Do the Right Thing is a comedy-drama film produced in 1989. The movie narrates the story of a neighborhood in Brooklyn filed with racial tension that comes to a head and ends in tragedy happening in one of the days in the summer. 25-year-old Mookie is a delivery man that lives in this neighborhood with his sister. Mookie works at a pizza restaurant and has no ambition in life. Sal is an Italian-American and the owner of the pizza restaurant. Sal lives in the same neighborhood as Mookie; however, his son Pino dislikes black people, and this is evident in his relation with Mookie. Tales from the Hood, on the other hand, is a horror anthology produced in 1995 presenting four urban-themed horror stories underlying gang violence, police brutality, racism, and domestic abuse. The two movies at large illustrate and expose the various aspects of racism from different facets and how racial prejudice is practiced both directly and indirectly in the United States.
Analysis of the two films
Do the Right Thing
In this film, Mookie is an African American and a 25-year old who works at a pizza restaurant is introduced as the protagonist of the story. Mookie works in a pizzeria owned by an Italian-American known as Sal, and the two seem to have a very normal life not hindered by any aspect of their social life. Despite the fact that Sal has been living in the same neighborhood as Mookie for 25 years, Sal’s son Pino intensely hates African Americans and does not understand the relationship between his dad and Mookie. However, this is not the case with his younger brother Vito who finds no fault in Mookie. The director uses this to create tension on Sal who represents the society on the direction that the community should embrace while living together (Doherty 39).
The events of the film peak up when Buggin’ Out, Mookie’s friend, asks Sal about his ‘Wall of Fame’ that is decorated with photos of Italian Americans only. It is at this point that the idea of racism is first encountered vividly as Buggin’ Out feels it is unfair and racially discriminated to not have Black American celebrities. The main reason that Buggin’ Out offers is that the restaurant is set in a Black neighborhood, and, therefore, Sal needs to acknowledge Blacks in his restaurant. Ignorantly, Buggin’ Out does not realize that by coercing Sal to conform to their lifestyle is on its own an act of racism. Buggin’ Out and two of his pals start a protest against Sal’s ‘Wall of Fame’ and this stirs tension in the neighborhood later to be intervened by the police officers.
Later on, in an argument between Sal and Pino, we get two perspectives on how to respond to acts of racism in their neighborhood. Pino does not hide the hatred he has towards Black Americans and insists that they should leave the neighborhood while Sal, on the other hand, is bitter for being victimized but despite this, he insists that he is not leaving the neighborhood. That same night Buggin’ Out and his two friends attack Sal’s pizzeria with an intention of forcing Sal to include Blacks in his ‘Wall of Fame.’ When they notice this is in vain, Raheem, one of the friends attacks Sal, and this leads to a brawl, which is stopped by the police. In the turn of events, one police officer disregards the plea from his mate and the crowd; instead, he shoots and kills Raheem. This act enrages public but the police officers flee away leaving Sal and his sons unprotected. The act of the police in this stance illustrates how the law responds to atrocities of race and then decides to have other people take the blame. Instead of controlling the situation, the law often worsens it by taking sides. The film is filled with challenges faced by people of both races as they strive to live in harmony, and it ends on a positive note with Sal and Mookie solving their differences.
Tales from the Hood
The film has four urban-themed horror stories, and it begins with ‘Welcome to My Mortuary’ set in South Central LA with three drug dealers arrive at the funeral to meet Mr. Simms who stored found drugs in his mortuary. The movie illustrates racism from a different point of view such as how the law handles cases of racism in an attempt to explain why it is always the Black Americans convicted of several crimes.
In the first story, the director reveals the theme of racism by showing us the role of the law in this issue. Upon opening the first casket, we are ushered to the body of Clarence who was a Black police officer. In his first night as a police officer, Clarence witnesses how police officers brutally beat up a right activist seeking to eliminate police corruption. After this brutality, the police officers shoot the activist with heroine and dump him in the sea, creating a false story that he was a hypocrite. The story, however, does not end well as the dead activist haunts Clarence for not helping, in a manner idealizing that most of the times Blacks never take any action even they witness such atrocities, and it is because of this that the issue persists.
The second story does not reveal the theme of racism but rather empowerment. It tells of a boy named Walter who is constantly tortured by his mother’s boyfriend known as Carl. The story uses metaphors to talk about Black empowerment and the need to find courage. Through the story, Walter never talks about the bruises, and whenever he is asked by his teacher about he says it is nothing. Using this, the director shows how Blacks are okay with conforming to the idea of being oppressed. In the burning image of Carl, Walter and his mother look relieved and freed.
The third story is a horror tale about a former KKK and a racist Southern senator Metger. While in his office, there is a protest outside made up of African Americans and Jewish people complaining about his acts of racism and setting up his establishment at a slave plantation. Metger has an assistant whose work is to adorn his image so that people will not believe he is racist. Like the previous stories, the director, in this case, demonstrates the theme of racism and how the authority covers up their dirty acts. His assistant Rhodie, in this case, is the one responsible for portraying a false image of Metger; however, Rhodie later dies and Metger is forced to face his demons by himself. The act of Metger fighting with the doll can be used to illustrate Whites being haunted by their atrocities on slaves (Bolden 475). As he flees from the army of dolls, Metger covers himself with the flag of the United States to signify pride, hoping the fact that he is American and will be forgiven but the dolls devour him.
The last story revolves around a gang member and a psychopath known as Crazy K who has killed people mercilessly. In this very night, Crazy K is involved in a shootout with three men but he is rescued by the police as he is about to be killed. One of the shooters fired at the police officers, and the cops respond by killing all of them; however, it is Crazy K who is convicted of killing these men. This is another example of law letting another person take their blame and covering up their acts of violence. In prison, Crazy K meets someone who becomes his friends because he loves the idea that the three victims were all African-American, and he even tells Crazy K that there will only be a few African American that is if they only think as Crazy K. The protagonist is later put through a series of torture hoping that he would change but when offered a chance of redemption, Crazy K declines and is transported back to the shooting scene where he finally dies.
The contrast in the two films
The two films are presented in different genres but they both share common themes, which are racism, conflict, and peace. The main difference between the two movies is the perspectives used in communicating the issue of racism. In Do the Right Thing, racism is offered as an issue that not only affects the blacks but also the whites. Tales from the Hood, on the other hand, exemplifies racism from black’s point of view and their quest for liberation.
The other difference is the theme of peace as shown in the two movies. The film Do the Right Thing maneuvers through its plot with an aim of establishing peace at the end of the story. As the movie draws to the end, Sal and Mookie resolves their issues and Sal decides to pay Mookie his dues and their relationships reconciles. In Tales from the Hood, each and every story ends with redemption whereby someone has to pay for their mistakes; thus, peace is not profound in the second film. It can be said Tales from the Hood is focused on magnifying the conflict in the story, and the resolution is taking responsibility, whereas Do the Right Thing is centered on resolving the conflict and finding peace among the involved parties.
The two films, Do the Right Thing and Tales and Tales from the Hood, revolve mainly around the theme of racism. Both of them exploit the different angles of racism and the role of community in either resolving or alleviating the problem. Using racial discrimination as the central theme, the plots of the stories are developed only to be having different approaches to tackling the problem. Do the Right Thing discusses the issue with an aim of bringing about understanding into the matter, while Tales from the Hood is calling out for justice of what the African Americans endured in the hands of the white. In conclusion, both works have done a good job in communicating the common theme of racism from different perspectives.
Bolden, Christian. “Tales From the Hood: An Emic Perspective on Gang Joining and Gang Desistance.” Criminal Justice Review, vol. 38, no. 4, 2013, pp. 473-90.
Doherty, Thomas. “Do the Right Thing Spike Lee.” Film Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 2, 1989, pp. 35-40.