Social Problems Adressed by Spike Lee in His Movie Do the Right Thing

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Spike Lee writer and director of “Do the Right Thing” addressed many issues that were the cause of much controversy in America. Lee used ethos, pathos, and logos in his project to appeal to Americans. Many topics that related to the huge racial tensions that were prevalent in the late 1900s, issues such as discrimination, profiling, brutality, stereotyping, and etc. Lee felt bringing the brewing controversies to the surface would gain more attention and become less shied away from.
The film was set on the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn, in the late 1900s. The film was full of bright and vibrant scenes that contained slang, colorful language, and common stereotypes. Lee used realistic situations and settings to target his audience and draw them in. The director’s usage of these film techniques also added emphasis on the heat and rising tension.

“Do the Right Thing” begins with the characters awakening as on a regular occurrence, but by the end of the day, events caused this normal day to become one forever remembered. Being that during this time, racial disputes and independent individuality was prominent, Lee used many creative tactics to express himself. For example, not only was Lee deeply involved in this film, he played the part of Mookie, the main protagonist, who continuously tries to find a way to balance the different races in his life but is having a hard time because of the unresolved issues and the times he is in. It is often seen that a serious moment is interrupted by a humorous phrase.

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Although, many viewers disagreed passionately with Lee’s points and felt his arguments were farfetched, however, in this time those from different racial and ethnic backgrounds experienced the world differently. Supporters of the film said that the film displayed the cultural diversity of America and gave a very profound message to society. Lee used this as a way to appeal to the interests of viewers who were striving to make a better life for them self. By actually putting himself in the film portraying, a young black man in the late 1980s who was trying to live in America. Mookie, played by Spike Lee, lived with his sister and was a pizza delivery man who worked at the local pizzeria to support his son and girlfriend.

The pizzeria was in a predominantly colored neighborhood and the consumer base was primarily African Americans, it was owned by an Italian family. Many of the blacks began to feel that since they were paying customers at the restaurant, they deserved more and should be treated fairly. They felt that since they were giving Sal, the pizzeria owner, his business that he should also showcase African-American culture as well. As in the scene where, Buggin Out, one of Mookie’s counterparts and a loyal customer of Sal’s Pizzeria said “Rarely do I see any Italian-Americans eating here.” He said this in response to Sal’s wall filled with Italian celebrities but not one African American in sight. Buggin Out’s outburst leads to him being kicked out of the restaurant. As a result, this causes Buggin Out to solicit the help of his fellow peers to boycott Sal’s pizzeria.

As Buggin Out searches for followers, he comes across Radio Raheem who was also upset with Sal. In an earlier scene, Radio Raheem orders pizza from Sal with his most prized possession, his boom box, and Sal gets annoyed with the radio, he then shouts at Raheem to turn it off. Raheem eventually turns off his boom box and Sal serves him. So once Buggin Out tells Raheem of his idea to boycott Sal’s, Radio Raheem is on board. Following scenes show Buggin Out, Radio Raheem, and their ally Smiley marching into Sal’s and demanding change. This scene is full of racial slurs, violence, and eventually death. The issues of racial profiling, stereotyping and discrimination are all result of a steady build up, as in the scene the ends with the death of Radio Raheem. The tragic event could have been avoided if society was to address issues head before it is too late. Radio Raheem was a young Puerto Rican male who was well respected by his fellow citizens, and was unintentionally killed by the police. His death lead to the unification of a community in attempts of justice for one of their own.

The film “Do the Right Thing” had many occurrences that portrayed comedy, tragedy, love and support that were often used to define and defuse volatile situations. Efforts made to address and resolve pressing topics, were often not effective. In this time frame, the mindset of Americans in this era was unaccepting and closed to change. Lee used the appeal of ethos by playing the part of the main protagonist himself as a black male to make a powerful statement about racial inequality. Furthermore, this method of relied a great deal on the appeal of pathos. Lastly, Spike Lee used the appeal of logos to put a great emphasis on the effects of unresolved tension.

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