Monday, June 30, 2014

No Sleep till Brooklyn: ‘Do the Right Thing’ Turns 25



For those who can remember, 1989 was undoubtedly the year of The Batman.  The Dark Knight’s shadow loomed large, and the famed Bat Signal was emblazoned on every product imaginable.  Indeed, after all the box office and merchandising receipts had been counted, the “World’s Greatest Detective” emerged victorious.  However, a phenomenon of a much more lasting variety took place merely a week later.  It was spurred on by an exponentially smaller, yet infinitely bolder film.  That film was far more significant from a sociological standpoint.  It exposed long festering wounds that hadn’t yet healed, and openly pondered one of life’s great mysteries: What is, ultimately, the right thing to do?


Looking back at Do the Right Thing so long after its release, it’s clear that only Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee could have launched such a campaign.  By 1989, he’d already developed a reputation as a rabble rouser.  His interview soundbites were every bit as inflammatory as the content of his films.  That’s no small feat when one considers the films in question.  His first, She’s Gotta Have It, followed the sexual exploits of Nola Darling, a young Black woman living in New York City.  Two years later, School Daze brazenly explored colorism in the frats and sororities of America’s Historically Black Colleges (The production was eventually banished from the campuses of Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University before filming was complete).  By the close of the 1980’s, one thing was abundantly clear: If any filmmaker could make a truly honest and scathing film about American race relations, it was Mr. Lee. 

Spike’s growing reputation as a “troublemaker” caused many critics at the time to judge Do the Right Thing prematurely.  Based on some of their pull quotes, it’s now obvious that they couldn’t separate the art from the artist.  In his review, Newsweek film critic Jack Kroll wondered "in this long hot summer, how will young urban audiences — black and white — react to the film's climactic explosion of interracial violence? ... this movie is dynamite under every seat."  David Denby of New York Magazine went considerably farther with his critique: “The End of this movie is a shambles, and if some audiences go wild, he’s (Spike Lee) partly responsible.”

In retrospect, such alarmist ravings seem both silly and racist.  Do the Right Thing exists to provoke thought, not to incite violence.  If anything, the prognostications of the fearful went a long way in proving its central thesis: if a single film could spark an all-out race war, things were much worse than any of us cared to admit.  That such a nuanced and complex film could be dismissed as a mere propaganda piece speaks volumes about the true nature of its detractors.   And make no mistake, Do the Right Thing is most certainly a complex work, often deceptively so.  Its many characters are at once both racial caricatures and complex human beings.  It views us as we view ourselves, but also has the courage to look much deeper into our very souls.  Spike has never been one for easy answers or pandering.  Such instincts have never served him better than they do here.

Like New York City itself, Do the Right thing is a microcosm.  I once jokingly told a friend that film plays like a Bizarro World version of Sesame Street.  Though I stand by that analogy, it’s by no means intended as an insult.  Sesame Street remains an invaluable teaching tool for children.  It uses puppetry, animation, and guest stars to help kids see the world in a different way.  By contrast, Do the Right Thing shows that when our children grow up, they’ll need more than Muppets to help them navigate America’s treacherous racial landscape.

Mookie (Spike Lee)


The film’s complexity is perfectly embodied in its diminutive protagonist, Mookie (Played by Spike Lee himself).  He is surely a flawed hero.  In today’s climate of political correctness, he’d likely be seen as a shiftless, no-account “baby daddy.”  His seeming irresponsibility and lack of ambition are shown to be defining character traits.  Yet, he exhibits true courage and decisiveness when called upon.  He regularly stands up to Pino’s (John Tutorro) overt racism.  In the film’s climactic moments, he also becomes a reluctant general.  While venting his own rage and confusion at the murder of his friend, he inadvertently becomes a protector to his surrogate family (Sal and his son’s) while firing the first shot in a mini-revolution.     

That Mookie eventually becomes an unlikely savior to Pino unlikely is fittingly ironic.  Throughout the film, similarities between the two are cleverly underlined.  Both are very protective of family and staunchly enforce racial/cultural boundaries.  Both look on with disgust as Sal (Danny Aiello) courts Mookie’s sister, Jade.  Indeed, Sal’s contentious relationship with Pino resembles his equally contentious relationship with Mookie.  Moments before the climactic riot, Sal even refers to Mookie as being like a son to him.  Yet, despite such similarities, Mookie exhibits a level of character and courage that ultimately escapes Pino.  Where Pino shrinks in the face of adversity and physical challenges, Mookie holds his ground and navigates his way out.  

Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn)
    

Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) is easily the film’s most iconic (Some might even say gimmicky) character.  He has very little dialogue, and lumbers through most of his scenes like a mythical creature from a faraway land.  He’s also defined by his accessories: Two gold four-fingered rings and a giant boom box that perpetually blasts Public Enemy’s classic anthem “Fight the Power.” 

Radio Raheem’s very presence adds an air of mysticism to an otherwise ultra-realistic film.  He totes around his giant radio like a talisman.  His unique connection to it resembles that of Samson to his hair.  The single song it constantly plays seems to cast a protective spell, creating an impenetrable bubble around him.  People move out of his way and back down when challenged.  Even his closest friends don’t make actual physical contact with him unless the volume is very low or the music stops.  When his radio runs of out juice, he immediately replenishes the power source.  He belligerently refuses to play anything other than PE, almost as if he’s afraid to.  When his radio is destroyed, the protective spell is broken, and he is killed soon after.  As the riot winds down, “Fight The Power” can be heard once again, as if Raheem’s ghost haunts the scene of his murder.  This allows the viewer to truly ponder the meaning of Chuck’s words.   

The image of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X shaking hands provides a consistent visual motif which perfectly highlights the film’s central dilemma:  What is the right path to take?  What is the right thing to do?  Such questions linger in the mind as the credits role.  Do the Right Thing is a film that doesn’t allow you to forget what you have seen, nor does it allow you to ignore the thoughts and feelings that such images provoke.  Today, in a supposedly post racial America, its themes remain as relevant as ever.  When staring into the abyss, do we all hold hands and jump?  If nothing else, Spike made us ponder that decision for a good long while, and God bless him for that.    


66 comments:

  1. It's later finding this act. A minimum of, it's a thing to be familiar with there are such events exist.

    ReplyDelete

  2. شركة نقل اثاث من الرياض الى الامارات
    لاننا افضل شركات شحن الاثاث فدائما خدماتنا هى الافضل
    شركة شحن عفش من الرياض الى الاردن

    اتصل بنا الان للحصول على افضل الخدمات لاننا الافضل دائما ونعمل على الاستعانة بافضل العمالة المدربة على نقل العفش و فك وتغليف الاثاث لاننا افضل و
    ارخص شركة نقل عفش بجدة

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”. Mindfulness Meditation

    ReplyDelete



  4. Don’t be kidding yourself when you say that you do not want to spend your time with an exotic looking woman who is a Escorts Service in Gurgaon A complete stranger, someone you have not seen before but with features, looks and a figure to die for. We have women with these qualities and more all here with us. Check our other Services...
    Escorts Service in Gurgaon
    Escorts Service in Haridwar
    Escorts Service in Haridwar
    Escorts Service in Haridwar
    Escorts Service in Haridwar

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello
    You have a good view of the site.
    Best wishes for a Happy New Year
    If you have time, please visit my site and leave feedback.
    My site address: 안전놀이터

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello
    You have a good view of the site.
    Best wishes for a Happy New Year
    If you have time, please visit my site and leave feedback.
    My site address: 안전놀이터

    ReplyDelete
  7. They are carrying on like they are your veritable sweetheart with whom you'll successfully fulfill your desire. On the off chance that you simply are finding call girls in surat like her, at that point you choose Surat as Free Surat Escorts.

    Contact us: Call girls real phone number surat
    Contact us: hot sexy picture escort in surat
    Contact us: spa massage service call girls surat
    Contact us: low rate call girls in surat
    Contact us: Independent escort in Surat

    ReplyDelete
  8. i like your blog you are good watch online indian dramas full episodes hd..
    Crime Patrol
    molkki

    ReplyDelete
  9. Welcome to High Profile Surat Escortsadapting to Escorts service in Surat, and you may loosening up to confirm that the Russian escort we supply may be the most over-the-top prettiest young girl you'll have ever unmistakable to your techniques for lifestyles.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. 토토사이트 I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Try not to burn through your time in getting Dwarka accompanies

    Visit: Escorts in Dwarka


    Top Low-Cost Call Girls in Dwarka.

    Get Services: Call Girls in Dwarka


    Phenomenal Lavish escorts administration in Gurgaon on your offer

    Go With: Escorts in Gurgaon


    Prominent young ladies in Gurgaon let you experience exotic euphoria past your experience

    Website: Call Girls in Gurgaon


    Hot call young ladies for wild evenings in Gurgaon

    Website: Call Girls in Gurgaon


    Our Escorts: Beauties Like Models

    Visit:Call Girls in Haridwar


    Premium and top-class Haridwar Escorts Agency!

    Go With: Call Girls in Haridwar

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. 온라인포커

    ReplyDelete
  13. While looking for articles on these topics, I came across this article on the site here. As I read your article, I felt like an expert in this field. I have several articles on these topics posted on my site. Could you please visit my homepage? 우리카지노

    ReplyDelete
  14. Some may just provide a consulting service; others may perform climbing, pruning and planting: whilst others may provide a combination of all of these services.
    tree services Prince Albert

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's really great. Thank you for providing a quality article. There is something you might be interested in. Do you know 온라인홀덤 ?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Although fitting of keys to replace lost keys to automobiles and homes and the changing of keys for homes and businesses to maintain security are still an important part of locksmithing.
    emergency locksmith Wigan

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am truly happy to 메이저토토사이트 glance at this webpage posts which includes plenty of valuable information, thanks for providing these kinds of information.

    ReplyDelete
  18. These off-duty flight attendants are willing to do almost everything to amuse our clients.Hotel Sex Service in Lucknow Our off-duty flight attendants are all about class since they earn a fair amount of money from the airline profession.Low budget Call Girls in Lucknow Each of these Housewife Call Girls in Agra has never fails to bring a smile to the faces of Call Girls whatsapp number in Dehradun the clients once the booking is through and Call Girls whatsapp number in Dehradun this is the reason why our Punjabi Escorts in Faridabad clients make repeat bookings for each one of these babes regularly.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 独播库,线上看,免费在线观看,电影,电视剧,动漫,视频网站,高清视频,Series,Movie,TV Shows,Online Free Watch, duboku .

    ReplyDelete
  20. What a post I've been looking for! I'm very happy to finally read this post. 토토사이트 Thank you very much. Can I refer to your post on my website? Your post touched me a lot and helped me a lot. If you have any questions, please visit my site and read what kind of posts I am posting. I am sure it will be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  21. As I am looking at your writing, 먹튀검증사이트 I regret being unable to do outdoor activities due to Corona 19, and I miss my old daily life. If you also miss the daily life of those days, would you please visit my site once? My site is a site where I post about photos and daily life when I was free.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Do you have a spam problem on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wanting to know your situation 먹튀검증 many of us have developed some nice practices and we are looking to trade techniques with others, why not shoot me an email if interested.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm writing on this topic these days, , but I have stopped writing because there is no reference material. Then I accidentally found your article. I can refer to a variety of materials, so I think the work I was preparing will work! Thank you for your efforts. 토토사이트

    ReplyDelete
  24. Our agency has the capability to fulfill your dreams with our Dwarka Escorts Service. We have so many girls in our agency to your day/night pleasures.
    Dwarka Escorts | Delhi Escorts

    ReplyDelete
  25. Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing. 안전사이트

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love what you 메이저놀이터 tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and exposure! Keep up the excellent works guys I've incorporated you guys to our blogroll.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Gorgeous Mahipalpur Escorts are ready to create a romantic ambiance for you and satisfy your wants. Hire Mahipalpur Call Girls now and enjoy your time ith thm.

    Visit : https://www.aishaescorts.com/mahipalpur-escorts.html

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thanks for another informative site. The place else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect way? I’ve a venture that I’m just now operating on, and I have been on the glance out for such info. สมัครยูฟ่าเบท

    ReplyDelete
  29. It's simply surprisingly open-handed of you to supply without
    restraint exactly what a number of us would have marketed as an electronic book to get some bucks for their own end, primarily now
    that you might have tried it if you ever decided.
    Those tactics also acted to be a good way to be aware that some people have similar desire just like my own to realize a great deal more when it comes to this problem. 휴게텔

    ReplyDelete
  30. I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next. 스포츠토토

    ReplyDelete
  31. Good write-up, I am regular visitor of one’s website, maintain up the excellent operate, and It’s going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.
    바카라사이트

    ReplyDelete
  32. I've been looking for photos and articles on this topic over the past few days due to a school assignment, Bóngđộ and I'm really happy to find a post with the material I was looking for! I bookmark and will come often! Thanks :D

    ReplyDelete
  33. ou need to be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality sites on the 토토사이트. I most certainly will recommend this site!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit this blog on regular basis to obtain updated from most recent
    news.카지노사이트

    ReplyDelete
  35. The Online Booking of the Young ladies Escorts in Dehradun is that an affordable selection for you after you need to pay less quantity of cash on the booking of the young cute call girl ladies as a result of they will do everything for you and.
    Dharamshala Escorts
    Manali Escorts
    Escorts Service

    ReplyDelete
  36. It's really great. Thank you for providing a quality article. There is something you might be interested in. Do you know 메이저토토 ?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I love what you 메이저놀이터 tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and exposure! Keep up the excellent works guys I've incorporated you guys to our blogroll.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Your writing is perfect and complete. However, I think it will be more wonderful if your post includes additional topics that I am thinking of. I have a lot of posts on my site similar to your topic. Would you like to visit once? 먹튀커뮤니티

    ReplyDelete
  39. It's very interesting. And it's fun. This is a timeless article. I also write articles related to , and I run a community related to 메이저놀이터. For more information, please feel free to visit !!

    ReplyDelete
  40. That's a great article! The neatly organized content is good to see. Can I quote a blog and write it on my blog? My blog has a variety of communities including these articles. Would you like to visit me later? 메이저안전놀이터

    ReplyDelete
  41. Papers get to operate through Bible helpers and also plagiarism checkers to be certain that the author did not find idle at any stage in the process. Language inconsistencies won't be a thing with your newspapers as the specialists of our school paper writing support are passionate about writing and are always excited to strike you with something fresh. By: 메이저사설놀이터

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thanks for your marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you could be
    a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and will
    eventually come back from now on. I want to encourage you to continue your great
    writing, have a nice weekend!

    Website:카지노

    ReplyDelete