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Baby Boy [Movie Review]

Summary

Baby Boy is a 2001 John Singleton film about a trifling young man named Jody (Tyrese Gibson). He lives at home with his mom, doesn’t have stable employment, is the father of two out-of-wedlock children, and despite his life being in disarray still finds time to juggle multiple women. (It’s not depicted in the movie but he sounds like the petty type to write his name on the orange juice.) Lacking direction, Jody finds himself being pushed to grow up when a new man enters his mother’s life.

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Show Notes

Baby Boy opens with Jody waiting outside a clinic while the mother of one of his children, Yvette (Taraji P. Henson), obtains an abortion. I don’t know how it works when you obtain an abortion but usually when a person has surgery or a procedure someone can accompany them to the hospital/office. Why was he waiting outside rather than inside the clinic holding her hand? He’s attentive when she comes out of the clinic, drives her home, and helps her get comfortable in bed. But then in a selfish move, Jody immediately borrows her car to go hang out with his other child’s mother with whom he smokes weed and seemingly has intercourse.

Just in case you’re not keeping tabs: this guy is living in LA but doesn’t have a car so has to use his child’s mother’s car to get around. He’s sleeping with two women that he has already impregnated but had to borrow money from his mom, Juanita (AJ Johnson), to pay for Yvette to get an abortion. All around trifling bum behavior. He’s most certainly not a catch but women for whatever reason throw themselves at him or at least don’t mind him flirting with them.

You might be wondering how and why this guy is such a hot mess but then we see his mom interact with her new boo thang Melvin (Ving Rhames) and it all starts to make sense. It’s wrong to judge people solely by their appearances but I think you can use it as a data point. Melvin has tattoos that would seem to indicate that he’s been in the streets as well as prison. Though he seems to now be earning an honest living operating his own landscaping business after having a hard time finding a job.

Juanita likely had Jody and his now-deceased older brother when she was relatively young. Based on Jody’s commentary she certainly seems to have a type: rough around the edges street guys. Most of the age-appropriate guys she would be dating now were likely previously involved in the streets but should have long ago left that behind. Yet, it begs the question as to what dysfunctional behavior Jody was exposed to when he was growing up and the negative examples of manhood his mother brought around.

At first, Jody seems to not mind the idea of a regular decent guy dating his mom but rather he has an issue with Melvin in particular. He offers some insight while talking to his friend, Sweetpea (Omar Gooding) to whom he expresses his concern that his mom and/or Melvin might pressure him to move out so they can have space and privacy. On the surface, it sounds pathetic because he is grown enough to have two whole children but is fussing about possibly having to get a place of his own.

Yvette isn’t quite as bad as Jody as she does have a job and her own place. But she also has some issues of her own if she’s entertaining Jody and his nonsense. If Jody is 20-years-old, she is likely also around the same age and I got the sense that Peanut, Jody’s other child’s mother, might be a little younger. I would assume that Jody and Yvette’s son is at least four or five years old. This means that they were probably around 15 or 16 when he was born. I’m not passing judgment on people having children at a young age (because things happen) but rather that neither Yvette nor Jody (especially Jody) seems to have learned anything from the experience. I don’t remember Yvette’s family being mentioned but it’s obvious that Juanita is helping Jody to take care of himself and his children.

The participants in Jody’s love triangle are all very immature and irrationally making very adult life decisions. They’re not thinking long-term and are trapping themselves in situations that will have long-lasting effects on their lives. Yvette’s friend and her boyfriend are a dumpster fire but I agreed with her on the topic of Yvette and Jody’s relationship. Imagine you and a man are in a relationship and have a child together but he’s not willing to take any steps to build a life together because he’s afraid to leave the nest. Plans for the future are an important part of any conversation about family planning. There are layers of generational dysfunction in this story and quite a bit of it is normalized. But that’s part of Baby Boy’s social commentary.

Jody has a recurring nightmare that moves between scenes of him going to prison, having intercourse with Yvette and Peanut, and his funeral. And it speaks to something I’ve read in a few books as well as discussed with young men growing up in rough neighborhoods who are involved with the streets and have children at a young age. Seeing the older guys and men around them going to prison and being murdered turns them into fatalists. They become hopeless about their ability to change the course of their lives and believe that these two paths are inevitable.

Thus many live for the here and now with little to no regard for the future because they don’t have faith that they’ll be around to see it. Insecurity masked by hypermasculinity leads to the promotion of the idea that part of being a “real man” is juggling multiple women. They have as many children as possible with little attention paid to the reality that they have limited means to emotionally or financially support the kids. The combination of all those factors, as well as many people viewing children as their legacy, results in these young men, whether consciously or subconsciously, sleeping around and not taking any real precautions to prevent pregnancies.

When Melvin arrived to take Juanita on a date I thought he looked better in his regular work clothes as opposed to his Steve Harvey suit. But then again this was 20 years ago so that oddly cut pimp suit was probably all the rage at the time. (I’m pretty sure Dave Chappelle wore something similar down to the hat in a skit on The Chappelle Show.) Not to mention smoking his nasty cigarillo in the house was in poor taste.

I’m all for people being comfortable with their bodies and this is indeed Juanita’s house. But out of decency, I don’t think you should be cooking naked in the kitchen when there is someone aside from you and your partner in the house. It’s rude and way too comfortable. With that being said, Ving Rhames has a nice body for an older man, a little too bodybuilder-ish for my liking but nice all the same.

Jody’s decision to become an entrepreneur and start selling clothes was a step in the right direction. He makes foolish decisions in his personal life but isn’t stupid and combined with the tips from his mom had some great market info to work from. The clothes were ugly and obtained through shady means but he understood the product and also his customers. Though it was a bad idea to cross the line by becoming intimate with his customers. I side-eyed Jody for getting Yvette’s car tinted and buying a set of rims as soon as he got a bit of money. Though it was a nice gesture that he bought new outfits for himself and the kids as well as Yvette.

In the back and forth with Jody, Juanita, and Melvin it’s not exactly clear if Jody is just being protective of Juanita or jealous of her new relationship with Melvin. On the surface, there seems to be some sexist nonsense going on with Jody where he has a life but seemingly expects his mom to sit home alone. But it says something that he encourages her to date someone nice and safe rather than the “thugs” that she seems to be attracted to. Based on some of the concerns that Jody expresses, Juanita has a history of dating men who are violent and dangerous, not just in the street but at home with her as well.

Jody is no angel but he also doesn’t seem to be a violent guy and this is something that Melvin points out. It becomes obvious that Melvin is passive-aggressively testing boundaries with Jody. He has no problem telling Jody about his violent past and time in prison. And he offers Jody back-handed compliments that are intended to call him out as being “soft”. But while Jody doesn’t like Melvin, he also doesn’t want any parts of him physically and instead mumbles under his breath or tries to control the situation by appealing to his mom.

Part of the problem is that Jody has boundary issues as well. He walks into his mother’s bedroom and almost barges into her bathroom on the night Melvin takes her out on a date. Jody wakes up to the smell of breakfast and assumes there will be food there for him. And then he later invites himself into her room when he notices her new floor model television. In each one of those instances, Melvin cuts him off from overstepping and essentially puts him in check. Up to this point, Jody has seemingly had full run of the house. But there are now two males in the house fighting for dominance and one is far more aggressive than the other.

The relationship between Jody and Yvette is dramatic and problematic. They are one of those messy couples that are always fighting and arguing but then back together a day or two later. Just a ratchet mess putting each other’s business out in the street and yelling all kinds of intimate information that nobody else signed up to hear.

I wasn’t even in the relationship but I was tired of all the back and forth and found it tedious. The gaslighting, lying, cheating, wearing house shoes in the street, and riding a bicycle to get around. And then Jody cursing and kicking the door when he didn’t get his way. Why even deal with this guy? But you know what, Yvette liked the nonsense too which is why she engaged in the back and forth. I also disliked that Yvette was constantly hitting and snuffing Jody. No matter the cause of the disagreement, it’s wrong to put your hands on your partner, regardless of if the person doing the hitting is male or female.

Baby Boy is a coming-of-age film about a young man who undergoes a journey to mature and leave behind his dysfunctional behavior. And I hope because the issues in the lead characters’ relationship are so obvious that people see if for the struggle love relationship that it is and don’t aspire to any part of this like they do with Love & Basketball.

With that being said, I had a bit of a soft spot for Sweetpea. He’s undateable in his current state but I felt for him and his situation. We don’t get much backstory on him but it seems that he’s done time in prison and has no family. Sweetpea is a very emotionally distraught man who is frustrated at not having a job and being dependent on his girlfriend and her mom. Battling against this feeling of emasculation makes him incredibly aggressive which pushes him to the very brink of committing an act of violence for relief. Like Jody, he is also lacking direction but seems more aware of his shortcomings.

At one point in conversation with Yvette, Jody utters the line, “I lie to you because I care about your feelings.” But if healthy relationships are built on trust and honest communication, is it any wonder that he and Yvette are constantly at odds? Yvette also admits to a friend that she assumed Jody was still sleeping with Peanut but takes issue with him sleeping with other women. And the question to be asked is, “Why are you tolerating this?” It’s a raggedy relationship that she spends her time pining over instead of letting go.

Jody clings to his mother because they have a one-sided relationship. There has been no consistent man in the house or in his mother’s life to occupy some of her attention or provide an example of a man’s role in a healthy relationship. This results in him having a warped sense of being a man in a relationship as he gets all of the benefits of his mother’s love and attention. But because it’s his mother she loves him unconditionally and doesn’t require him to give anything in return. He hasn’t had any examples of the give and take required to maintain a healthy relationship. Thus he expects Yvette and Peanut to be at his beck and call, overlook his selfishness, and forgive his nonsense.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, Rodney (Snoop Dogg), Yvette’s first boyfriend pops up after being released from prison. Before his release, Yvette had been having regular phone calls with Rodney where she was telling him all the details of her ridiculous relationship with Jody. If he’s an old friend, there is nothing wrong with offering him moral support. But she was out of line for using him to get the attention that she wasn’t getting from Jody. Jody and his feelings are not of any concern but rather it’s taking an already messy situation and making it even worse. If you’re unhappy, end the current relationship with Jody before starting a new one. But by all means, don’t start a new relationship with Rodney because he’s a mess too.

If any of Snoop’s friends were on the set the day he shot that scene where his character Rodney attempts to sexually assault Yvette, I hope that he no longer associates with them. Those people are not his friends if they saw him come out of the wardrobe department in that vest and didn’t tell him to go put something else on. Putting on some nonsense is a good way to know if you have real people around you, they’ll let you know that your “fashions” are not a good look. Now Snoop has this scene with him in that vest out here for all eternity.

But on a serious note, while Yvette is no longer interested in Rodney, it does say something about her taste in men that she was ever entertaining him at any point in life. He might not have had a record when they were younger and might have been nicer. But, it points to Yvette having issues with her approach to relationships given that she was maintaining inappropriate contact with him while he was in jail. And is this the guy that you want giving you attention? I did find it interesting that Sweetpea and Rodney are both from the neighborhood but have no family support system to speak of when they get out of prison and have to rely on the women in their lives.

There’s a cycle of Jody and Yvette constantly creating drama within their relationship. Yvette assumes that Jody is still sleeping with Peanut so there is tension between the two women. Yvette and Jody constantly argue over his cheating and selfishness but she always takes him back. Jody does a lot of nonsense but Yvette feeds into it by going back and forth with him, breaking up with him but still wanting his attention.

Looking at Jody’s and Yvette’s relationship throughout Baby Boy in some ways feels like seeing Juanita’s earlier relationships when Jody was growing up. There was nothing wrong with Juanita being in a relationship or dating but it was irresponsible for her to be in and have her young child around such dysfunction. Jody and Yvette create the same unstable environment for their son, Joe Joe. Jody’s lack of discipline to consistently support himself and remain faithful to Yvette sets a bad example for his kids with concerning what it means to be a man. Also, Yvette allowing Rodney to occupy her house and disrespect JoJo could result in him becoming territorial and aggressive with other males rather than maturely handling disagreements. (I was so mad at that bum Rodney kicking over Joe Joe’s pillow fort.)

After their big fight, Yvette goes over to Jody’s house during the night to get their son (something that could have waited until the morning). Yvette uses this as an opportunity to explain that nothing is going on with Rodney and tries to invite Jody back into her life. Jody is in his feelings so he fronts as though he’s no longer interested which leads to Yvette crying in her friend’s car because she thinks he’s now over her. She’s distraught instead of being happy, kicking Rodney out of her house, and moving on with her life.

You teach people how to treat you and Yvette’s big talk with little action prolongs her relationship with this overgrown child. But she’s got some growing up to do as well, within her relationships and as an individual. It’s a bit symbolic that she’s a grown woman with a child of her own but is shown at times still sucking her thumb which is something usually associated with children. Jody might be Baby Boy but she’s “Baby Girl”, they are two children pretending to be adults. And can people please shut up with this hotep rib spawn nonsense? It sounds stupid.

I realize that people in different parts of the country dress differently. I’ve never been to LA but from what I’ve seen in pictures they wear a lot of khakis and plaid shirts. Excluding the sometimes sagging pants with boxers showing (which looks terrible), they look fairly neat as their clothes tend to be neatly pressed. But I did find it ironic that for much of Baby Boy Jody, Sweetpea, and Rodney are dressed in work clothes but none of them have legit jobs. Never mind his suit being ugly, Melvin is the only major male character that we see dressed in something aside from work clothes and he’s the only one that has a stable job. (Sidenote: how and why does Sweetpea just so happen to have a clean black mechanic’s coverall laying about?)

Why is the solution for getting rid of Rodney to beat him up or kill him? He just got out of prison a few days before Yvette can call the cops and send him back to jail, especially given that he’s a would-be rapist. Sure his friends might try to come back and retaliate but they’re likely to do the same if he gets beat up or turns up dead. Call the cops and while you might have to worry about his people you wouldn’t also have to worry about going to prison. And how do you pray for guidance before doing wrong?

I appreciated that at the end of the movie Melvin and Jody had an opportunity to talk, connect, and clear the air between them. Minus the violence, it seems that Jody is what Melvin once was. And now with a greater sense of maturity, Melvin can look back over his life and recognize the poor choices he’s made. With that insight, he’s better able to recognize and call Jody on his nonsense, sparing him from making similar mistakes and having more problems in the long run. He’s not perfect but in a sense, he enters Jody’s life at a pivotal moment and though his methods might be a bit politically incorrect, they’re ultimately well-intentioned and sorely needed. In some areas of life and with regards to maturity he is the man that Jody should seek to become.

Despite all of that I still wasn’t here for Jody and Yvette at the end of the film. He moved out of his mother’s house into Yvette’s place but it’s uncertain if he’s gotten a job or is still selling clothes. We don’t need a Baby Boy Part 2 to confirm but the assumption is that Jody gets his act together and the two ride off into the sunset. Jody has left the nest and obtained a bit of guidance from Melvin about being a man and father. But, it’s unclear if he’s learned anything about being a better romantic partner. Overall, I think the movie ends with him headed in the right direction.

Yet, I’m not so certain about Yvette as I don’t think she undergoes any real transformation. She’s probably learned a lesson from using Rodney for attention. And sure some of her craziness is in response to Jody’s womanizing and selfish behavior. But even in having disagreements about little things I feel like Yvette might still resort to being childish and making a scene. Also, because Jody has gone from his mother’s home to her home, it feels like she’s just taken on more responsibility for Jody and in a sense simply replaced Juanita to a degree as Jody’s mother figure. But, maybe her having open conversations with Juanita and seeing her relationship with Melvin might allow her to learn from and avoid some of the mistakes that they’ve made.

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