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Spike Lee’s Film Do the Right Thing Analysis

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Spike Lee’s Film Do The Right Thing Analysis

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Table of Contents

  • Analyzing Do the Right Thing
  • Portrayal of Police Brutality in Do the Right Thing
  • Works Cited

The extract I have chosen is taken from Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing and I am going to analyze it in terms of its film elements to convey meaning according to the filmmaker’s intentions, vision and his influences.

Analyzing Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing, is set in Brooklyn, New York during the nineteen eighties in a low-class neighborhood during one the hottest days of the summer. The focus of the film is on how economic superiority and race affects the moral decisions that the characters make how it has a direct effect on the way people interact with each other. It starts with the film’s characters waking up to start their day and going on with their lives. Meanwhile the audience is introduced to the main location in the film, Sal’s pizzeria. Sal is an older white man and his restaurant, he has a “Wall of Fame”. In this “Wall of Fame” there only white people and no other ethnic groups are represented. This causes Buggin Out to be offended, Buggin Out is a black man who is outspoken and sporadic. After Sal refuses, Buggin Out proceeds to get a group of people together to storm the pizzeria. A neighborhood riot then ensues after police officers excessively restrain and kill a young black man named Radio Raheem for fighting Sal in his pizzeria, and then outside on the street.

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Portrayal of Police Brutality in Do the Right Thing

The selected scene is a few minutes after Radio Raheem had been killed by the police because he was resisting them. This scene is a major turning point in film. It was used in order to change the tone of the film from comedic to serious, as the characters begin to shout the names of the people who have suffered from police brutality. At this point, the audience begins to realize that this may have not been an accident, and police brutality is very common in this neighborhood. The residents of this lower class neighborhood are aware that it is normal for them to be oppressed by police. After the older man says “They didn’t have to kill the boy.” Mookie and the audience begin to realize that they may be on the wrong side. In this screenshot, the camera pans to Mookie’s shocked face. This reveals that Mookie has decided that there is something wrong with standing next to Sal and his sons while the rest of the neighborhood are on the other side. The way they stand is very important because Sal is standing in the center and his two sons are standing behind him, this resembles a leader and his/her followers. Mookie is also next to him, but his body is slightly away from them showing that he is reconsidering his position towards them. He looks to Sal, then back at the neighborhood and begins to walk away from Sal and his sons.

The act is very significant because Mookie felt a loyalty to Sal through employment, but now a division is created between the two groups. After Mookie leaves, Sal’s facial expression becomes more tense because he realizes that he had lost the only person in the neighborhood on his side who ethnically looked like the rest of the residents, who at the moment are not happy with him or his sons. Seeing that tensions are rising, the character Mayor tries to pacify the crowd, but they do not take him seriously due to his alcoholism and the fact that he is dressed poorly. At this point the crowd is upset, but has not decided to commit any acts of violence yet. The camera panning from a largely black crowd to three white men staring at them shows that Sal and his sons may have better economic status, but they do not have the numbers. Pino’s face shows that he may have been expecting this to happen all along.

This scene is very important, because at this point Sal and his sons are not just a symbol of wealth, but are now a symbol of any injustice committed against the people of the neighborhood by someone who is white or economically more powerful than they are. This scene is ironic because Raheem was actually choking Sal before the police came, but the residents do not acknowledge that. As Mookie runs with a trashcan towards the pizzeria, he is not only smashing Sal’s store, but is showing his outrage and anger for being made to feel powerless by the police. Sal’s voice in slow motion can be heard yelling “No!” but by then it is too late. As the residents loot the store it shows that they are tired of being made to feel powerless by the police and by all those who are economically better off. While some destroy the store, others go for the money showing that they are desperate to regain the power that they felt that they never had.

Works Cited

  1. Lee, S. (Director). (1989). Do the Right Thing [Motion picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.
  2. Bakari, S. (2017). Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing": Aesthetic and Political Implications. Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, 10(7), 79-94.
  3. Carroll, N. (2015). The Philosophy of Spike Lee. University Press of Kentucky.
  4. Davis, T. (1990). Do the Right Thing: Spike Lee’s Urban Comedy. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 18(3), 110-118.
  5. Ferriss, S., & Young, M. (1998). Chick Flicks: Contemporary Women at the Movies. Routledge.
  6. Gates Jr, H. L. (1998). The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. Oxford University Press.
  7. Greene, M. (1997). Releasing the image: From literature to new media. Indiana University Press.
  8. Hooks, b. (1992). Black looks: Race and representation. South End Press.
  9. Kaplan, E. A. (1997). Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Play of Shadows. Routledge.
  10. Sontag, S. (2001). On Photography. Penguin Classics.

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