I love the 1989 film, Do the Right Thing
. I saw it two years ago in my high school film history class but it’s been on my mind quite a few times since then. Spike Lee somehow captures the worst of prejudices- racial and age-related- and plays them until they peak in grand disaster (which our class hasn’t seen yet so I’ll stop now to avoid too many spoilers). The three bums resent the Koreans for their success. The Italians (namely Vito) hate the African-Americans because they’re trouble. The teens tease Da Mayor for being an alcoholic and putting on airs. The Hispanics hate Radio Rahim because his beats drown out their music. To put the cherry on the sundae, it is the absolute hottest day of the year. It is a straight up recipe for disaster.
In seeing the film for the second time I’m starting to step back and form my own interpretation of Do the Right Thing. Da Mayor, despite his ‘bum’ patterns, is the voice of the film. He asks Mother Sister to love him as he loves her. He wants happiness, not hate. He wants Mookie to ‘do the right thing’, though he isn’t above paying a kid fifty cents to run to the corner and get him another beer. He strolls the block and observes all the passers-by, sharing his wisdom. He is, as we all are, flawed, but his character always shines. Do you remember his response when asked to point to who had damaged the antique car? “Doctor, those that’ll tell don’t know, and those that know won’t tell.”