Tales from the Hood was a culturally expressive trilogy told in a metaphor of horror. The stories were real at their core, and so expressive of aspects of black culture that are addressed directly, yet mitigated by the perspective of supernatural horror so that these issues are hauntingly underlying in the forefront of our minds. We come away with a multitude of emotion, partly because we are not given much time to digest the outcome of each story before transitioning to the next. In the beginning, we are introduced to the crazy funeral director who makes the promise of “the shit” to a trio of gangbangers who stick around to listen to his stories.
In the first little story, “Rogue Cop Revelation,” a black councilman who is trying to bring about change by addressing the issues of crime and corruption being committed by those in authority. In a not-so-ironic twist, he is murdered by shady cops, while another black officer stands by helplessly. The black officer is “one of them” in the sense that he is also a cop, which may have helped to save his life, even though he is nothing like the others. We sympathize with the young officer because he was not the perpetuator of the violence, and we can’t blame him for putting his own safety above all else as his reason for not stopping the murder. After all, how many of us would have stepped in if it meant risking our own lives? He is, in his own unique way, just as much a victim as the man who was murdered. There is such complexity behind the story. The councilman was murdered in such a way that any progress he might have made would be rendered null and void. Who would heed the words of a man fighting to keep drugs off the street if he were found dead of an extreme overdose? Once more, he was fighting against those who had the power to cover up what really happened. This, however, left the officer who stood by with the pain of guilt…so much that he hears the voice of the councilman seeking vengeance from beyond the grave.
In the second story, “Boys Do Get Bruised,” we are shown a life steeped in domestic violence, made all the more powerful because abuse is more prevalent in African-American households. The little boy shows up to school with suspicious marks on his face, possibly evidencing the unspoken horrors at home. The little boy speaks of a monster, which we find out is how he sees his abuser. Not a “monster” in the sense that an adult might use it to refer to someone who commits unspeakable violence against a woman or child, but an actual monster. This is completely accurate, as a child has the most honest vision of the world around them with grains of truth intermingled in between, even if their perceptions extend into the fantastical. I feel as this segment is very symbolic, because we often lose our fears as we grow into adulthood. As we get older, we may feel untouchable by things that haunted us as children. Depicting the abuser as a monster not only shows us the inhumanity behind the evil of someone who has the capacity to harm a child, but also gives us, as viewers, the sense of something stronger than ourselves, thus putting us in the place of the little boy in the story: Hopeless. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t cheering the little boy on as David Allan Grier’s character fell victim to a most untimely death.
In the last story, and my personal favorite, “KKK Comeuppance,” a senator tries to change his racist image by—get this—purchasing a plantation home, rich in a history of slavery. He smiles to the public, adhering to his statements that he is not a racist and has shed his old ways. His personal cameraman, an African-American man whose purpose serves as “the black friend,” a sort of testimony to “prove” that he has changed a new leaf and to catch the senator’s recreational moments on film to show him in a different light, surely wouldn’t be supporting this senator if he were still a racist—Would he? This is the conundrum. If given the chance to be included in the “one of us” group, would you reject all that you are in order to rise above the struggle? He cracks jokes about his own race, and seems to side with the senator. This is an element of the movie that I have thought about long and hard. There are tributaries of thought that branch off from this on-screen relationship. What makes the cameraman different from other black people in the eyes of the senator, if it does at all? Maybe he is nothing more than a pawn in his political game. Did the cameraman truly remove himself from his racial identity in an attempt to achieve some sort of “superiority” by dissociation, and by association to a powerful white man? It did not, however, bring him immunity from the vengeance of the dolls in the painting. Because these dolls were possessed with the spirits of slaves, they brought a looming sense to this story of just how close in history and in current attitudes we are to racism, defying the cries of how the past is in the past. Just like racism, the dolls easily meshed into the backdrop of a scene painted at a time in history, not forgotten but ignored, by those who didn’t believe in the stories behind the painting, much in the way people ignore stories of slavery and lynchings in the old south.
In the last scene, we see the funeral director with the young gangbangers. I will not reveal exactly what happens, although I feel this is directly addressing the issue of “black on black crime.” I felt it was perfect as an “afterthought” to the movie, which, at the same time, tied into the “main idea.” Whenever white-on-black crime is featured in the news, or even as such a heavy theme just as in this movie, it creates a one-sided dialogue of, “What about black-on-black crime? No one ever mentions that.” And the thing is, it is talked about, but not everyone hears. Moreover, black on black crime is never denied, as implied by these questions that try to sidestep the conversation on the existence of racism. So, to anyone who asks those same questions in regard to the movie presented as a horror-based parallel to real life racism, ask them if they’ve watched it until the end.
Tales from the Hood is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, and I love horror. However, it breaks the mold by combining scenes that are sure to keep you up all night with a powerful social commentary that comes through in the imagery, words, subtlety, and the overt. There is a consciousness and thought-provocation in the way that the stories are told and intermingled and segmented to soften the blow, just giving you enough time to recover from the horror and discomfort of the experience of one story before easing you into the next. This is a piece of art that should not just be looked at from one facet, but from many, to feel and experience the full effect.
Hailing from the Red state of Texas, Joslyn Corvis is a very proud liberal and feminist. As a first-time college student as of January, 2016, she hopes to pursue a degree in psychology to become a counselor. She enjoys parks when the weather is nice, late night trips to Whataburger, and sipping coffee from sun-up ‘til sun-down on weekends. You can find more of Joslyn and her works at http://gothicgenie.wix.com/home