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Reports & Essays: Music & Art - Film

"AND""OR"

Do the Right Thing By Spike Lee
The movie, " Do the Right Thing", by Spike Lee is a hard hitting drama that deals with violence and racism in today's society. This film is set in a primarily black neighborhood in close to the present time. Right in the center of this neighborhood stands a pizza parlor that is owned and operated by one of the most important characters in the movie, Sal. In the beginning of the movie, Sal is shown arriving to work with his two sons Pino and Vito. Right from the start Sal is portrayed as a hard working, kind, and devoted individual. Just the fact that he owns his own business in these rough and tough times shows that he is a smart, efficient, and dedicated man. Later in the movie we learn that Sal did in fact build his pizzeria by himself from the ground up, brick by brick, and board by board. The fact that Sal gets to share his creation and hard work with his sons makes it all the more special to him. After Sal has finished his pre-opening preparations Sal's Pizzeria is open for the day. Shortly after this, the main character of the movie, Mookie, comes strolling into the restaurant. Mookie works as the delivery man for Sal, however, more important than that, he also acts as a mediator between the two races. Sal relies on Mookie not only to get the pizzas delivered, but also to keep his fellow black folks happy with Sal so they will come and patronize his restaurant. This reveals a very different side of Sal and introduces the racist element of the story. On the one hand he can put on a happy face and greet all the black people as they dole their hard earned money out to him for his pizza, while on the other hand he turns into a bigot, hating most black people and talking behind their back while they are not around. Sal's feelings towards Mookie and his sister are different. Even though Mookie is a black man, Sal appears to have a close rapport with him that goes beyond an employer/employee association. They appear to have a bond that almost resembles a father-son relationship where Sal is the white father and Mookie the black son, who in the end finally rebels. Mookie's sister, Jade, is also treated with more respect and whenever she enters the pizza parlor Sal insists, if not begs to make her some special slices of pizza. He then stops what he is doing so that he can sit and visit with her. This might prompt one to ask, if Sal is a racist then why does he own a restaurant in the middle of a black neighborhood. Sal explains this to Pino early in the movie by telling him that it is purely business. Sal knows that he is not able to compete with the large restaurant chains, so he must travel to someone else's turf to make a go of it. This is a point that is expressed in Bell Hooks Counter Hegemonic essay. She says that a scary, conservative idea voiced over and over again in the film is that everybody is safest in their "own" neighborhood and that it is best if we remain with people like ourselves. Now this doesn't seem to hold true for Sal and his pizzeria at first. Apparently he has been in this neighborhood for almost 15 to 20 years without any problems. Through the years though, Sal has built up some sort of grudge or hatred against a variety of black people that he has been holding inside and it is at the end of the movie that he reaches his limit of tolerance and blows his top. The movie and Sal's character for that matter really start to take a turn for the worse when Buggin Out comes into the restaurant for a slice. While he is enjoying his slice he happens to notice that there are no pictures of black people hanging on the wall. This angers Buggin Out and prompts him to tell Sal to put some up. In no uncertain terms, Sal tells him to mind his own business and that no one was going to tell him what to do in his place of business. The scene that follows allows us to see another side of Sal; one of being very domineering yet insecure. This fear of change leads him into a shouting match with Buggin Out who insists that he will form a boycott against Sal's and that none of his friends will ever eat there again. Here Sal again relies on Mookie to smooth things over so this boycott really does not happen. Mookie really doesn't have to work too hard because Sal's pizza is well liked in the community. Day turned into night and it was getting near closing time. The second after the doors were shut and locked, four kids showed up at the door wanting a slice. Here Sal showed his nice side and he let them in because after all they love his pizza and he can't fault them for that. Right after Sal let them in, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem (who had previous encounters similar to those of Buggin Out with Sal) stormed into Sal's Pizzeria with the radio blaring, a big pet peeve of Sal's, demanding that Sal put some black people up on the wall and they weren't leaving until he did it. Sal wouldn't even deal with them until they would turn that music down. Since Raheem and Buggin Out refused to turn the music lower, they just stood there and shouted at each other for a while. At first when they are shouting the four black kids that came in earlier were on Sal's side because they wanted to get their slices. However, as the shouting match continued, Sal lost his self control and said something that made every black person irate and every white person cringe because they knew that something bad would happen. Sal said something to the effect of "you niggers have no right to come into my restaurant and tell me what I can and cannot hang on my wall." The character played by Martin Lawrence then stands up and says "oh so we're niggers now?" It all goes down hill from there. Even Mookie has a hard time dealing with Sal's comment but his love for him is still strong. In his attempt to help, Mookie throws a garbage can through the window and starts a riot. When peace is finally restored, the inevitability of the situation is apparent and Sal knows that he can no longer remain in business in that neighborhood. This is fully realized when Mookie gets his last wages and says good-bye. When the door closes behind him and Sal is alone in the store, he understands what his obstinacy has cost him and the immensity of his loss. The essay written by Bell Hooks brings up a good point that I believe pretty much sums up the movie. She says that the lunatic violence that can erupt without any motive, is not just prone to the community that is depicted in the movie but can occur in almost any segregated area. It is triggered off because of inner turmoil and prejudice that exist within people's minds. Instead of eliminating the problem, violence only exacerbates it and backfires onto the segregated area and the retributions bring more pain and suffering to innocent people.

 



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