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Do the Right Thing POSC 160 Civil Rights Braunwarth.

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1 Do the Right Thing POSC 160 Civil Rights Braunwarth

2 Development of Civil Rights Equal treatment by government of all citizens, and guarantees of equal citizenship for all Americans. Equal treatment by government of all citizens, and guarantees of equal citizenship for all Americans. Lofty Ideals Lofty Ideals Declaration of independence: all men created equal Declaration of independence: all men created equal But early Failures But early Failures Constitution: failed to reform slavery Constitution: failed to reform slavery

3 Race Politics in Film Film has long been fascinated by the history of race relations; why? Film has long been fascinated by the history of race relations; why? Provides conflict, opportunity for underdog following just cause to overcome adversity Provides conflict, opportunity for underdog following just cause to overcome adversity Favorable to either Whites of Blacks Favorable to either Whites of Blacks Often an venue for the perpetuation of negative stereotypes Often an venue for the perpetuation of negative stereotypes D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, etc. D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, etc.

4 Reform: laws came into line with our ideals The 'Civil War Amendments' The 'Civil War Amendments' 13th: Outlawed Slavery 13th: Outlawed Slavery The 15th: Extended voting rights to the former slaves and all citizens The 15th: Extended voting rights to the former slaves and all citizens What was the state of Civil Rights following the Civil War? What was the state of Civil Rights following the Civil War? Segregation, Jim Crow Laws, Denied the right to vote, etc. Segregation, Jim Crow Laws, Denied the right to vote, etc. De Jure Segregation De Jure Segregation

5 Civil Rights Movement Brown v. Board of Ed’n 1954 Brown v. Board of Ed’n 1954 Civil Rights Act of 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964 No more segregation and discrimination No more segregation and discrimination Voting Rights Act of 1965 Voting Rights Act of 1965 armed 15th amendment with real teeth armed 15th amendment with real teeth

6 Civil Rights Movement How did the depiction of race on film change with the Civil Rights Movement and erosion of de jure segregation? How did the depiction of race on film change with the Civil Rights Movement and erosion of de jure segregation? Blacks acceptable as long as not sexual or powerful (i.e Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner); why? Blacks acceptable as long as not sexual or powerful (i.e Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner); why? Films reflect changing politics and fears of the White majority Films reflect changing politics and fears of the White majority White heroic protagonists often substituted for Black collective action White heroic protagonists often substituted for Black collective action Mississippi Burning, Long Walk Home, etc. Mississippi Burning, Long Walk Home, etc.

7 Civil Rights in Practice Following the Civil Rights Movement Following the Civil Rights Movement White “flight” to the suburbs White “flight” to the suburbs Escape Busing laws designed to end school segregation Escape Busing laws designed to end school segregation encouraged by realtors and mortgage lenders encouraged by realtors and mortgage lenders De Facto Segregation De Facto Segregation Achieved in Practice what could not do legally Achieved in Practice what could not do legally We have, to a large degree, segregated ourselves We have, to a large degree, segregated ourselves

8 Contemporary Effects Disenfranchised inner cities Disenfranchised inner cities Flight to suburbs was motivated by both race and class Flight to suburbs was motivated by both race and class When middle and upper class left, they took their businesses with them When middle and upper class left, they took their businesses with them Few Economic opportunities remain Few Economic opportunities remain Especially in post-industrial global economy Especially in post-industrial global economy Bulworth Bulworth

9 U.S. Per Capita Income, by Race and Ethnicity

10 Structure of Society Differences are not simply a matter of individual choice but are affected by the structure of the system Differences are not simply a matter of individual choice but are affected by the structure of the system But it is very difficult to discuss larger social forces in our individualistic society But it is very difficult to discuss larger social forces in our individualistic society Does not mean that these larger social forces do not exist or do not impinge upon individuals. Does not mean that these larger social forces do not exist or do not impinge upon individuals.

11 Contemporary Effects Exacerbated by “War on Drugs” which disproportionately punishes “ghetto” drugs Exacerbated by “War on Drugs” which disproportionately punishes “ghetto” drugs What group in society uses illegal drugs at the highest rate (statistically)? What group in society uses illegal drugs at the highest rate (statistically)? Upper-middle-class White Males Upper-middle-class White Males What group is more likely imprisoned? What group is more likely imprisoned? More Black males aged in prison than in college More Black males aged in prison than in college

12 Do the Right Thing Intended as a wake-up call to America (note Samuel Jackson at beginning) Intended as a wake-up call to America (note Samuel Jackson at beginning) Lee wanted to expose the racial tensions simmering underneath the placid appearance of race relations in the U.S. Lee wanted to expose the racial tensions simmering underneath the placid appearance of race relations in the U.S. Why does this take place on the hottest day of summer? Why does this take place on the hottest day of summer? Do African-Americans have complete equality in politics and society? Do African-Americans have complete equality in politics and society? What is necessary to bridge the gap between races? What is necessary to bridge the gap between races? Lee argues that both sides need to overcome their stereotypical preconceptions Lee argues that both sides need to overcome their stereotypical preconceptions How does he try to facilitate that process in this film? How does he try to facilitate that process in this film?

13 Film as a Reflection of Society After Radio Raheem dies, crowd calls out names of Michael Stewart and Eleanor Bumpers, two African-Americans who died in 1988 as a result of the use of unnecessary force by the police After Radio Raheem dies, crowd calls out names of Michael Stewart and Eleanor Bumpers, two African-Americans who died in 1988 as a result of the use of unnecessary force by the police Lee also alludes to the Howard Beach incident in Queens when three black men were attacked with baseball bats after eating at a pizza parlor in an Italian neighborhood Lee also alludes to the Howard Beach incident in Queens when three black men were attacked with baseball bats after eating at a pizza parlor in an Italian neighborhood Motivated Lee to make a film about a race riot from on African-American perspective Motivated Lee to make a film about a race riot from on African-American perspective

14 Society as a Reflection of Film White youths were not convicted and Police are often not convicted for unnecessary use of force (i.e. Rodney King), why not? White youths were not convicted and Police are often not convicted for unnecessary use of force (i.e. Rodney King), why not? Must use authority to do their job but also, Must use authority to do their job but also, Perception of blacks as more violent, less law- abiding Perception of blacks as more violent, less law- abiding In part a reflection of depiction of blacks on film In part a reflection of depiction of blacks on film What is perception of judicial system from the perspective of African-Americans? What is perception of judicial system from the perspective of African-Americans? How did African-Americans respond to the ruling in the O.J. Simpson case? How did African-Americans respond to the ruling in the O.J. Simpson case?

15 Dialectical Form Film is a constant play of opposite messages clashing against one another Film is a constant play of opposite messages clashing against one another In 1920s, Sergei Eisenstein, inspired by Marx, created cinema involving a constant juxtaposition of opposites (thesis and antithesis) with the goal of creating a new synthesis or higher consciousness In 1920s, Sergei Eisenstein, inspired by Marx, created cinema involving a constant juxtaposition of opposites (thesis and antithesis) with the goal of creating a new synthesis or higher consciousness Lee wanted to liberate audience from fixed stereotypical images of the conflict between black and white Americans and open their minds to the more subtle awareness of racism in American society and the danger that racism poses to us all; does he do this? Lee wanted to liberate audience from fixed stereotypical images of the conflict between black and white Americans and open their minds to the more subtle awareness of racism in American society and the danger that racism poses to us all; does he do this?

16 Dialectical Cinematography Eisenstein wrote, “Absolute realism is by no means the correct form of expression” Eisenstein wrote, “Absolute realism is by no means the correct form of expression” What did he mean by this? What did he mean by this? The greater the disparity between expected proportions and the artist’s deviations, the greater the emotional power The greater the disparity between expected proportions and the artist’s deviations, the greater the emotional power How is this done with extreme camera angles? How is this done with extreme camera angles? Da Mayor and Mother Sister, Radio Raheem Da Mayor and Mother Sister, Radio Raheem

17 Dialectic of Love and Hate What about Rosie Perez’s opening dance to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” What about Rosie Perez’s opening dance to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” In what ways does the scene contain clashes of opposites? In what ways does the scene contain clashes of opposites? Male voice/female body, dancing/fighting, sex/aggression; also stylistic clashes: long shots with extreme close ups, extreme color filters Male voice/female body, dancing/fighting, sex/aggression; also stylistic clashes: long shots with extreme close ups, extreme color filters Even seems to be fighting with herself Even seems to be fighting with herself Film also addresses tensions within races as well as within individuals Film also addresses tensions within races as well as within individuals How does this scene prepare us mentally for what is to come? How does this scene prepare us mentally for what is to come?

18 Set/mise-en-scène Shot on location in Bedford-Stuyvesant Shot on location in Bedford-Stuyvesant But dialectically countered by the distinct non realistic theatricality of the clean and freshly painted neighborhood; why? But dialectically countered by the distinct non realistic theatricality of the clean and freshly painted neighborhood; why? Encourages viewers to confront their stereotypical expectations of litter, prostitutes, drugs, violence Encourages viewers to confront their stereotypical expectations of litter, prostitutes, drugs, violence Note how garbage reappears in scenes after the riot Note how garbage reappears in scenes after the riot Why all of the warm and hot colors? Why all of the warm and hot colors? Life, vitality warmth Life, vitality warmth Sense of heat Sense of heat

19 Dialectical Cinematography Two times Lee distorts time with overlapping editing (same action twice) Two times Lee distorts time with overlapping editing (same action twice) What are they and why these two scenes? What are they and why these two scenes? Rosie’s Hug and the Garbage Can Rosie’s Hug and the Garbage Can Emphasizes two important moments, one attached to love and the other to hate Emphasizes two important moments, one attached to love and the other to hate

20 Dialectic Content Central Clash is between Mookie and Sal Central Clash is between Mookie and Sal Makes Mookie’s act of violence seem simultaneously justified and a betrayal Makes Mookie’s act of violence seem simultaneously justified and a betrayal How does Mookie act as a protector of Sal? How does Mookie act as a protector of Sal? How does Mookie express resentment toward Sal? How does Mookie express resentment toward Sal? Why does Sal tolerate it? Why does Sal tolerate it? How is Sal exploitive or racist? How is Sal exploitive or racist? How would it have been different if Buggin’ Out had set off the violence? How would it have been different if Buggin’ Out had set off the violence? It would not make as strong an impression or make us think It would not make as strong an impression or make us think

21 Dialectic Content What about the conflict between Sal and Buggin’ Out? What about the conflict between Sal and Buggin’ Out? Sal’s refusal (why?) to bow to the demand for African- Americans on the wall of fame indirectly leads to the violence Sal’s refusal (why?) to bow to the demand for African- Americans on the wall of fame indirectly leads to the violence Sal says open your own restaurant (other references criticizing African-Americans for not opening their own businesses Sal says open your own restaurant (other references criticizing African-Americans for not opening their own businesses But it’s African-Americans who spend their money there But it’s African-Americans who spend their money there Both sides have a point, not necessarily right or wrong, just conflicting ways of looking at the same issue Both sides have a point, not necessarily right or wrong, just conflicting ways of looking at the same issue Why do both parties get so bent out of shape about this issue? Why do both parties get so bent out of shape about this issue?

22 Good v. Evil in Birth of a Nation D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was also a political film that sought to justify violence, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was also a political film that sought to justify violence, rioting black soldiers are depicted as purely evil and the Klan are depicted as noble and purely good rioting black soldiers are depicted as purely evil and the Klan are depicted as noble and purely good Clear cut victory of good over evil in racist terms Clear cut victory of good over evil in racist terms

23 Good v. Evil in Do the Right Thing Lee doesn’t divide characters into good and evil – i.e. Sal, Radio Raheem, Mookie Lee doesn’t divide characters into good and evil – i.e. Sal, Radio Raheem, Mookie Sal is both racist and tolerant Sal is both racist and tolerant Radio Raheem is the victim and martyr but is depicted as an intimidating bully; how so? Radio Raheem is the victim and martyr but is depicted as an intimidating bully; how so? How would emotive response of audience been different if victim were depicted more sympathetically? How would emotive response of audience been different if victim were depicted more sympathetically? Why does Lee make the victim of the white police resemble the stereotypical black thug feared by white America? Why does Lee make the victim of the white police resemble the stereotypical black thug feared by white America? Through the dialectical strategy of making the bully the victim, Lee compels the audience to think about the issue on a higher level of consciousness Through the dialectical strategy of making the bully the victim, Lee compels the audience to think about the issue on a higher level of consciousness

24 Power v. Freedom How do people fight back against power in this film? How do people fight back against power in this film? Mookie tries to convince Vito to stand up to his brother Mookie tries to convince Vito to stand up to his brother Korean store owner screams back at Radio Raheem Korean store owner screams back at Radio Raheem But what happens when Radio Raheem fights back against white power? But what happens when Radio Raheem fights back against white power? Why the close-up of Radio Raheem’s feet dangling several inches off of the ground? Why the close-up of Radio Raheem’s feet dangling several inches off of the ground? Metaphor for the helplessness and vulnerability of even the most powerful black man in the face of institutionalized white power Metaphor for the helplessness and vulnerability of even the most powerful black man in the face of institutionalized white power Like a lynching Like a lynching

25 Violence in Do the Right Thing Does it matter that Radio Raheem is big? Does it matter that Radio Raheem is big? Is this reminiscent of any other films we have seen? Is this reminiscent of any other films we have seen? What is Lee’s implication about race relations and power in the United States? What is Lee’s implication about race relations and power in the United States? Interestingly, it is Mookie, who stands by Sal, who deliberately instigates the riot, why? Interestingly, it is Mookie, who stands by Sal, who deliberately instigates the riot, why? Many thought the film was an incendiary call for black uprising Many thought the film was an incendiary call for black uprising Does the film tell you what is the right thing to do? Does the film tell you what is the right thing to do?

26 Violence in Do the Right Thing Is violent retaliation the only way for African- Americans to respond to racial inequality and physical oppression? Is violent retaliation the only way for African- Americans to respond to racial inequality and physical oppression? Or does it create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or does it create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Must simply endure like Sydney Poitier? Must simply endure like Sydney Poitier? Two statements at the end of the film: Two statements at the end of the film: MLK: “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral.” MLK: “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral.” Malcolm X: “I am not against the use of violence in self-defense. I call it intelligence.” Malcolm X: “I am not against the use of violence in self-defense. I call it intelligence.” Who gets the last word? Who gets the last word?


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