Fight The Power?

Do The Right Thing does more than just illustrate a day in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn during the 1980s. It shows how racial tensions and unnecessary hatred can tear us apart, all in the matter of a day. It is a frightening expose of how easily people can be driven to commit acts of violence, and how it never solves anything.

Something that struck me deeply in the film was the song that Radio Rahim constantly played on his radio, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. The racial groups in the film–the African-Americans and the Italian-Americans especially–felt that the “power” that needed to be fought was each other. Throughout the film, there was obvious hatred and bigotry on each side, leading to palpable racial tensions and ultimately violence. However, all of this was unnecessary. Why must the different racial groups blame each other for their personal problems and failures? I felt that most of the characters were lazy and deplorable, and brought this upon themselves. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just work together and live in harmony with each other. Obviously, their hatred did not solve anything. Rather, it just made the relationships between the ethnic groups worse.

The true “power” that must be fought in the film is this narrow-minded bigotry exhibited by most of the characters. The violence that occured at the end of the film did not surprise me in the least. The film would’ve been much more poignant if the characters actually shed their prejudices and learned to treat each other with the respect that every human being deserves. The film shows that such harmony is possible through the friendship between Vito and Mookie. Although one was black and one was white, they were like brothers and accepted each other for who they were, instead of hating each other for the color of their skin. That’s the way every character should have been in this this film.

Therefore, I think that no one in the film did the right thing. They did not “fight the power.”

3 thoughts on “Fight The Power?

  1. I completely understand your point here. I always assumed that the power was ‘the man’… you know, the establishment, the boss, the police. Your analysis of the song’s meaning in the film makes so much more sense, at least in this instance. Racial tension was the power and the driving force behind their actions in the riot. Mookie and Vito may have ‘fought the power’ in maintaining a friendship, but neither of them did the right thing- helping each other out- in the end (unless you believe Mookie threw the trash can to redirect the mob’s aggressions).

  2. I totally agree that most of the characters were lazy, especially the three old men sitting by the corner. One of them even blames the successful Korean family as the source of his own failure. I mean, what is this? And it’s true that their hatred did not solve anything, because it was this hatred that took a life and destroyed a pizzeria at the end of the movie.
    I also thought it was horrible and infuriating that the whole neighborhood could turn on Sal just by one stupid word. Alright, so maybe he used the word “nigger” one too many times during his argument with Radio what’s his name. But one must take into consideration how frustrated Sal must have felt, to have this loud music banging into his eardrums while staring into the stubborn faces of three shouting angry men.

  3. I agree that the film would have been much more poignant if the community learned to push aside their differences and get along, but that’s not necessarily realistic. In the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of the 1980s, racial tensions ran high and, often times, people didn’t end up doing the “right thing.” While racial harmony is possible, as shown through Vito and Mookie, it didn’t happen very often. On a hot day in neighborhoods like that, tensions were too quick to arise between people, and the end result wasn’t always pretty. Therefore, what the film lacks in positive resolution, it makes up for in realism.

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