Baby Boy is a 2001 American coming-of-agehood film written, produced, and directed by John Singleton. The film follows bicycle mechanic Joseph "Jody" Summers as he lives and learns in his everyday life in the hood of Los Angeles. It represented the film debut of actress Taraji P. Henson and R&B singer Tyrese Gibson. Gibson and Henson later starred in the film Four Brothers. The film, originally set to star Tupac Shakur, instead switched to Gibson after Shakur's 1996 death.
A 20-year-old man named Joseph "Jody" Summers (Tyrese Gibson) lives with his 36-year-old mother Juanita (Adrienne-Joi Johnson), in South Central Los Angeles. He spends most of his time with his unemployed best friend Sweetpea (Omar Gooding), and does not seem interested in becoming a responsible adult. However, he is forced to mature as a result of an ex-con named Melvin (Ving Rhames), who moves into their home. Another factor is his children—a son Joseph "JoJo" Summers Jr. with his girlfriend of five years, 25-year-old Yvette (Taraji P. Henson) and a daughter with an 18-year-old girl that he cheated on Yvette with named Peanut (Tamara LaSeon Bass) who also lives with her mother.
At the beginning of the movie, Jody waits for Yvette at the clinic and it is found out that she was pregnant. Yvette constantly asks Jody if he will ever come live with her and their son so they could be like a family, but Jody avoids the subject and comes and goes as he pleases. Jody also continues seeing and having sex with other women, including Peanut. Jody also nearly has sex with 23-year-old Pandora (Tawny Dahl), Yvette's colleague and co-worker, but manages to rebuff her advances. This becomes an issue between him and Yvette as well, especially since Yvette doesn't get along with Peanut nor Pandora. When she discovers his cheating, they get in a heated argument which results in Yvette punching Jody in the face and Jody slapping Yvette in the face. After this, Yvette changes the locks on the door. This infuriates Jody and they get into an argument, which JoJo witnesses.
Eventually, Yvette's gangster ex-boyfriend Rodney (Snoop Dogg) is released from San Quentin State Prison and returns to the neighborhood to move in with Yvette, much to her dismay. Rodney doesn't care for JoJo and wants to impregnate Yvette himself. Rodney attempts to rape Yvette in front of her son, but reconsiders after being guilted by Yvette and JoJo. Despite their previous differences, Yvette begins to realize she is still in love with Jody. For the next couple of days, Yvette lives in fear and disgust of Rodney being there. Juanita finds marijuana in her garden and blames Jody for planting it. Jody becomes angry at his mom and blames Melvin for the marijuana. Melvin comes home and admits to Juanita that he planted it. Jody and Melvin get into a heated argument, which results in Melvin punching him in the face and breaking the table. Jody leaves the house to see Sweetpea. After this, Yvette kicks Rodney and his friends out of her apartment. Eventually, after some more bickering, Yvette and Jody reconcile at Sweetpea's house, and Yvette tells Jody that Rodney attempted to rape her in front of JoJo. Rodney steals the money and keys from her wallet and takes off in her car to go and find Jody. Rodney tries to kill Jody in a drive-by shooting; however, he is unsuccessful.
Later that night, Jody and Sweetpea confront Rodney, and as he attempts to escape, Jody shoots him in the back of the legs. Sweetpea urges Jody to kill Rodney, but he refuses, at which point Sweetpea shoots Rodney anyway. Horrified by Rodney's death, Jody prepares to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head, but Melvin catches him in the nick of time and takes the gun. After reflecting on the death of Rodney and how he put Yvette and his son in danger by not being around consistently, Jody finally moves out of his mom's house and in with Yvette.
Jody has now become a mature man, realizing that Juanita's relationship with Melvin is a stable one and that he has a family of his own that he needs to protect and take care of. Afterward, Jody and Yvette get married and look forward to the birth of their unborn child. Sweetpea decides to turn over a new leaf and gets baptized, putting his old life as a thug behind him.
- Tyrese Gibson as Joseph "Jody" Summers / Baby Boy, an unemployed bike mechanic and women's clothing salesman who fathers two children. At one point, he has affairs with Peanut, the mother of his baby daughter, while dating Yvette.
- Omar Gooding as Sweetpea, Jody's mischievous best friend who is known for his somewhat crazy antics.
- Taraji P. Henson as Yvette, Jody's older girlfriend and later wife, and the mother of his son and unborn child.
- Snoop Dogg as Rodney, Yvette's ex-boyfriend, who was recently released from prison and has a strong dislike towards Jody.
- Ving Rhames as Melvin, Juanita's ex-con boyfriend, for whom Jody has disdain.
- Adrienne-Joi Johnson as Juanita, Jody's mother.
- Mo'Nique as Patrice, Juanita's best friend.
- Angell Conwell as Kim, Sweetpea's girlfriend.
- Tamara LaSeon Bass as Peanut, the mother of Jody's baby daughter, who does not get along with Yvette.
- Tawny Dahl as Pandora, Yvette's co-worker and a pursuer of Jody.
- Tracey Cherelle Jones as Sharika, Yvette's best friend.
- Candy Ann Brown as Ms. Herron, Peanut's mother.
- Kaylan Bolton and Kylan Bolton as Joseph "Jo Jo" Summers Jr, Jody's oldest child and son with Yvette.
- Olan Thompson as Chris, Sharika's boyfriend of 3 years, who she occasionally gets into physical altercations with.
- Alexsandra Wright, as the woman inside
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $8,606,403 in 1,533 theaters in the United States, averaging $5,614 per theater, and ranking #5 at the box office. It grossed a total of $28,734,552 domestically and $647,097 elesewhere for a total of $29,381,649, above its $16 million production budget.
Baby Boy received mixed to positive reviews from critics and has a rating of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 92 reviews with an average score of 6.2 out of 10. The consensus states "Preachy and repetitive in parts, Baby Boy still manages to exude authenticity, thanks to its competent cast." The film also has a score of 55 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 26 critics indicating 'Mixed or average reviews'.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of 4 and stated in his review: "Baby Boy is a bold criticism of young black men who carelessly father babies, live off their mothers and don't even think of looking for work. It is also a criticism of the society that pushes them into that niche. There has never been a movie with this angle on the African-American experience" and "[it] doesn't fall back on easy liberal finger-pointing. There are no white people in this movie, no simplistic blaming of others; the adults in Jody's life blame him for his own troubles, and they should."Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, praised the film for being "...Compelling.... heartfelt and personal..." Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader also likes the film, stating "Like John Singleton's other features, this is far from flawless.... But the characters are so full-bodied and the feelings so raw and complex that I'd call this the best thing he's done to date..."
A soundtrack containing hip-hop and R&B music was released by Universal Records on June 19, 2001. It peaked at #41 on the Billboard 200, #12 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and #5 on the Top Soundtracks, and spawned one charting single, "Just a Baby Boy", performed by Snoop Dogg featuring Tyrese & Mr. Tan, which made it to #90 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #40 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. The soundtrack contains interludes which are sound clips from the film.
- "The Womb (Intro)"- 1:14 (Tyrese)
- "Just a Baby Boy"- 4:16 (Snoop Dogg featuring Tyrese & Mr. Tan)
- "Just a Man"- 3:59 (Raphael Saadiq featuring Devin the Dude)
- "Focus (Interlude)"- :22 (Tyrese & Taraji P. Henson)
- "Baby Mama"- 4:44 (Three 6 Mafia featuring La Chat)
- "Talk Shit 2 Ya"- 4:35 (D'Angelo featuring Marlon C)
- "I'd Rather Be With You"- 4:55 (Bootsy Collins)
- "You"- 4:45 (Felicia Adams)
- "Jody Meets Rodney (Interlude)"- :30 (Tyrese & Snoop Dogg)
- "Crip Hop"- 5:03 (Tha Eastsidaz featuring Snoop Dogg)
- "Thatshowegetdown"- 4:17 (B.G. featuring Baby & Lac)
- "Guns and Butter (Interlude)"- :30 (Ving Rhames)
- "We Keep It G"- 4:44 (Lost Angels)
- "Eat Sleep Think"- 3:36 (Connie McKendrick)
- "Just to Keep You Satisfied"- 4:24 (Marvin Gaye)
- "I Hate You (Interlude)"- :41 (Tyrese & Taraji P. Henson)
- "Love & War"- 5:21 (Anthony Hamilton featuring Macy Gray)
- "Straight Fucking"- 4:59 (The Transistitions featuring Gator)
- "Baby Boy"- 4:30 (Felicia Adams)
The main character Yvette, played by Taraji P. Henson, confronts her boyfriend Jody, played by Tyrese Gibson, about his infidelities.
“You ain’t stupid, Yvette. You’re just in love with a man. When you’re in love with a man, he can make you feel high. So high you just be in outer space. But a man can also make you feel low. Real low. And he can keep you there. Keep you down. If you let him. Make you feel used. Don’t even worry about feeling used. It’s just temporary. Everyone gets used. Men use women, women use men. Just face the fact you’re going to be used. But if you feel so used, you ain’t got nothing left–if the man ain’t giving you no ‘act right,’ the energy you need to love his ass even when he’s acting like a bastard–you need to let it go. If you ain’t got nothing to give yourself or your baby, you won’t have it to give to him.”
I sat in the theater, eyes fixated and ears perked as Juanita explained the complexities of loving someone to her son’s girlfriend. A young and impressionable teenager, at least when it came to Love and relationships, I sat there sucking everything in like a Oreck vacuum cleaner with a bad filter.
This is kind of hard for me to admit. For a long time, Jody and Yvette’s relationship in the movie “Baby Boy” hailed as the quintessential black love relationship in my eyes. Not the Cosbys, not the Winslows, not the Banks, not even Martin and Gina. Though I’m not sure exactly why the “Baby Boy” characters stuck with me so, I have a hankering that Jody and Yvette were the closest thing to real my 12-year-old eyes thought they’d seen.They yelled and screamed, broke up and got back together, not to mention all the infidelity. This looked a lot more like the less-than-TV-perfect relationships I’d seen, heard, and experienced already in real life. My parents nor any of my friends’ parents had anything like what black couples in sitcoms had. I never knew any guys as nice as Theo, the dorky ones definitely didn’t turn into Stephons, and the bad boys like Will didn’t have nice families with huge houses in Bel Air. But it wouldn’t take long before I met the Jody types and felt like I could relate to Yvette’s “feeling stupid”–the feeling she describes before Juanita helps her decipher her real feelings. With all of those things as factors, I found myself drawn to Jody and Yvette–and consequently, though not intentionally, the many messages about Love in that movie.
I had no idea back then that the course of my relationship with Mr. Lies-About-Everything-But-His-Name would mirror the course of Jody and Yvette’s relationship–at least loosely. Only my story didn’t end happily. So I figure I’d share with you the relationship mistakes Yvette made and I mimicked without the fairytale ending.
Jody, Yvette, and young Jo-Jo relax on the couch.
(1) Getting cheated on is more acceptable when you’re the “wifey.”
Although I have to acknowledge both experience and environment as teachers, I believe “Baby Boy” played a major role in my acceptance of men’s infidelity. The character Jody had two different types of women in his life–his main course and his side dishes. He loved his woman and wanted to marry her but this didn’t keep him from sleeping with other women from time to time. And Yvette mostly accepted this. She may not have liked it but it wasn’t reason enough for her to leave him because she reasoned that Jody loved her and NOT those other girls. He fixed her car, helped her pay bills, and picked her up everyday from work. The other girls got nothing more than a wet back. So I learned to distinguish between girls that play wifey and girls that play side dish. And as long as I played wifey, I’d always fare better than the side dish girls because I, at least, had his love.
(2) Sex solves a couples’ problems.
As Jody walks down a flight of stairs to leave Yvette’s premises, she yells “I hate you!” at his back. She tells him how she’s tired of his cheating, his lying, his selfishness, and his arrogance. He ignores her initially but the insults get worse and worse. Finally, he responds with an emphatic “I hate you too!” and a handful of his own insults. 10 seconds later, they’re having sex–great sex at that. There’s never a real resolution. Or more accurately, the sex IS the resolution. It ends the argument and both parties are more than satisfied. Jody never acknowledges his cheating, his lying, his selfishness, or his arrogance. He doesn’t apologize. And Yvette just saves the arguing for another day. When she starts to feel frustrated again, they simply repeat the process. Argue, have make-up sex, cook tacos. Argue, have make-up sex, cook tacos. The stress-relieving properties of sex prove this can actually work for a while. This method has worked so well for Jody, in fact, after he hits Yvette his apology consists of an oral sex session. Then he leaves with her car, expecting everything to stay the same the next day.
(3) If you put up with all his antics, he’ll get better and marry you in the end.
A frustrated Yvette eventually leaves Jody. Jody hitting her served as the last straw. And they stay broken up for a while but they both miss each other. The movie implies they do not communicate unless it has something to do with their son Jo-Jo. But after Yvette is nearly raped by her ex-boyfriend Rodney in front of Jo-Jo, Jody and Yvette get back together. Only this isn’t the same Jody. He moves out the house he lived in with his mother, moves in with Yvette, and proposes. He’s finally ready to settle down and stop acting like a little boy. YAY!
Now I’m not going to say that people don’t change. I’m sure there are people out there who lied and cheated throughout life and then one day saw the light. But my experience with a man like Jody ended in him leaving me for a woman who could better tolerate his cheating and lies. He never married me. I, apparently, wanted too much from him. I also found that sex doesn’t solve problems as effectively as communication and cheating isn’t okay–period. However, I don’t want this to sound like I’m blaming the media for my misconceptions. I think “Baby Boy” is a great artistic work (one of my favorite movies ever) and has plenty of controversial messages outside of these. I’m simply acknowledging something I realized influenced me and my beliefs at a young age–before I completely knew how to filter media. It is okay to have been influenced. At one point, I wanted what Jody and Yvette had because I thought that’s what true love looked like. I have long since learned the hard way that the Jody and Yvette way doesn’t work for me. As an adult, I understand which things I can take from that movie and what things I shouldn’t. So when I go back and watch “Baby Boy” again, it is Juanita’s voice that resonates loudest. She reminds me that I can only love a man up to the point where my love for him does not impede upon the love I have for myself. But the point of this post is for you to do a little soul-searching. What movies, songs, and people have influenced your ideas on Love and relationships and in what way? I’d love comments.