Do the Right Thing, 1989


{Theatrical Release Poster}

On one of the hottest day of the year on a Bed-Stuy block in Brooklyn New York, tensions flair over racial, social, and cultural differences.

There is no easy way to describe and summarize Do The Right Thing without being accidentally opinionated. I will note that visually this film was amazing, and the social, political, and cultural issues that were brought to the screen in 1989 by Spike Lee are still issues that are present in New York and American society today.

Discussion Questions (I felt like I was teaching again when I wrote up these questions):

Who does the right thing? Who does not do the right thing?

Not everyone’s definition of right is the same: doing right by one person, even yourself, may not be right to another. Who is the one who gets to judge whether or not you do the right thing?

When it comes to justice, who should get the final say about what is and what is not just for the masses?

How was wrongful justice portrayed in the film? How was rightful justice portrayed in the film?

Is an “appointed” justice best for all situations? In what situations is it good? In what situations is it bad?

Who were some “appointed” justices in this film? How were they good and how were they bad?

If there were no “appointed” Justice Makers, who would take on their role? i.e.Who/What organization would take their place, and be better at dishing out justice?

Spike Lee was very intentional in everything he put in his film. He did not want this to be a cry for help for the Black American plight, he wanted to take real life situations and put them in the same place and time within his film, like a case study, to document and show the masses what actually happens in the US and why. In order to do this, he did extensive research to ensure that his intentions, and not intentions that others accused him of, were shown through his film.

Small Details you might have missed:

The events of the film take place on a Saturday. The finale takes place on a Sunday morning. After Mookie walks away with his money from Sal’s burnt Pizzeria, we see men and women dress in their Sunday best in the background holding little black books.

Color in Do The Right Thing:

Expression of environmental conditions, and emotions.

Warm Colors  (Yellow,Orange, Red): heat of the day, energy, passion, anger, and action.

Cool Colors (Blue, Black, Purple, Green): Cooling of tension, cooling off of body temperature, a neutral zone.


Historical Allusions:

The Birmingham Campaign, 1963- Peaceful protestors were met with violent police actions such as dogs, batons, and fire hoses. When firefighter’s show up as Sal’s to put out the fire, many of their hoses stop dousing the fire and instead start dousing the crowd, after the firefights were attacked. This mirrors much of the Birmingham Campaign that was caught on footage.

Death of Michael Stewart, 1983-Graffiti artist Stewart was killed while in police custody. Radio Raheem is killed in police custody in what Spike Lee referred to as the “Michael Stewart choke hold.”

Howard Beach, 1986- Race clash in Howard Beach, Queens that left one young black man dead and two more injured. The crowd outside of Sal’s just before they begin to riot and rip apart the store are chanting “Coward Beach.”

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