Complete Name of Professor
Film Response for ‘Do the Right Thing’
The United States of America has a long dark history of racism, discrimination and subsequent terrorism emerging within the different ethnic groups. Several books and movies are written in the past highlighting the racial oppression, loss of human values, and anguish and suffering of victims through vivid, realistic, harsh and dreadful picturization and description. Writer, director and actor Spike Lee’s 1989 film ‘Do the Right Thing’ based on the similar theme recounts the events taking place within a day in the lives of the people belonging to the working class of Brooklyn neighborhood located at Bed-Stuy area of New York. Lee depicts the dynamics of progressive suburban locality of varied cultural backgrounds, racial conflicts and tensions mainly between Whites and African-Americans and an urge in the climax to responsibly ‘Do the Right Thing’ through the narratives such as setting, music, cinematography, distinct personalities, and their different behaviors and actions; each with a contrasting touch.
As the movie progresses, one can witness the striking use of diversified approaches in cinematography with a great contrast and variety in duration of shots, size of takes, cross-cuts and movement of camera. They are used for highlighting the emotions, behaviour, and opposite views of racism and violence of the characters. The long duration shots are used in the romantic emotional scenes e.g. Sal and Pino open their feelings in the heart to each other in the pizzeria while short duration takes are used in the explosive scenes e.g. when Sal and Radio Raheem animatedly argue with each other (Lewis, 2013, 11). Frequent employment of cross-cuts insists on the movie’s contrasting theme of love and animosity. E.g. The repetition of cuts while Mookie kissing Tina and Mookie throwing the garbage can through the window underline the opposite interpretations Lee want to emphasize on. The impact of slow movement of camera is seen when it captures the contrast between Mookie and Pino’s reactions associated with their prejudices during Sal and Jade’s conversation.
Also Lee’s wise utilization of juxtaposition of contrasting styles such as close-ups, medium shots, deep picturization, hand held cameras, camera zooming and canted camera angles is apt in relating the different characters living together in a community despite belonging to diverse ethnicities and cultures. E.g. the scenes and conversations shot at the Italian restaurant catering to all types of visitors in Brooklyn locality. The fights for gaining power, control and supremacy of identity and ethnicity commenced at Sal's are shot by the camera panning from a medium length to zooming in for getting close-ups. Pramaggiore & Walli (2005) depicts how the shooting of furious confrontations in the end is executed precisely with extreme close-ups and canted angles followed by a consistent shift in the focus on every participant involved in the battle (120). This overwhelming suspense over the racial tension shown by deep photography imparts an apprehension and anxiety in minds of viewers when they witness all the characters striving hard to establish themselves and their races.
Overall the film represents the true image of America as a ‘melting pot’ where a range of distinct ethnic groups are shown living together peacefully in one community of Brooklyn embracing their own customs, ideas and bigotry along with the common aspiration of the ‘American Dream’. People of different backgrounds are shown residing in the same area holding their own perspectives and obligations for each other e.g. White Italian American Sal with his two sons, Pino and Vito, Korean owner of a convenience store and his family, Irish and Jewish police officers, Mookie and his Latino girlfriend Tina along with her son, sister Jade and other African American and Puerto-Rican characters (Travers, “Do The Right Thing”). This harmony in the society is stirred by Radio Raheem’s action of playing rap anthem and the consequential reaction of breaking the radio station by Sal. This incidence brings out the real personalities and suppressed emotions of characters to the viewers such as Sal being amicable with blacks unless they argue, peaceful and hard-working Koreans always trying to mitigate conflicts, seemingly cool but deeply racist Pino, indifferent Mookie getting infuriated by Raheem’s death and resurfacing of his stifled pain, annoyance and agitation.
Finally Mookie’s action of throwing garbage can out of the window in the climax may be viewed as an act of instigating violence for supporting African-Americans at first glance, but in reality, it is marked as an attempt to assuage the raging crowd illustrating a stark contradiction between his apparent and real intentions. Lee & Fuchs (2002) argue that Mookie destroys Pizzeria but saves lives of Sal and his sons as his action could subdue the indignation of the crowd. The film fetches attention of viewers to Martin Luther King, Jr’s political philosophy of non-violence to achieve unity, peace and equality and Malcolm X’s ideology of perceiving violence as an intelligent means of defense (14). In my opinion, Mookie’s behavior follows King’s morality of seeking accord and amity in spite of relying on some form of violence. Though the ending signifies that the racial tension between ethnic groups still persists, Lee conveys a message to viewers to be virtuous, honest and unbiased after analyzing the customs, traditions, cultures and attitudes of different ethnicities. Thus Lee emphasizes the significance of being patient, understanding, tolerant and responsible, and advocates it as a ‘Right thing to do’ in order to sustain through the racial conflicts, and to maintain peace, unity, prosperity and solidarity in the society.
Lee, Spike & Fuchs, Cynthia. Spike Lee Interviews. Oxford: University of Mississippi, 2002. Print.
Lee, Spike & Jones, Lisa. Do the Right Thing: A Spike Lee Joint. New York: Simon and Schuter, 1989. Print.
Lewis, John. Essential Cinema: An Introduction to Film Analysis. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
Pramaggiore, Maria & Wallis, Tom. Film: A Critical Introduction. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2005. Print.
Travers, Peter. “Do The Right Thing”. Rolling Stone. 30 June, 1989. Web. 16 June, 2015. <http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/do-the-right-thing-19890630>