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Literary Analysis of “Dinosaurs in the Hood”

In the poem “Dinosaurs in the Hood” by Danez Smith, the author presents an invitation to make a movie and employs juxtapositions to set the mood of the poem. Smith goes ahead and presents the image of an African American lad playing with a toy dinosaur. In his poem, Smith chooses not to focus on the color of the young boy but instead on the perception and actions of the neighborhood towards the lad. Equally, he rubbishes the stereotypes and prejudices that are associated with women of color and men. Smith emphasizes that the poem is about minorities standing out for themselves and becoming triumphant even in the advent of adversities. He does not fancy hot dudes and therefore seeks to portray broken individuals and older adults as both heroes and heroines in the poem. Throughout the poem, Smith employs the use of syntax, metaphor, and symbolism to instigate activism. This essay, therefore, examines how injustices accompany nonconformity in America through the theme of stereotype.

In the free-form poem “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” the author, through his tone, seeks to display his discontentment with stereotypes that are associated with African Americans. In the first stanza, he presents an image of a black lad playing with a toy dinosaur. In the second stanza, he immediately orders Tarantino not to direct the movie when he states, “In his version, the boy plays with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives, the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father” (Smith 6-9). Through his tone, it is clear that if it were an American filmmaker directing the movie, particularly Quentin Tranatino, the focus and plot of what he envisions of the movie will no doubt change since the movie would be occupied with racial metaphors. This reinforces the idea that African Americans who happen to be blacks are primarily associated with violence.

In his poem “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” Smith tries to exhibit and create an image of how black people are depicted in most American movies. The author seeks to create a different image and perception about black people away from the norm, depicting them as emotional individuals who often engage in trouble. The black boy is portrayed as holding a gun in the movie to show that he does not care about his life and dreams, reinforcing the perception of Americans on blacks. This categorically points out to prejudices that are associated with black people. However, the author shifts this perception when he employs and emphasizes repetition by stating, “no one kills the black boy. & no one kills the black boy (Smith 32). The author essentially wanted to portray the black boy as an average person with dreams, and his frustration is shown when he sees the black lad dreaming of being killed. To further his frustration, he incorporates repetition to display his desire and depict a symbolic notion of how black tropes are overdone in movies while attempting to depict Black people’s traditions.

The theme of stereotype is also reinforced through racial injustice, widely exhibited throughout the poem “Dinosaurs in the Hood.” In the last stanza, Smith elucidates on the vision and the intention of the movie when he stipulates that he wants to depict the little black lad with “his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there” (36). While most Americans believe and are aware that the odds are against black people since they are likely to drop out of school, become addicts, engage in violence, and go to jail, the author presents a contrasting opinion to this notion. He further emphasizes that the movie should not be about blacks since he knows how blacks are depicted in movies.

This is reinforced when the author states that: “this movie can’t be a metaphor for black people & extinction, and hence the movie cannot be about race” (26-27). Here, the author metaphorically does not want to portray blacks as people with no dreams and thus uses a “Dinosaur in the Hood” title to portray an extinct animal. Smith, in his desire, wants the movie to rectify the notions and perspectives that American filmmakers have always had on African American cultures. The author states that: “I don’t want any racist shit, children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles – saving their town from real-ass dinosaurs” (15-17). In the movie, Smith’s intention and desire are to exhibit the black people as resilient characters and challenge the notion that they are weak and lazy.

In conclusion, the poem “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” through themes such as racial injustice, prejudice, and stereotypes, exhibits blacks’ typical depiction in American films and movies. This is not, however, the case as outlined in the poem. African Americans, therefore, should first be viewed and perceived as any other American before attaching stereotypes and prejudice to their behavior and actions. Therefore, the black culture demands equal representation and treatment regarding justice, opportunities, and rights.

Work Cited

Smith, Danez. “Dinosaurs in the Hood.” New Labor Forum. Vol. 27. No. 2. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2018.


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