The film Do the Right Thing is a moving, proactive and entertaining film made by an outspoken, proactive director. It was the third film by Spike Lee and what he considers his first real directing job (Logan,2). In his first two films he was still unsure of himself but in Do the Right Thing, his true capabilities as a director and a compelling screen writer became public knowledge. Created in controversy, the making of the film itself brought up some important stereotypes in society and forced not only the public – but producers, crews, studios, publicists and movie theatres alike to pay attention to what they were investing in, showing, promoting and helping to create. Do the Right Thing – like many Spike Lee films, has an important message to be told that many people are either uncomfortable with or threatened by. Racial issues are always a touchy subject for Americans and not many directors take on challenges with such collected cool. Lee approaches racial issues both between races and the inner battle of being black in a racist society like he eats if for breakfast ( and maybe he does).
To get the most from his films, it’s important to know where Lee himself comes from and what motivates his themes. It’s easy to be confused or threatened by a controversial messages likes those in Lee’s films if you don’t fully understand the intentions. Lee came from a very stable home life. His father Bill Lee, is a Jazz composer who composed music for many of his films, his sister Joie Lee has acted in several of his films and brother David did the still photography for his first three films. His mother, Jacqueline Shelton, a teacher of arts and black literature, passed away in 1977 – years before she would be able to see Lee’s vision come alive in film (Wiki). But her influence over his convictions, the benefit of having educated parents and a proud and encouraging family are all factors that likely gave Lee confidence and support in his endeavors. Ruby Dee, a noted actress in several of his films once stated, “Racism usually erodes self-confidence; it seems to have triggered his.”(Lynn,6). Early on he developed a reputation as a man who needs no approval, is self-assured in his causes and mindfully introverted and intelligent. On the negative end, “blacker-than-thou” has been used to describe his attitude due to his consistent outspokenness towards the black community and he’s been called a racist himself, because his films often point out specifically white and black culture clashes.
Although the racial clashes he portrays between whites and blacks are in reality the most prominent American racial tensions of our time (and all American time) – and being black, he speaks from his own black experience