Sunday, April 1, 2012

Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing (1989) produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee is a day in the life of a Brooklyn neighborhood and the racial tensions contained within. This film highlights the dynamics of a modern urban neighborhood through a cast of distinct personalities.


This film has a main theme of peace and conflict competing with each other. The opening scene with the female dancing aggressively in a boxing outfit while "Fight the Power" is playing sets a violent and intense tone. The following scene of "Mister Senor Love Daddy" (Samuel L. Jackson) at Love FM in contrast is peaceful and accepting. He acts as a sort of mediating overseer of all events throughout the neighborhood and tries to resolve any conflict and mitigate any tension. Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) directly contrasts the personality of Mister Senor Love Daddy with his never ending enveloping stream of "Fight the Power" blaring out of his boombox. His overbearing presence is clearly felt and even the camera angles make him appear larger than life. Raheem is a source of tension throughout the film and he can be interpreted as the instigator of the fight. Furthermore, when Lou's Famous Pizza store is burnt down there is a physically manifested division between understanding and conflict between the pizza store in flames and the neighboring Korean store shopkeepers who were able to calm the men looking to attack their shop. Yet, Raheem tells a story with his brass knuckles "love" and "hate" in which the conflict between the two is intense but in the end love comes out victorious. Also, at the close of the film there are two quotes, one by Martin Luther King Jr. which is in opposition to violence in protest  and the other by Malcom X which states that violence can be used in intelligent ways. This theme of love against hate may be used to represent modern society in many ways. Thus, the struggle between love and hate, violence and non-violence is prevalent throughout the film.


An interesting aspect is about the title of the film. Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) tells Mookie (Spike Lee) to "...always do the right thing," but the movie makes it appear that right thing is not so clear. To Mookie, the right thing was to throw the trash can through the window of Sal's Famous Pizza, igniting the conflict further, leading to the arson of the store. Was his intention to get revenge for the death of Raheem? Although he was like a son to Sal, his cultural upbringing must have been more important to him. He felt no remorse for his actions either, as he returned the succeeding day after the arson took place asking for his pay. To Mookie, even money superseded his respect for Sal. To him it seemed like the right thing to do, but some viewers might think otherwise. This may suggest the idea that "the right thing" is in some sense subjective and demonstrates that ethics and morals vary from person to person.

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