Black people. This usually come down to “what sells” to the wider American audience.
Boyz N Da Hood is a movie which illustrates coming of age in South Central Los Angeles. It follows a group of young Black characters who are choosing their life paths amongst a backdrop of poverty and gang violence. Singleton explains in the documentary The Untold Story Behind the Making of Boyz N Da Hood that
It was the movie that when I was talking about going to film school to my friends in the neighborhood it was the kind of film that we always said that we wanted to see that we never saw at the movies.
Black centered entertainment was still centered on popular stereotypes or middle class families.
Bamboozled by Spike Lee is a film that humorously looks at how Black stories and media is mediated by major media. The lead character Pierre Delacroix becomes frustrated that he cannot get his television shows centered around the Black middle class to air so he devises an offensive minstrel show concept in order to get himself fired. It backfires though, and to his horror becomes a hit which he then feels he has to defend. The movie has a take-away point that Black stories are mediated to show and upkeep negative images of Black people.
The issues seen in Boyz N Da Hood and discussed in the documentary are still present today. Violence and poverty still affects many Black Americans and these stories are still not told often as it was in Boyz N Da Hood. Even though after the movie’s release there have been a growing number of films and stories like it they are not breaking into mainstream culture as well. This causes a disconnect between what is happening in these neighborhoods and with those outside of those experiences. When the recent cases of police violence towards young Black men and women because popular subjects and major mainstream news there was still a large amount of disbelief of the situations and blaming of the victims.
A post racial viewpoint and defense is very common today during conversations of race and racism. A lot of the arguments against racism are the same as the arguments given during a few scenes in Bamboozled. They can be heard in the conference room scene discussing writing for the minstrel show, the public relations meeting scene after the first airing, and the radio interview scene where Delacroix was misrepresenting how long ago slavery ended. These defenses are still used to defend offensive media. The defense that offensive media is supposed to be fun and that those offended need to “lighten up” are given by media creators and used by fans defending offensive media they enjoy.
These two films show two aspects of how Black popular culture is disseminated to a wider audience today. Boyz N Da Hood is a piece of authentic story telling, but the fact that in 1991 it was the first of it’s kind to hit a wide audience is telling of how little airtime these stories get. Bamboozled gives the reasons why this happens with it’s humorous take on the serious issue of white corporate heads choosing what does and does not air determined by ratings of what the largely white wider audience want to see.