28 Days of Black Movies: I love ‘Boyz N the Hood’ with my whole heart, which is why I hate that it has one glaringly impossible plot device 

OPINION: John Singleton’s magnum opus is so (rightfully) highly regarded that we all ignore one entirely impossible chain of events.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Morris Chestnut in “Boyz N the Hood.” (Columbia PIctures)

Like most folks who spent their teen years in the ’90s, Boyz N the Hood is part of my life. I saw it in a movie theater in Opelika, Ala., when it was released in July 1991 and in the nearly 32 years since then, I’ve shed tears for Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut) and the future cut short by violence. I’ve seen the movie so many times, I pretty much know it entirely by heart, and in what feels like some sort of Black cultural obligation, I never miss an opportunity to yell out “RICKKKKKKKKY!” when possible. 

Also, whenever a dude points a sawed-off shotgun out of a car at me, I always make sure to both zig and zag, a lesson I owe to common sense but also to realizing that Ricky, this amazing running back who had a whole college future ahead of him, never stood a chance when he decided to try to outrun a shotgun in a linear fashion. Always, zig-zag, fam. Always. 

But speaking of college, one of the film’s central themes is the trajectory towards the future, especially for Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Ricky. In a show of just how quickly fortunes can change and how an interaction with the wrong person can ruin lives forever, the day before Ricky dies, he and Tre take their SATs. In fact, here is what happens the day before: They take their SATs in the morning; head to Compton to get hit with a gentrification TED Talk by Tre’s dad Furious (Laurence Fishburne) and a Q&A session with homies in the hood; take a trip to Crenshaw; get into a scuffle and a shooting; get pulled over by Big Black Racist Cop; Tre fights the air, and Tre and Brandy do the horizontal polka. 

That is their Saturday. I know it’s a Saturday because, in 1990, you took the SATs on Saturday. Hell, I took them on a Saturday morning in 1996, too. Also, not for nothing, most of us took our SATs in October of our senior years. As it turns out, October 13, 1990—an actual SAT test date in 1990—was on a Saturday. So I’m placing that fateful day as October 13, 1990. I have to say, today was a good day. 

OK, the next day cometh, and Tre falls through Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky’s house and sits on the porch. We know it’s the next day because Dough remarks that he saw Tre coming out of Brandy’s house, assuming he finally GTD. Word to Tommy Strawn and RIP to Thomas Mikal Ford. 

Anyway, inside the house, Ricky’s girlfriend sends him to get some milk, which leads to Ricky and Doughboy getting into a fight. Tre and Ricky walk to the store as the postman walks up to the house to deliver the mail. 

That would make it Sunday, October 14, 1990. Which, well, wasn’t a thing. The U.S. Postal Service was not delivering regular degular mail on Sundays and, to that point, hadn’t since 1912, as per a law signed by President Howard Taft on August 24 of that year. 

I think you see where I’m going with this, but as Jay-Z suggested to Freeway on “What We Do,” I shall keep going. 

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube in “Boyz N the Hood.” (Columbia Picture)

Well, Ricky gets shot (see the whole zig-zag thing or lack thereof), and as Ricky’s mother deals with the realization that her pride and joy is gone, she opens his SATs only to see that Ricky has scored a 710, which is what he needed to get his football scholarship to the University of Southern California, which could have changed the trajectory of his life. It’s really sad and a message about how many young brothers we’ve lost to violence in the hood. Ase. 

Except it’s entirely impossible that things could happen like this. Look, homie, I took my SATs in the ’90s—in 1996—and it took at least SEVERAL weeks to get your test scores back. According to an article from January 2022, even NOW, when you take the tests via computer, it takes almost two weeks to get your results. 

So let me get this right, in 1990, Tre and Ricky take their SATs on Saturday morning, and their results come back the NEXT DAY and are delivered by a postal worker who absolutely wouldn’t be working on that day in 1990??? Ain’t no way. Impossible, and while it’s dumb, I laugh and point it out every single time, even just to myself, if nobody is around. I say, “P…it would never happen!” Granted, for the ultimate tragedy of Ricky’s death to hit home, you needed to see that he had a future out of the hood awaiting him, much like Tre, who was heading to Morehouse College in Atlanta that fall. They had options, is the point. It’s just that to make that work, John Singleton had to be like, “Look, we have to make this work, so maybe folks won’t notice.” We noticed.

Not for nothing, I actually think—and here’s a hot take—that Tyler Perry also noticed that scene, and it gave him license to ignore all facts, figures, rules or law to tell the stories he wanted to tell. 

It was sad enough that Ricky died, but to see that he actually achieved his goal of being eligible to go to college and play football and possibly do more, well, we needed to see that score, which means that reality had to fly clear out the window. And that’s OK; it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. And I’m still sad about Ricky; I think I always will be. 

But…mail don’t run on Sundays, bro. Except for those boys in the hood, apparently. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

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