I was at home sitting on my sofa, channel surfing, when I came across Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ as it was just starting. I was totally overjoyed because I hadn’t seen the film in ages, decades in fact. I remembered how the film was such a big deal and how it was loaded with controversy, as it had always been with a Spike Lee film, and I was excited to see it again.
Now I’m not a fan of all of Spike Lee’s films, but I have a few favourites. SchoolDaze is one because of the soundtrack, black girls battling it out over good and bad hair, a young pissed off Laurence Fishburne and the entertainment and casualties of Black Greek life. All of it taking place in a fictional HBCU (Historical Black College/University).
Another favourite of mine is the documentary ‘Four Little Girls’. It is a disturbing yet moving film that focuses on the lives of the girls who were murdered in the 1963 Alabama church bombing. ‘Malcolm X’ is a great screen biography, in which Denzel Washington is a powerhouse and steals the entire movie; you can’t take your eyes off of him! Then there’s ‘Bamboozled’ which I LOVED – the biting Blackface irony and the deftly clever dialogue in this film are amazing. Which brings me to ‘Do the Right Thing’.
I really liked ‘Do The Right Thing’ when it came out twenty four years ago, but after recently seeing it again for what felt like the first time, I was surprised when I found myself not liking it at all. The first time I saw the film I liked it because of the Public Enemy soundtrack, the depth of the characters, the language, the chorus, the intense build up of the finale, the subject matter, and the fact that everyone was talking about it and going out to see the film in droves. But now that almost a quarter of a century has passed since the film’s release, I was surprised that I wasn’t on the same side of Mookie and the other Black characters. I actually felt bad for Sal as he watched his pizzeria go up in flames, and although I hated that Radio Raheem instantly lost his life, I felt he was totally in the wrong right before his death.
Despite my sudden transformative perspective on the film, I still think ‘Do the Right Thing’ is a film that is raw, hot, and penetrating. If you’ve never seen it, go see it. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, go see it again. You might be surprised at what you discover.
One thing for sure, Spike Lee has been a ground breaking, innovative, culturally critical film director and producer. His success has paved the way for many of today’s black directors such as Lee Daniels, F. Gary Gray, Antoine Fuqua and George Tillman who are directing big budget Hollywood films.