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I got it, I’m gone.

April 15th, 2011 by Daniel Siegelman · No Comments · Uncategorized

What is Do the Right Thing about? As I watched the film, the answer to this question was constantly changing in my mind. At first, it seemed like a parable about a certain time and place, about racial tensions in 1980’s Brooklyn. The film’s heavy emphasis on setting, as well as its initial division of characters into their respective racial groups, made this interpretation seem viable. As the film progressed, however, it began to explore broader and deeper problems: families, employment, social acceptance and others. It then seemed to me that Do the Right Thing was not simply about racial tensions, but about those deeper issues that bring them about, and perhaps their emotional consequences as well.

That all changed when the film ended with two quotes, one by Martin Luther King Jr., the other by Malcolm X. These quotes alluded to pacifism and “self-defense,” the two conflicting ways of dealing with prejudice. This gave me the impression that the film was only about racial tensions tensions after all, and not all those other themes that I read into it. My broader interpretation of the film was, in a way, debunked. I wish that Spike Lee had concluded the film in a more open-ended way; the use of quotes, I think, serves to restrict ones understanding of a film instead of broadening it.


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