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Thread: Do The Right Thing (1989): Did Mookie Do the Right Thing? Does that make you racist?

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    Merry fucking Christmas Atmosfear's Avatar
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    Default Do The Right Thing (1989): Did Mookie Do the Right Thing? Does that make you racist?

    Obviously, you're going to need to see the source material in order to participate, and I wish Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing? was available on Hulu or Netflix, but unfortunately you're going to have to rent, borrow, or steal it. If you haven't seen the film, there are a number of spoilers contained within, so don't venture past the break.



    According to Wikipedia, the climactic scene leads to, in many critics' eyes, one of the central questions of the film: does Mookie "do the right thing"? To summarize: Radio Raheem is choked to death while resisting arrest after a brawl with Pizzeria-owner Sal, and the resulting crowd is angry at the injustice and nearly riotous. Mookie proceeds to throw a trash can through the window of the Pizzeria, setting off a riot that leads to the restaurant being burned to the ground, and a riot against the ensuing police and firefighters. Less than 20 minutes later, at the end of the film, we are presented with two conflicting quotes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stating that violence is never justified, and Malcolm X saying that violence, used in self-defense, is "intelligence."

    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    One of many questions at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, thus inciting the riot that destroys Sal's pizzeria. Critics have seen Mookie's action both as an action that saves Sal's life, by redirecting the crowd's anger away from Sal to his property, and as an "irresponsible encouragement to enact violence".[16] The question is directly raised by the contradictory quotations that end the film, one advocating non-violence, the other advocating violent self-defense in response to oppression.[16]
    This question is left intentionally unresolved, as are many literary questions, but Spike Lee's comments on the validity of the question are decidedly pointed:

    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Spike Lee has remarked that he himself has only ever been asked by white viewers whether Mookie did the right thing; black viewers do not ask the question.[17] Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot's justification are implicitly valuing white property over the life of a black man.[15]
    So, the question I pose to the group: Is Spike Lee right? Does questioning Mookie's actions implicitly value Sal's pizzeria over Radio Raheem's life?
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  2. #2
    Mega Bore Atomic's Avatar
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    Was it Mookie's intention to save Sal's life by throwing the can through the window? I'm sorry I didn't see the film but I doubt that was the case. If it were then Mookie valued Sal's life more than Sal's pizzeria. If not then he valued Raheem's life over the pizza joint and was trying to hurt Sal by lashing out.

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    feel like funkin' it up gwahir's Avatar
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    Like Atomic, I'm sorry, I haven't seen the film, so if that precludes me from being involved, fine, but since nobody who HAS seen it has jumped in yet--

    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Spike Lee has remarked that he himself has only ever been asked by white viewers whether Mookie did the right thing; black viewers do not ask the question.[17] Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot's justification are implicitly valuing white property over the life of a black man.[15]
    That, to me, seems to be a non sequitur. If it came down to a choice between the pizzeria and the life of a person (black or otherwise), very few would question choosing the man's life. But in this case, the trashing of the pizzeria would not prevent nor make up for Raheem's death -- the loss of the pizzeria was simply more loss. To say that questioning the riot's justification is racist is a bit much, but then, I doubt Lee was calling MLK a racist, so that might have been a claim he made in an exaggerated or philosophically imprecise manner.

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    feel like funkin' it up gwahir's Avatar
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    None of which, by the way, is to say that the riots were unjustified...

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