Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Community-Based Learning | Sociology | Sociology of Culture
Every film is a social script that places scenes within a framework in which the setting, surrounding characters, and situations are key components of the story being told. In the context of the black coming-of-age film this holds true. The black coming-of-age film represents the power of fictional film to contextualize the existent social situations of youth in black communities. All youth go through a stage where they experience an event or series of events that marks a new phase in their lives or signifies that they are about to embark on a new journey. It is during these formative years that many youth decide, or in many cases are told, what the next step will be. The black youth in these films experience the pressures of escaping their depressed and despair-filled neighborhoods, fitting in with their peers, experiencing a fear of “acting white,” and wavering between who they are and who they want to be.
It is the goal of this paper to critically deconstruct the four black coming-of-age films, ATL, School Daze, Pride, and Stomp the Yard. The social scripts and recipes used in these films are analyzed in terms of their parallel themes and their direct and indirect relations to interpreting lived realities in black communities, specifically of black youth. The correlation between the social scripts of these films and the realities that play out everyday in black communities are extremely important to sociologists. Since culture, media, and communication are inextricably tied, how the media’s messages about cultures are communicated is unequivocally important to how this information is received. It is also important in the respect of how the stories are told. For blacks, the media’s representation of them has not always been fair or accurate. These coming-of-age films help viewers to understand the process of negotiating black identity and its affect on blacks’ views of themselves.
This descriptive qualitative study uses the technique of content analysis to deconstruct the four films. Using a theoretical framework revolving around racism, sexism, classism, schooling of black youth, and black masculinity, four emergent themes were uncovered in the analysis of the films.
These themes were: neighborhood surroundings play a key role in the opinions and development of black youth; black youth question the role of education in getting ahead in life; misogynistic behavior is modeled by older black men and reinforced by hip-hop music video images; and, the gains made towards eliminating classism during the Civil Rights movement have eroded among black youth today and a new element of classism, based on one’s ability to acquire and display material goods, has emerged.
Shannon, Linita, "Deconstructing the Black Coming-of-Age Film and its Effect on the Negotiation of Black Identity" (2008). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 555.
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