• James Rutherford

'Do the Right Thing': Spike Lee's Landmark Depiction of Racial Tensions and Undue Discrimination


Movie poster for Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing starring Dannny Aiello and Spike Lee

"Do the Right Thing" (1989) is an incendiary urban drama from renowned independent filmmaker Spike Lee, starring Lee himself as Mookie, a 20-something pizza delivery man in Brooklyn, New York circa 1988. The film is set in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn during a period of heightened racial tensions—animosities spilling out on the hottest day of the summer. When neighborhood habitant "Buggin' Out" (Giancarlo Esposito) calls out pizzeria owner Sal (Danny Aiello) for failing to feature African-American celebrities on his "Wall of Fame" photo collage, Sal's defiance leads to a full-on protest against the establishment by local black residents. As the heat mounts and tensions flourish, the storyline follows Mookie as he straddles his allegiance to his community with his critical need for employment, culminating is a full-scale, racially-charged riot—the intervention of local police bringing profound and inalterable ramifications. Written, produced and directed by Lee and oft-recognized as his crowning cinematic masterpiece, "Do the Right Thing" is an impassioned depiction of racism and undue discrimination on the frontline of the gentrification divide. Replete with authentic, fully-developed characterizations and unbridled human passions, it's a highly combustible and vital conception—an absolutely imperative viewing experience.

 

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