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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
The daunting issue of racial discrimination or xenophobia is well articulated in the film ‘Do the Right Thing.’ The movie builds on the foundation laid by other preceding movies such as ‘Crash,’ ‘The Power of One,’ ‘Catch a Fire’ and many others. The movie is inclined in bringing forth a sample of the prevailing condition and the ever-widening discrepancy seen between the African-Americans and the other races in America.
It has unsurprisingly been celebrated as ‘the finest film of the summer’ (Dawsey, 1989). Moreover, it has been applauded as a precise depiction of the livelihoods of the Americans in the black society (Dawsey, 1989). Interestingly, it has been revealed to be the first movie that former US President Barrack Obama and his wife Michelle ever saw together (Criterion Contraption, 2010). Its setting is designed to depict a day in a Brooklyn locality when the temperatures soar to scorching levels.
One of the movie stars is Mookie, a black American pizza delivery man. Mookie is apparently caught at a crossroads, whether to be loyal to his job as a pizza deliverer or to embrace his fidelity to his skin tone. In the beginning, the state of affairs in the locality is basically at ease, and the locals attend to their errands normally. With time, however, the heat level rises as does the people’s irritability. The crescendo is between the dominant inhabitants and the outmoded ‘foreigners.’ They eventually engage in a local feud against one another.
They finally tolerate one another and move on as they realize they need the input of each other, but there is evident frustration looming on either camp (Beliefnet, 2009). Mookie assumes a neutral position and employs friendliness to his black colleagues, his bosses and the rest of the residents. He is interpreted as the ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ who is always willing to use his calm attitude and nature just to see the abuses hurled at the society come to a standstill (GA, 2010). There are a lot of insults being exchanged between the African-Americans, the local Italians, Koreans and the white police officers. Mookie is depicted as a fence-sitter whose standards are challenged and overridden with time.
Towards the tail-end of the movie, unrest occurs. One of the African-Americans, Radio Raheem, dies during his arrest by the American police officers. Sal pizzeria, the pizza place, is razed down by an inferno prompted by Mookie. He finally realizes that his allegiance to his ethnic roots was more vital and actually should have superseded his faithfulness to the Italian boss that he had been working for, or the rest of the racial groups in general. The movie is focused on the livelihoods of the African-Americans as observed from the black man’s perspective.
It is due to these issues that some standard street scenarios like the trio of the little bums who spent most of their time hurling pointless mockery, “Mother Sister” on the doorsteps leading to her apartment in Brooklyn with a young woman doing her hair. Or the little kids enjoying their time on the streets, and the young men assembled with their peers taking beer on the pavements, and the hawker who was trading his sweet flavored ice cream. Or the stereo placed on the roof of a car and played on full blast as some Puerto Rican adolescents danced rhythmically to the blasting beat of the radio and many others are brought forth in the film, which demonstrates the local environment of Brooklyn, now more popularly referred to as the ‘Black Territory.’
The movie depicts a portion of the life led by the ordinary African-Americans exempting the inappropriate predisposition and prejudgment typically visible in films shot from a white man’s perspective. The film is performed in the usual character right from the beginning. It avoids any unnecessary flamboyant scenes or spectacles that may elicit either compassion or hard feelings from any other race. The plotting of the movie develops slowly and makes over the locality from a usually calm and peaceful place to an unfriendly and argumentative environment.
The radio deejay as represented by Samuel Jackson is one of the most significant characters in the movie. He gives some relevant information and an accurate narration to match the movie’s setting, especially during the flaring of temperatures at the start of the film, plus advice towards the end for his audience to ‘chill’ since the blaze of heat is not about to fade out. The director of the movie, Spike Lee, who also assumes the role of Mookie, the African-American pizza delivery man, infuses a lot of valuable and stimulating aspects in the film to cement his pro-black standpoint.
Since the beginning part of the movie where Rosie Perez, one of the notable actors in the film, is dancing to the moving tune of “Fight the Power!” against a red background, it is already clear as the day that Spike Lee is already getting his message across to the viewers. Once the dance scene is over, attention is drifted to an alarm chronometer, a microphone and the lower part of Samuel Jackson’s face requesting the audiophiles of his radio channel to get up. This has the hidden figurative connotation that the movie is a wake-up call to his colleague Black Americans on the relevance of them being more anxious about their problems, especially those mounting from racial discrimination and ethnic bigotry.
Smiley is illustrated as an American character in the movie. He is a resident of Brooklyn and a developmentally disabled guy who stammers on speaking. His notable scenes at the beginning of the film are when he is holding portraits of prominent Africa-Americans. Most significant of the pictures are those showing Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. At the start of the movie, Smiley focuses on explaining two famous figures – “Now they are deceased, but we still have to brawl against apartheid,” once again alongside a block construction and a mostly orange-colored setting. It is highly possible that the viewer disregards this scene at first sight as a useless one, an individual action of the rustic character.
It later comes to be revealed that Smiley will be at the epicenter of the active rioting group, which initiates the final turmoil of a riot. This revelation implies that his loyalty and commitment to the quest of the blacks is more than what is visible. Smiley is the one who sets Sal’s Pizzeria the pizza place on fire, bringing a show of victory at last for the African-Americans. It is the incorporation of these scenes into the movie which highlights the stance of the film director, encouraging the fact that Spike Lee is trying to pass to the viewer – his negative opinion on the widespread racial discrimination.
As it has been previously shown, the situation prevalent in Brooklyn was presented accurately with no extra dramatization to underscore the similar causes. Each of the characters held the opinion that their point of view was the correct one from the beginning. There was no backing off mainly in the skirmish scenario between Sal, Radio Raheem and Bugging Out just a little while before the riot exploded. ‘No characters ever hold the thought that they are racist, yet the ethnic division describes the trend of social interactions in the film’ (Seanax, 2009). This is analogous to the events that unfold in the society as each person or unit clings to their own opinion depending on their point of view and never considers the others’.
Sal, the boss, perceived himself as part of the locality’s golden generation after having lived in the place for more than 20 years. Radio Raheem was only concerned with his music and how he would be playing it out loud as he took a stroll in the streets. Bugging Out, in contrast, was only concerned with getting his brother’s snapshots placed on the ‘Wall of Fame’ displayed on Sal’s pizza place. Radio Raheem and Bugging Out perceived Sal as a racist man because he never bought their opinions on loud music and never had pictures of black celebrities on the wall.
Contrariwise, Sal believed that Radio Raheem and Bugging Out were acting out of ethnic affiliations since they esteemed cripple his business and had loud music playing in his pizza store. Whichever way, the movie did not compromise with anyone and the state of affairs was highlighted in its initial and complex appearance for the movie fan to draw their exploration and decisions. The most outstanding entity about the film is the protuberant usage of backgrounds to put more perspective on the Brooklyn set. In essence, there is the feeling after watching the movie that it “appears like and feels more of a performance than a film” (Criterion Collection2010) due to the repetitive use of dramaturgical shots and backgrounds. As previously recorded, the lively orange shade is definite in the majority of the scenes which wanted to highpoint the flaring temperatures in the civic; the film palette where the movie is based. Metaphorically though, the video aimed at highlight the contentious concern of ethnic discrimination that has been surviving since the ancient times. Red or orange color is the metaphorical way of expressing the enthusiasm that has carried the film instructor through the review of the issue, suggesting a zealous desire to have a solution erected promptly.
The illumination in other sections was also outstanding with the enclosed views still having the constant brightness emanating from the summertime hotness. It is noteworthy that a number of the shots that were made appeared like static photos. One of the sections depicts the close-range caption of Mookie kissing Tina with an elaborate close-up of their lips displayed. Captioned photos of the press were also revealed to emphasize the devastating temperature being experienced in the region at that period. The three men previously having their chat underneath an umbrella beside a red wall is another similar scene.
Some instances have been acted from a lopsided point of view as expressed by Radio Raheem and Bugging Out talking to the camera, but with the conversation directed to Sal. The director, Spike Lee, likewise made his actors speak directly to the cameras in some scenes, which makes the watchers in some way get involved in the movie. The subject of the film is the skin color prejudice which is existent between the African-Americans and the rest of the ethnic subgroups residing in the United States such as Sal and his lads, who are of Italian ethnicity, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Koreans and many other different races. Any person can be labeled as “racist” depending on the situations, and most of the times, it is impossible to have it abetted.
Conversely, the movie brings forth a classic, sophisticated relationship of feelings and ethnic-bound preconceptions which, in a particular way, are expressed naturally to every individual. Every action must not be interpreted to be crucial for or suppressing any other group/ethnicity. The movie does not have the intention of broadening the pre-existing large gap between different races but somewhat, “it is focused on racial variances just to show the humanity points of commonality” (Dawsey, 1989). The mutiny that occurred in the front yard of Sal’s pizzeria store was initially initiated by Radio Raheem and Bugging Out who were out to assert themselves and their controversies to Sal.
Unfortunately, the way that they crafted and brought their message to the businessman, Sal, was not reassuring or constructive. Therefore, the state of affairs deteriorated from the bad it was too worse, and then well ahead reached the worst when the pizzeria was razed down by fiery flames. The actors in the movie gave it more than enough credibility to the film which made it utterly comprehensible and accurate. Sal was dependable as the pizza store owner who just wanted to carve out a living from his decades-old business, which he had planned to hand down to his two descendants as time passed.
The xenophobic propensities were not deliberate on his part particularly when he asked Bugging Out to look for his room to put up the portraits of his colleagues – after he is asked why he didn’t choose to have the pictures of African-American luminaries on the Wall of Fame. He merely intended to state his proprietorship of the pizzeria and not be interfered with, which the other actors wrongly viewed as being racist. The duo of Radio Raheem and Bugging Out were authentic in their sections of being infuriated clients who only were after being treated as ordinary customers, or mostly like everyone else.
Nevertheless, the way in which they voiced out themselves was not appreciated very well by Sal. He reacted in a fury for being confronted with his own business. Mookie was likewise presented well by Director Spike Lee as a person who wished to stay afloat in the middle of the African-Americans and the Italian-Americans, as signified by Sal and his two sons. Just like Sal, all he wanted was to earn a living, but situations played off differently. Therefore, he also had to respond conspicuously and on impulse. He was a harmony-loving person, and that was the reason why he always tried to soothe things when they arose between Pino and Vito, and even between these two with Sal himself.
The resemblance in conduct between Mookie and Sal is still highlighted in the manner they both handle Smiley, responding toward him with utmost contemplation, compassion, and tolerance. It was very astounding that Mookie becomes the one to initiate the destruction of Sal’s pizzeria but exploring his deeds, it could be preempted somehow since the ultimate choice was between the forfeiture of his basis of livelihood and the apparent resentment from his African American family, kin, and colleagues. The minor characters ‘Da Mayor’ and ‘Mother Sister’ brought forth “the backstory with self-possession and the unfathomable skillfulness–and the aspect of historical perception” (Champlin, 1989).
They also came up with a way through which the state of affairs could, in some way, tone down or be of less intensity or less ferocious. In a particular way, they offered the equilibrium to the storyline, allowing the spectator to have a breather, specifically in the intensifying rigidity before the eruption of the unrest. They are just like a drench of refreshment to the fiery opinions between the lead actors. The attire worn by the characters made the movie more genuine and authentic to their actors. Sal, Pino, and Vito interchangeably wore an overall as part of their job in the pizzeria.
Mookie got dressed up in a baseball jersey which was the archetypal dress code for teenagers and young adult males in those times. Da Mayor was clothed in an apparently well-fitting suit which had by this time turned dirty and soiled due to age, just like him. Many of the characters were also displayed sweating profusely due to the scorching heat which, too, advanced more exactitude to the sections. The prevailing attitude was also one of tension growing, analogous to the elevated temperature of the climate, which peaked to an uprising and the blazing down of the pizzeria. Melody also played a crucial part in the film.
We get it from the opening scenes of the movie as its credits roll by on the screen, within the video and up to the last prospects of the movie. The allusion to the inspiring song has by now been cited hitherto. Within the film, as the straw-hat heat shapes up and scenario shots are completed of tabloids with captions of the hot climate conditions, a song is set out in rather a slow Latin rhythm with the lines “I know you can’t tolerate the hotness…” After the tabloids, the appearance of Tina, Mookie’s lover, is fixated where she is supposedly submerging herself in a washbasin filled with cold water.
Now, the script skips to Tina taking a bath, still with the indication of the orange tint in the background. In yet another scenario, the Puerto Ricans are enjoying a sample of their song on the transistor while they are seated on the front stepladders of a flat. The Puerto Rican beat is steadily supplanted by a late-type of hip-hop beat or a ‘blacks’ type of music which is by far louder than their music’s volume. This infuriates the Puerto Ricans, and they look to find that it is Radio Raheem with his massive noise box. They hurl obscenities at Raheem who doesn’t leave, so they put their volume on full blast, and the Spanish song fills the air again.
Radio Raheem remains silent over this but turns his music volume up as well. They admit defeat, but then yet again, they hurl abuses at Raheem who turns around and leaves them. In this manner, it is evident that music was able to emphasize the sensation of heat in the film, as well as act as a source of rivalry between the Puerto Ricans and Blacks. The component of music contributed to the film’s entire mise-en-scene in a significant manner as to make the movie more visually exciting and engaging to the viewers. A few people classify this movie as part of the comedy genre, which is a gaffe.
‘Do the Right Thing’ is not a conventional kind of a movie as it cannot be categorized as either into any of the common classes of movies. It’s a type of a film which has to be in its category due to its commissioned meaning for the fan seeking to bring about a little more reverence for the African Americans. Maybe it could be considered as a community spectacle film, although it would not exactly suite the classification because it does not have a precise social ill which triggers the conflict that comes later. In the social drama category of films “usually the Champion has a personal effort in the result of the tussle” (Create your Screenplay, n.d.). Even though Mookie is in a way portrayed to be the champ, he does not go through any identifiable struggle in the film since he was aptly recognized at his place of work, Sal’s pizzeria, and in the civic. The most significant social ill highlighted in this film shows more of an idiosyncratic type of ethnic discrimination as the perspectives are likely to differ with every individual, as well as the situations which occurred. Sal, Radio Raheem and Bugging Out show such typical idiosyncratic views and. The film ‘Do the Right Thing’ is an illuminating cinematic replica of the state of affairs in Brooklyn through the 1980s.
The tension that was existent between the African-Americans and the other races within the neighborhood was extensive in the span of that period. Over time, many improvements have been approved to address the disputes. Multi-cultures have now become more recognized in the American setting. To break it down, a lot of social things have changed for the better since then. All the same, the situation remains miles away from the ideal for the marginal ethnic groups in the United States. In future, persistent vigilance is still essential to take forward what Director Spike Lee has introduced in this movie.