Where is the conflict?

I just re-watched the first half of Do the Right Thing on Netflix to get it fresh in my head again. What I noticed was a number of differences from other more recent films on Brooklyn. Compared to a film like Brooklyn’s Finest Do the Right Thing employs much less use of “the n word.” This is an interesting shift in the use of this word in pop culture. In today’s rap music and culture, artists make liberal use of “the n word,” however, Spike Lee, despite his Brooklyn upbringing, makes less use of this word in his film.

Additionally, Lee creates a culture of racial divide not necessarily through violent actions between the neighborhood and the employees of Sal’s pizzeria. This tension builds up through discreet conversations between neighborhood residents. Sal’s oldest son seems to be the most volatile towards the African-American community in Bed-Stuy.

What I find to be the most bizzarre part of this film so far is the consistent buildup of tension, but a lack of real conflict to be had. So far, Radio Rakeem appears to be just a big guy with a radio. However, his haunting presence screams conflict. Additionally, Sal appears to be a reasonable person with a large presence in the community, and any actions against him would appear unfounded given the current circumstances.

I am interested to see how the plot unfolds; it’s a very interesting film.


Chris DiBari

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

Do the right thing response

After watching an hour so of Do the Right Thing, I got the notion that cultural identities and cultural clashes were things the director really wanted to bash into your head. The multitude of racial stereotyping and discrimination sit as proof: every ten minutes either Koreans speak with heavy accents, blacks prance around as loud-talking hoodlums with scarcely the money for pizza, or white people drive by in vintage automobiles as mean, holier-than-thou beings.

Not only that, I found the “black power” sentiments and self pity absolutely annoying. Especially infuriating are the three old black men, one of which blames a Korean family’s successful business as the sole reason that his own do not succeed. Perhaps his failure spawns from too much time placing blame on others and not enough effort spent actively pursuing his goal. Furthermore, Mookie’s friend who got kicked out of the pizzeria really had it coming. He was rude and arrogant and spiteful, spouting racist language and prancing about like a self-proclaimed celebrity. His statements about a lack of black star athletes on the pizzeria’s wall of fame had a understandable point, yet the way in which he tried to get his point across was unnecessary and ridiculous.

-Megan Low

The Right Thing?

First off, i must say that i love the movie and that Spike Lee’s mind is creatively genius. However, the movie lacks enough core substance to make it great. The fact that the film follows the interacting stories of about a dozen people makes light of how cultural differences influence views of society. The screenwriting perfectly emulates the talk and the walk of every class of New York Society at that time. Something else about the film that i find interesting is the publics attitude towards Asian-American immigrants. It seems, most likely because the are the newest, that they are of the lowest social position despite the fact that they are the most successful of the characters. Obviously, i wasn’t alive to see the influx of Asian-American immigrants into the boroughs, but i find it interesting that they were treated this way despite their economic success.

Now, i titled this post “The Right Thing?” for a reason. Knowing that it is a Spike Lee allows me to deduce that the film will have a message, most likely about prejudice and racism. The title of the film suggests that at this time everyone was doing the “wrong” thing, but this leads me to question what the “thing” actually is. Is it as vague as to cover everything? or is it simply the treatment of others? Either way, up to this point im the movie, everyone seems to be doing the wrong thing.

No Surprise Here

The first time I had heard about Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was about two weeks ago in my Sociology class. I didn’t have any idea of what the film would be about and I was anxious to find out. Now having watched part of it, it is obvious that the film explores the issue of bigotry in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Unfortunately, bigotry and discrimination don’t only exist in one area of Brooklyn, but all over the world today. This would explain why seeing the different ethnic groups in Do The Right Thing treat each other in a manner that is unacceptable came as no surprise to me. Sad but true, it is almost as if we expect to see the African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latin-Americans not getting along with each other. In the scene after Mookie talks to Pino about all of his idols being African-Americans, one individual from each racial community utters racial slurs about members of another community. While it is an eye-opening and excellent scene, I find it hard to believe that anyone who has watched the film has never heard any of those slurs before. Personally, I think the movie would have been far more interesting if the different communities did the exact opposite of fighting and actually did learn to live in peace with each other. More often than not, we watch films and read books about race tearing us apart, instead of bringing us together. What the characters in Do The Right Thing as well as people around the world fail to realize is that although we come from different places, we are all American. But for all I know, Mookie could “do the right thing” and the racial communities will come together in the end. I guess I’ll have to watch the end of the movie to find out!

A Throwback to the ‘Good Ole Days’

My mother loves to tell stories about her past. She called those days the ‘Good Ole Days’ where she would get together with a group of friends (about thirty kids) and play on the street corner until sundown. She used to weave her tales about how the kids back then could leave their front doors open and no one would mess with their houses (a concept not shared nowadays) or how they would play “stoop ball” on the sidewalks in front of their apartments. Life was carefree and people could play in the street without fear of getting hit by a drunken driver, or they could bust open a fire hydrant and cool off because air conditioning wasn’t readily available. The wonder of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing is the preservation of the time period that my mother describes. I watched the movie with a silent, eager awe that made me wish I had a large group of friends that could hang out and that everyone in my neighborhood would know my name and call me out to play at will. I believe that this community “togetherness” is not often seen nowadays and I do wish that the “threats” of everyday society were absent and the carefree attitude could come back.

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing also highlighted the great problem of racial tension of the time. The “colored” people and white people were not allowed to hang out with each other and in the movie, both groups stay separate.  There are also further tensions between the “colored” groups  of the Hispanics, African Americans, and the Koreans.

One great detail in the movie that I absolutely loved was the historical accurateness of New York during this era. In my People, Power, and Politics class, we learned about the Flatbush riots and the racial tension between the African Americans and Koreans in New York from the 70’s-90’s. African Americans boycotted Korean deli’s because they opened up rapidly and were consuming black neighborhoods. African Americans believed that the Koreans were government agents of racism and believed they were part of an anti-black conspiracy. In Do The Right Thing this racism is made apparent and is shown in perfect quality with the African Americans criticizing the Korean Deli owners. I believe that Do The Right Thing perfectly illustrates the time period of New York where there was heavy racial tension and changing neighborhoods.

Enlightening, not entertaining!

From the moment I saw the beginning of the movie, I had a gut feeling I wouldn’t like it very much. However, as the movie progressed, I realized that although the movie wasn’t particularly entertaining, it was bearable (which is more than I can say for many other movies). As the movie went on, I have to say, I did get a little bored, as the majority of the scenes were in the one pizzeria. However, at the conclusion of the day, I realized that although the movie did not entertain me, it taught me some thing. It taught me how people in these neighborhoods live and what they do for survival. It taught me their means of entertainment (some of which, like the water hydrant, were quite humorous indeed) and the types of jobs they both do. For this reason, my respect for the movie increased dramatically, and I found myself wanting to finish the movie.

Roots of Racism

The hour we have so far watched of Do the Right Thing seems to be the exposition to the story. We are introduced to the groups of characters and their initial racial tensions on a relatively normal day. However, this day is not normal. It’s the “hottest day of the year.” A higher temperature only means more crankiness, elevating the tensions that already exist. The discomfort from the heat exaggerates people’s emotions and puts them out of control. I predict that more conflicts will arise later into the movie because of the unusually uncomfortable weather.

The temperature has led to many conflicts already, like the incident with the water from fire hydrant destroying the white man’s antique car. So far, the movie has been a collection of such squabbles, resulting in the characters becoming angry at, not just each other, but entire races. In the part of the movie where each person takes a turn at insulting someone else, each character makes a point to mention the others’ race. It’s interesting to see how minor disputes and misunderstandings result in the great issue of racism.

Poor, Poorer, Dead Broke

From what I’ve seen, Do The Right Thing is an excellent movie that lightly depicts the tense racial conflicts that is prevalent in a poor community. Perhaps the word “community” is important here. In this neighborhood, it is a loosely termed word describing a collection of a band of different identities. For some like, the mayor, the neighborhood is a loose society that barely masks the misery of a broken home and broken dreams. For others, like Mooti, it is an ugly patchwork of different cultures, each clashing with one another for self-establishment. Still, others like Radio Raheem see the neighborhood as a cruel place that demands each individual to competitively exclude another. Perhaps the only thing that ties each culture to one another is the mutual acceptance of their poverty. Perhaps this is why the youth, disgusted by this acceptance, act up. I am interested in seeing how far these tensions will progress. Are there any villains, or are the people all villains to one another? By that same token, if everybody is a villain to one another, can’t everyone be right? Probably not. Then what is the right thing? And if it does exist, will someone do the right thing?