The late 1980s and early 1990s were an era that birthed some of the greatest Black coming-of-age films of all time; films that were Ground Zero for recognizable themes, tropes, and iconic moments that have become engrained in American culture. Movies like Boyz n Tha Hood, Juice, and Menace II Society etched out an entire subgenere that grew and grew as we drew closer to the new millennium, and in 1996 The Wayans Bros. decided it was ripe for spoofing.
Along with Keenan Ivory Wayans’ blaxploitation spoof I’m Gonna Git You Sucka from 1988, Don’t Be A Menace To South Central (While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood) was an early example of the kind of broad cultural swipes that would define Shawn and Marlon Wayans’ cinematic adventures and pay off big time when Scary Movie dropped in the year 2000. Don’t Be A Menace’s story of a book smart kid named Ashtray (Shawn) moving to the ghetto and learning the streets with his cousin Loc Dog (Marlon) is chock full of every Black coming-of-age trope you can think of (and even created one of its own in The Mailman), and in honor of the movie’s 20th anniversary and the upcoming release of the Wayans’ latest spoof 50 Shades Of Black, here’s 10 of the movies they were pulled from.
1. South Central
Socially conscious characters were a dime a dozen in these kinds of movies, and Chris Spencer took that character over the top with Preach.
2. Boyz n Tha Hood
Don’t Be A Menace lifts much of its plot and many of its characters from John Singleton’s classic, but the one that will go down in history is the late Bernie Mac’s interpretation of the racist cop.
3. Menace II Society
Marlon Wayans’ Loc Dog is a wholesale riff on O-Dog from this classic 1993 Hughes Brothers movie, and Don’t Be A Menace even spoofs the film’s most iconic scene for good measure. Always watch out for The Man.
In many ways, Toothpick (played by Darrel Heath) can be seen as the kind of person that Bishop would turn into in prison.
5. Above The Rim
Coincidentally (or not), Marlon Wayans played more or less the same character in both Don’t Be A Menace and this Jeff Pollack drama. He found himself on two different sides of a beatdown.
6. Higher Learning
Omar Epps showing face as Malik from Higher Learning might truly be one of Don’t Be A Menace’s best meta gags.
A pot-smoking grandmother in a low rider who looks like she could take on Big Worm, Helen Martin’s Grandma chewed her way through every scene she was in.
8. Do The Right Thing
Everyone remembers the sensual ice cube scene from Do The Right Thing, but remember when Shawn Wayans rubbed a woman with cold hot dogs?
9. Poetic Justice
The character of Dashiki (Tracey Cherelle Jones) is Janet Jackson’s Justice by way of Menace II Society’s Ronnie, but with even crazier poetry skills.
10. Dead Presidents
The face paint said it all here.