Single Father Character Spotlight: Furious Styles

The dynamics of families are often displayed in the media. The entertainment industry depicts countless stories of families in the past, present, and future. In honor of Fathers Day and keeping with the premise of Degrees Single, it felt appropriate to acknowledge single fathers that are portrayed visibly and subtly in television and movies. Throughout the month of June, a new father, although fictional, will be discussed.

This week’s spotlight looks back more than 20 years to Furious Styles of the groundbreaking and classic film, Boyz N The Hood. In 1991, John Singleton made his debut as a film director with this movie and an all-star Black cast, many of whom were just beginning their career. Laurence Fishburne, in his late twenties at the time, portrayed a single father of his son Tre Styles. We see Fishburne as Furious alongside Angela Bassett as Tre’s mother, Reva, in a more amicable relationship compared to their iconic depiction of Ike and Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993).

Furious Styles embodied the pivotal role of a father in his child(ren)’s life. At the beginning of the movie, we find Tre as a young boy who is very smart, but tends to get into trouble. It is unclear the extent of trouble Tre has gotten into in the past. But it was enough trouble for him to make an agreement with his mother that he wouldn’t get into anymore “disputes whether physical or verbal” with his classmates at school. When Tre breaks this agreement, he is sent to live with Furious. Despite her being employed and educated (studying for her Masters degree), Reva knew that the impact of her son’s father was such that it was Tre’s best chance of not ending up “dead or in jail or drunk standing in front of one of these liquor stores.”

“Furious Styles embodied the pivotal role of a father in his child’s life.”

Furious was refreshingly receptive of fatherhood. When Reva dropped Tre off to stay with him, Furious thanked her. Throughout the movie, he made memorable statements about the magnitude of fatherhood and the importance of doing it right. “Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.” This was a powerful statement not only charging men to step up to their responsibilities, but to parent with purpose. Furious challenges Tre early on to see how his friends (Ricky, Doughboy, and Chris) would “end up” without their fathers. As depicted in the movie, all of Tre’s friends ended up being killed or serving time in prison. While I understand the point of such an outcome, it is important to mention that not all children who grow up without their father (or mother) meet the same fate. Many kids without one or both parents end up being just as happy and successful, if not more, than children with one or both parents.

Furious defies many stereotypes about Black fathers against the backdrop of the very circumstances that many would say prevents some men from being a father. He was not in a relationship with Tre’s mother. Although they had their disagreements, Furious was still able to successfully raise his son which the mother commends in a statement that also serves as a conviction: “Of course, you took in your son…And you taught him what he needed to be a man. I’ll give you that. Because most men ain’t man enough to do what you did.” Furious lived in an area that was plagued with violence, yet he did not appear to indulge. He did, however, exercise his 2nd amendment right in defense of his home and family when an intruder came in. It is not clear what level of education he obtained, but he is clearly knowledgeable. He runs a business called Furious Financial Services, and Tre once mentioned to Ricky that Furious reads a lot. He was revered as a man of wisdom. Doughboy once called him “Malcolm Farrakhan.” And he was desirable. A few lines within the movie indicated that there were women who would have willingly let Furious drive them mad. 

So, we have a single, Black man who is not in a relationship with his child’s mother and lives in a seemingly bad neighborhood with an undetermined level of “formal” education. But he raised a hard-working, smart, young man who did not succumb to peer pressure and went on to attend Morehouse University. I appreciated Reva’s spiel when she stated that Furious simply did what “mothers have been doing from the beginning of time. It’s just too bad more brothers won’t do the same.” This speaks again to recurring premise that women are more so expected to, and oftentimes do, raise their children alone. But in this case, Furious did it and arguably better. As Laurence Fishburne stated during an interview about Boyz N The Hood, “The making of men is men’s business.” And as Reva mentioned to Furious when she dropped off Tre, “It’s like you told me, I can’t teach him how to be a man. That’s your job.”

“The making of men is men’s business.”

Furious’ last vocal scene was when he talked Tre into handing over the gun, following Ricky’s death. We see Furious awaiting Tre’s return when he runs off with Doughboy with the intention of avenging Ricky. Furious is seen rotating silver stress balls in his hands as he did other times throughout the film. I believe that is a subtle representation of the measures Furious took to remain levelheaded in stressful situations. It is ironic that a man named Furious was so calm, thoughtful, and logical. We last see him when he steps out of his room upon Tre’s return. They shared an intense stare before Furious retreated to his room, slamming the door behind him. Their nonverbal exchange was the moment of many reckonings: Tre was his own man now. Furious could not stop Tre from sneaking out even after he handed over the gun. Furious had given Tre his all as far teachings and guidance. It was now up to Tre to implement those things. Furious succeeded in his efforts with Tre. Amidst the intensity and heightened emotions during the car ride with Doughboy to find Ricky’s murderers, Tre eventually returned to the calm, thoughtful, logic that his father instilled in him to determine that he had no business being in that car. Thus, Tre asked to be let out.

Laurence Fishburne’s commentary about his role as Furious Styles, 20 years after Boyz N The Hood was released, perfectly sums up the iconic character: “Basically, with this role, you’ve become the father to a generation of fatherless boys.” Furious Styles was exactly that! It is worth mentioning that Tre lived with Furious for 7 years. According to certain belief systems, 7 is the number of perfection or completion. It seems fitting that the film allowed the events of the movie and Furious’ teachings to come full circle within that time frame.

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