The film Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee analyzes the stereotypes concerning the culture and lifestyle of African Americans. Through the film, Lee depicts the life experiences of individuals residing in the Brooklyn neighborhood in New York. The movie is set in the 1980summer after white police officers killed Radio Raheem, a Black teenager. Lee explores the racial tensions and conflicts between the police and the civilians through music like “Fight the Power.” The essay focuses on the role of hip-hop in driving the narrative of interracial rivalry in Do the Right Thing, where Lee explores the challenges of inequality and discrimination, facing the African Americans. The first part provides a summary of the film and its significance in highlighting the transcending history of the Black Americans. The second part demonstrates the role of Hip-hop in depicting interracial rivalry while the third part highlights the challenges facing Africa Americans. The final part is the conclusion of the essay.
Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee is set in a black neighborhood and explores the issues of racism and violence in contemporary society. The film explores the lives of people and families in Brooklyn on a hot Saturday summer. As the temperature rises, the racial tensions escalate resulting in the killing of a young man during a riot. The film is told from Mookie’s point of view as the events unfold in a chronological manner. Lee developed the characters in a manner that explores different views on the escalating tension. Although the film ends with violence, Lee does not provide a solution to the problem but offers propositions through Martin Luther and Malcolm X’s quotes on how to grow out of the situation.
Hip-hop drives the narrative of interracial rivalry in the film. Lee engages multiple narrative subversions like music to highlight the themes of racial disparity. Radio Raheem is a stylish African American teenager who blasts the street with hip hope music called “fight the power.” While imposing his music on others, he confronts with the Korean shopkeeper for not understanding English, hence highlighting the prevalence of interracial rivalry in the streets. The hip-hop music played in the film is electric and full of energy while the message advocates for awareness and fighting for rights (Lee). Music is an important narrative that explores the narratives in the social world through real life and cinemas (Ramsey 320). Through various street activities like boxing, dance, and music, the film explores the issues of activism and politics in addressing interracial rivalry. Sanchez asserts that the Hip-hop culture developed from the existing political, traditional, and social concerns of the Black people like racial restrictions, injustice, and unlawful killings (6). During the Civil Rights Movements, many Black people sacrifice their lives while fighting for a change in the political and cultural practices. Through music, African Americans creatively expressed their experiences while advocating for their rights of racial democracy against oppression.
The film Do the Right Thing explores the challenges of inequality and discrimination, facing African Americans. The film portrays the experiences blacks in the cities where they flocked during the 1940s in pursuit for better lives (Ramsey 319). Similarly, the film intersects the issues of musical practice and black identity in the fight for equal rights. The song “Fight for Power” and Tina’s aggressive dance sets the mood for the film where the Blacks experiences acts of aggression (Lee). There are various scenes where people from different races conflict on the street and the climax of the racial differences occur with the riots where the police kill a black American young man. In the scene where Radio Raheem narrates the story of Love and Hate to Mookie, he asserts that fighting for love is better than violence. “Let me tell you the story of right-hand-left-hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate
[holds up left fist]
: it was with this hand that Cain iced his brother. Love
[holds up right fist]
: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man—the right hand, the hand of love” (Lee). In the concluding scene, the fight for love and justice is manifested in the quotes of Malcolm X and Martin Luther on racism. Malcolm X advocated or social and racial reconstruction, he encouraged violence when necessary, and hence the two quotes urge the film viewers to do the right thing when faced with social challenges.
In conclusion, the film Do the Right Thing explores the racial prejudice incidences that shape the American lifestyle and culture in the streets of Brooklyn in New York. Lee depicts the daily experiences of individuals in a neighborhood on a hot summer afternoon. Hip-hop is a major narrative that highlights the issues of interracial rivalry and the need to fight for racial equality. Through music like “Fight the Power”, the director depicts the desire of the residents to seek for emancipation. Various experiences of African Americans highlight the challenges arising due to discrimination and racial inequality. The concluding quotes by Malcolm X and Martin Luther provide a neutral ground that encourages people to do the right thing when faced with social problems.
Lee, Spike, dir. Do The Right Thing. 1989. Universal City Studios.
Ramsey, Guthrie P. “Muzing New Hoods, Making New Identities Film, Hip-Hop Culture, and Jazz Music.” Callaloo 25.1 (2002): 309-320.
Sanchez, Tani. ” Understanding Black American Aspects in Hip-Hop Cinema” (2015): 15-25.