Wednesday, November 06, 2019

"Do the Right Thing" 30 Years Later

I avoid angry black movies because they're so boring. The recent "Blackkklansman" by Spike Lee was unbearable.

That was not always the case. When I was in college, I went to see "Do The Right Thing" and was sympathetic. I felt the same when I watched the LA Riots and "Malcolm X" three years later.

Since that time I got a real education on racial issues, but I wondered how I would react to seeing "Do The Right Thing" after 30 years.

It struck me as a fairly realistic portrayal of a black urban neighborhood minus its menace and criminality. (I lived in Brooklyn in the mid-80s and wouldn't be caught dead in a poor black neighborhood.)

The only black person working is Spike Lee's character--the protagonist--and he must be the slowest pizza delivery guy in the history of the world. The guy has no real plans and doesn't support his girlfriend (Rosie Perez) and son much.

Nobody seems to be employed (okay, Lee's sister works), but everyone is good at bitching about whatever, and people talk and talk as if they're going to accomplish something.

Sal, played well by Danny Aiello, is an Italian who owns and runs a pizzeria in the middle of the black neighborhood. He and the Korean shop owners across the street are the only industrious people around.

The martyr of the story, a young black man who gets accidentally killed by the police, is a narcissist who ticks off much of the neighborhood by constantly blasting Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" from his boom box.

How does the neighborhood respond to excessive use of force by the police? Do they organize in order to get police reforms? Do they donate money so the young man's family can sue the police department and the city?  Do they teach their youngsters to comply with police demands, and if they're mistreated to file a complaint at the department?  No, Lee knows his people. They burn down the best restaurant in the neighborhood.

But then we have the true race realism moment:

What a great scene. Sometimes Leftist movies accidentally spill the truth.

P.S. Some might see Lee's movie as prescient since it focuses on police violence. It is better described as influential. The elite college students from my generation absorbed a vision of the world held by people like Spike Lee, and they now run organizations like the New York Times. The police have been killing blacks for a very long time, but only now it's The End of the World.

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