Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’

An always relevant portrait of racism in America

Do the right thing original poster
Do the right thing original poster

Why Do the Right Thing?

Far before the death of George Floyd, Do the Right Thing became famous for its handling of racism in the United States and its almost prophetic prediction of moments like the Rodney King riots, also animated out of reaction to police brutality.

Getting Into the Story

Do the Right Thing takes a particular focus on following Mookie (played by Spike Lee), but it would be hard to consider Mookie the “main” character. Instead, his presence drives the narrative forward as he meanders through the community on pizza delivery routes, introducing us to most of the characters that will inhabit the rest of the film.

The Heat

If there is one signature aspect of Do the Right Thing it’s the Heat. The entire narrative follows one small multi-racial, multi-generational community and it all takes place over the course of “New York City’s hottest day of the year”.

The Usual Interpretation

The most popular interpretation of Heat’s role in Do the Right Thing aligns with conventional uses of Heat in films like Sydney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men. In this case, Heat is interpreted to represent an unavoidable reality that needs to be addressed.

Another Interpretation

If we take the story at its surface, however, there is another meaningful way that we can interpret the role of Heat in Do the Right Thing. I like to call this frame of interpretation “Turning up the Heat” and I used it as a metaphor for climate change in another blog post (which served as the base for this current post).

Recent college grad with a love for writing and diving headfirst into new and exciting subjects.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store