Da Mayor Knows

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.”

-Cali Paetow

3 thoughts on “Da Mayor Knows

  1. I agree with your interpretation of Da Mayor. I remember watching this film the first time and somewhat disliking his character, but now that I know the conclusion of the film, my opinion has changed. I think it’s important that you noted he is flawed, because it keeps his influence real and relatable. People aren’t black and white, and I think its rare for a film to do so well in creating characters that are in the shades of gray.

  2. I remember watching many Spike Lee movies back in the day but I didn’t necessarily like them because I always thought they were negative. Now as an Adult looking back he was just being very honest at the way things are. Now I can look at his films and see the lessons that are there.

  3. Da Mayor does know! He’s the only character in the movie that stays relatively unaffected throughout the whole film. When the heat rises and everyone starts to lose their tempers, Da Mayor stays exactly the same with his level-headedness and slightly skewed logic. It is his ability to not let the heat and the racial tension get to him that makes him such an interesting character, and I believe he lives up to his name.

    And for his brilliance, he gets the girl in the end.

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