Viewer Week 14 – Do The Right Thing 30 years later

Nearly 30 years later and Do the Right Thing is still as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. Many people believe racism is no longer a big issue in America, and yet while watching this movie I was struck by how the dialogue and images reflect on what I see in the news, on Twitter, and Facebook. Sal’s rage and exasperation at the destruction of his pizza joint was uncannily familiar to the attitudes expressed by some people in the wake of the Ferguson riots. While destroying property isn’t right either, it’s not nearly of the same degree as the police killing Radio Raheem.

The movie establishes the setting through a series of scenes depicting the enormous cast of characters. For a film that deals with such a chronologically short period of time, it does a phenomenal job of establishing the character of so many people. Each conflict feels like an escalation, and every character deals with some conflict or another, many stemming from racist attitudes. This establishes the overall tense racial situation between those living in the neighborhood and the white people.

The movie confronts us with the question: how do we do the right thing? What’s right? What is the best way of confronting racism? At the end of the movie, Sal blames Radio Raheem’s death on Buggin’ Out’s comments about putting brothers up on the wall, when it was Sal himself who escalated the argument by destroying the radio. As a white male, he perpetuates the power dynamic in American society through his racist attitudes. On the other hand, Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out also respond through violence as well. Mookie expresses a final sentiment: Yes, destroying the restaurant was bad, but insurance will pay it off and ultimately, Radio Raheem was murdered over a fist fight. Sal went unhurt.

The question is extended and broadened at the end up the film with the seemingly opposed ideologies presented by Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. The film then goes on to suggest that these ideologies can coexist to a certain degree. What did you all think? Did Mookie do the right thing?

1 comment
  1. You ask if Mookie did the right thing – and I don’t think throwing the trashcan into Sal’s window was a well thought out action because he seemed to escalate the violence even more. However, after the dust had settled he came back and seemed to have a better understanding of his place in the world. This is shown when he requested payment from Sal. One way that this interaction could be looked at is that he doesn’t want the money for himself anymore, but now is interested in it for his son/family. He doesn’t initially take the $500 because he thinks that he deserves the $250. Maybe this is because he now knows the importance of working? Or maybe he just feels badly for Sal? Or maybe he even just thought he would be thought of as weak if he took all the money, considering the divide that occurred between the community and Sal? It is left vague and no one seems to know what to do next, and this goes well with the concept this film highlights. We still are so unsure of what to do, even almost 30 years later.

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