‘Do the Right Thing;’ but, what is the right thing?


Joe Hiatt, Entertainment Editor

Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” is the story of a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The themes and questions that the film presents were relevant in 1989 when the film came out, and those themes and questions remain as relevant today as they were 27 years ago.

The story takes place on the hottest day of the year in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The neighborhood is mostly African American, except for two businesses, an Italian pizzeria owned by Sal (Danny Aiello) and his two sons Vito and Pino and a Korean-owned convenience store on the corner. No one seems to know the Koreans, but everyone knows Sal and his sons; they all grew up on Sal’s Pizza. Sal’s oldest son Pino is racist towards the black kids in the neighborhood, and his younger son Vito is much more open and friendly to his peers. The main character of the film, Mookie, played by Spike Lee himself, is the delivery boy for Sal’s Pizzeria he is good at his job, but he does not believe there is any honor in it.

There are many great characters in this film such as Da Mayor (Ossie Davis),  the leader of the neighborhood, a man who knows everyone; Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito), a vocal member of the black panther party; Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), who can only function if his boom box is working and on his shoulder and Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), the neighborhood witch who spies and gossips about everyone in the neighborhood.

The first half of this movie is mainly introducing the characters and setting up the story, it’s hard to see where the story is going but the uniqueness of these characters keeps viewers captivated enough to wait for the story to develop. Tensions start to build in this film and once they start, they build strong and fast. It is as if someone has flipped a switch and these characters erupt into racial violence. The characters start to remember their old hurts and pains and their actions towards these feelings takes the story to the point of no return.

This movie is not a film to promote violence, but it is also not a film to promote peace. The film ends with two quotes right before the credits roll, one being from Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “…violence ends by defeating itself…,” then a quote from Civil Rights activist Malcolm X saying “…I don’t even call it violence when it is an act of self-defense; I call it intelligence.”  This movie is really about the ones left behind and who learn by the example of others. I believe this film is important to bring back today due to social issues in the world is going through, such as ISIS and police brutality. Watch this film and really think about what it is asking of us, and that is, what is the right thing?