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Do the Right Thing

spike lee do the right thing racism 1989

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#1 SparkyCola

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 09:51 AM

Just saw this film and hated it. Though from the ratings and ravings it gets, I may be the only one.

Incidentally, it is described as a comedy drama too. Wtf? The word 'comedy' doesn't remotely belong in the genre of this film. It wasn't comedic at all.

My main problem with it is the attempt at making Mookie the hero and Sal the bad guy. Surely anyone can see that's complete BS. I won't even explain why because I value the intelligence of EIers too greatly. It's obvious. Sal is the victim in all this and there is NOTHING heroic about Mookie, who unquestionably does the WRONG thing at the end.

To quote Wikipedia:

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Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot's justification are implicitly valuing white property over the life of a black man.

Right, remind me to never watch a Spike Lee film again - the above is complete and utter nonsense. Just total BS. How can anyone even ATTEMPT to make that kind of justification? It's so stupid. He sounds like a racist to me.

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Spike Lee has remarked that he himself has only ever been asked by white viewers whether Mookie did the right thing; black viewers do not ask the question.

How the hell is this guy so popular?

People who think Mookie's actions were to save Sal, are in my view being extremely charitable, because there is no evidence for that at all and a lot of evidence against it.

My rating for this film is half a star out of 5. Blech. The only truly sympathetic characters are Da Mayor, Jade and Sal.

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#2 Cardie

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 01:30 PM

You have to beware arguments that boil the film down to heroes and villains. It looks at a particular spot where many cultures and generations and political ideas rub up against each other at a time and place where racial hostilities are bubbling under the surface. At the center you have Sal, who is paternalistic to black people but not the virulent racist his elder son is, and Mookie, who just wants to duck the conflicts altogether and get by, unlike his firebrand friend Buggin' out. But when the conflicts boil over both find themselves capable of violence that is racially motivated. Both do violence only to property, but their actions trigger this awful riot in which both whites and blacks act unheroically.

You should like Jade and Da Mayor (and Mother Sister and Senor Love Daddy) because they advocate getting beyond hate, But Lee does feel that if one side only ever abides by non-violence and the other thinks its violence will go unchallenged, you won't ever get justice.

In Lee's much later film Inside Man, there's a big pizza delivery from Sal's Famous, so I guess he rebuilt and stayed in the neighborhood. :)
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#3 SparkyCola

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 03:38 PM

^ Yeah, I think if Spike Lee's comments on the films had been as nuanced as that, it would be easier to digest. But I find his attitude (which leaks out in the film) indefensible. And if I'm focusing on heroes and villains it is because the title of the film is "Do the right thing" - and despite what Lee's racist remarks suggest, asking the question of whether the characters did the right thing or not (especially the main character) is entirely reasonable - and found to be wanting. What was the point of making that the title/ a theme, when the main character does the right thing, what once? twice? during the course of the film, and never when it really mattered? That's why I'm looking at the characters actions in terms of whether they were right or wrong.

Mother Sister was an ok character but I found her arrogant, and Senor Love Daddy kind of irritating (irritating kind of...). Mother Sister encouraged the rioting towards the end. Most if not all of the film's problems could have been resolved by the characters showing basic manners and politeness to one another, but none of them seemed capable of it excepting Da Mayor and Jade (who both proved how effective a tactic that is).

But I found Mookie to be a deeply unsympathetic character. The film lacks much in the way of interpersonal relationships. His "friendship" with Buggin Out was effectively just stated as a fact, not demonstrated, and same with all his relationships. Because the film simply told us that he was friends with this guy, even though most of the time Mookie was with the Italians, it made his actions at the end difficult to understand. That's one of the biggest problems for me- that his actions at the end are just so incomprehensible based on what we'd seen.

He was a lazy, irresponsible character who didn't want to do any work but still wanted bonuses like getting paid early; had no loyalty to the  employer who was generously employing him and being good to him; a child he didn't take care of or seem concerned about at all in any meaningful way (he remembered the kid's name? father of the year award coming right up!); a Spanish girlfriend he neglected; and an incredibly, truly mind-blowing lack of empathy or understanding for Sal.

After wrecking his place and having the astonishing gall to go and ask for his wages, Mookie just doesn't get it at ALL when Sal tries to explain what it meant to him to have lost his life's work. He's a phenomenally self-centred character.

I get that the films "heats up" into an outpouring of pent up frustration and anger and so on (not a hugely subtle pathetic fallacy). But I personally would have liked the film a LOT better if Mookie had been at least been a better character (shown some remorse for his casual betrayal), and ideally had stuck on the side of Sal in the first place.

Also if Lee wanted us to feel anger at Radio Raheem's death, he made it very difficult by making Radio such an obnoxious, difficult to like character who brought it all down on himself in a clumsy heavy-handed way. He was a thug, and his (nearly successful) attempt to murder Sal was apparently irrelevant, when it came down to it, because all that mattered was a sense of blind racist victimisation.

The most absurd part has to be the Koreans convincing the mob that they shouldn't have their livelihoods trashed and lives endangered because they were sort of more black than white - and that justification was accepted as totally reasonable.

Finally, I'm genuinely surprised that this film is considered to have so much universal appeal that it rates so highly in places like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes (the latter of which being a place where the few critics who didn't praise the film got attacked and criticised by everyone else)

Sparky

Edited by SparkyCola, 03 February 2013 - 06:30 PM.

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#4 BklnScott

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 05:58 PM

I think Mookie appears in Lee's latest, Red Hook Summer, though I haven't seen it.  

I tend to enjoy Lee'swork when he focuses on telling astory that has socio-political implications (eg, Inside Man, 25th Hour, even Summer of Sam) and less so when he has a political axe to grind and fashions a polemic around it.

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#5 Cardie

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 12:59 AM

I think Do the Right Thing is brilliant simply as a dazzling piece of film-making and have taught it many times. I could give you the hour lecture on how it works as a socio-political allegory--the characters represent various points of view and so can't be analyzed via realism because the movie isn't realistic. Most characters are meant to be seen as flawed and the question of what exactly is the "right thing" remains unresolved, although Smiley pinning up the picture of Malcolm X and Dr. King in the ruins of Sal's speaks volumes about the need for reconciliation and a synthesis of legitimate self-defense and non-violence.

But I doubt that will change any minds here.
Nothing succeeds like excess.



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