Twenty years ago today, Spike Lee released what is arguably the quintessential family movie of the Hip-Hop era with his 1994 flick, Crooklyn. Largely influenced by his childhood as a kid in Brooklyn, New York, we were taken on a cinematic carpet-ride back to ’70s when blow-out afros and platform shoes were all the rave. The film’s fictional family, The Carmichaels, were far from Cosbys, going through the adversity and strife the average family faces, but persevere and make the best of what they have, together.
Starring Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, and the pint-size leading actress Zelda Harris, who captured all of our hearts all those years ago, Crooklyn has official classic status. Troy, Clinton, and the rest of the clan will forever live in all us, not matter how old we get.
In celebration of its anniversary, we’ve decided to list the top 10 things about Crooklyn the kid in us can all relate to. Thank us later for the trip down memory lane.
1. Not Wanting To Finish Your Dinner
As children, we all have that one dish we dislike that turns the dinner table into a torture chamber. And no matter how hard you tried to evade eating it, your mother had no remorse for your pleas. In poor Nate’s case, that dish was black-eyed peas. While I used to resort to the old food in the napkin trick, Nate had ideas of his own.
2. The Neighborhood Crew
Unless you were overly protected as a child or scared of the world, we’re sure many of you had your neighborhood crew you hung out with from dusk ’til dawn. More than the average friend, you all were bonded through the different rites of passage you experience while coming of age. The Carmichael clan was no exception, with Clinton, Wendell and Nate hanging with Tommy La La and crew, and Troy making the rounds with Puerto Rican Minnie. From singing oldies on the stoop to jumping rope, the neighborhood crew played a big role in the families’ lives and Crooklyn as a whole.
3. Annoying Neighbors
The worst–you know, that one person or family who just irritates you to know end. Well, the Carmichael’s resident pest, Tony Eyes, was one of the worst. Dirty. Loud. A cat whisperer. You can’t get any worst than that. To top it all off, he was as petty as they come, which ultimately led to him catching the fade, to the delight of viewers like me who wish they could the same to their own neighbor.
4. Stealing From The Corner Store
If you happened to have grown up in the boroughs, you’re familiar with the neighborhood corner store/bodega. And being that you’re a kid with no job and few responsibilities, sometimes you don’t have the loot to stock up on your favorite goodies. And every now and then we resort to taking what we want, free of charge, no questions asked. The most savvy of crumb-snatchers can complete the mission unbothered, but let’s just say Troy Boy wasn’t equipped for the task.
5. Neighborhood Junkies
In urban America, the neighborhood junkie is as common as the mailman. Glue sniffers Snuffy (played by Spike Lee) and Right Hand Man served as Arlington Place’s resident low-life druggies, terrorizing kids while on the pursuit of the next sniff of Elmer’s.
6. Sibling Rivalries
Growing up, your biggest rival in all things is usually your brother or sister. You antagonize each other to no end and get on each others’ nerves every chance you get. Troy and her brothers were no different, especially her eldest one, Clinton. Whether it was roughing each other up or the case of missing Knicks tickets, the pairs’ love-filled bickering brought a grin to those familiar with giving their brother and/or sister hell.
7. Mom And Pops’ Own Drama
We’re sure many can relate here: children may happen to hear their parents argue about various things from time to time. Financial strains, differences in thinking and other variables cause the relationship to be rocky at times. Woody and Caroline Carmichael were not immune to the trials and tribulations of marriage. And when a woman’s fed up – well, you already know the rest*.
8. Crazy Relatives
Family genetics link us all, but can also contribute some weird relatives. Troy had her first experience dealing with one during her visit to Virginia to stay with her Uncle Clem and his wife, Aunt Song. Religious and judgmental with a strange affinity for their dog, Queenie, Aunt Song’s southern ways and Troy’s Brooklyn swagger mixed like oil and water.
9. Hating Going Away For Summer … And Then Actually Enjoying It.
Summertime was made for running wild around the neighborhood with your friends–not visiting relatives you honestly could care less about seeing. But Troy’s parents insisted she do just that, sending her off to Virgina to get a break from the rough and tumble streets of Brooklyn. While initially reluctant to the idea, she eventually agrees, becoming friends with her cousin Viola, bonding over conversation and pet homicide. Because that’s what favorite cousins do, of course.
10. Losing Loved Ones And Coming Together As A Family
The hardest thing about being part of a family is losing family members. We may fight, argue, and even dislike one another at times, but deep down we love our family members unconditionally and would never want to lose them. The Carmichaels went through this following the death of their family matriarch (and one of the greatest mothers in cinematic history), Carolyn. While her siblings are overwhelmed, Troy remains stoic, instead becoming the caretaker of the family and displaying a maturity beyond her years.
* — I will forever associate The Persuaders’ song “It’s A Thin Line Between Love And Hate” with this scene.