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Addressing the Direct Address in Do the Right Thing

by Anderson Shore

In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Lee is able to expose the racial tensions that occur on a hot day in the community of Bed-Stuy through the direct address as well as physical interaction between the characters. Half way through the film the audience finds themselves being yelled at by different characters as they explain their hatred and racial stereotypes about other races.

The words and phrases that are mentioned by the different characters in the direct address, an African-American, an Italian-American, a Hispanic, a Caucasian Cop, and a Asian store owner, are usually not said directly to the other race throughout the film, but the audience is able to get an inside look on what the different races actually think of one another.  Lee is able to succeed in portraying racial tension in his direct address by adding the harsh language, which draws the audience’s attention. Lee provides more emphasis, or even a more violent feel, on each character’s racial stereotypes by deciding to zoom in quickly to a close up of just the character’s face. The audience can feel the anger and hatred because they are “face-to-face” with the character and able to see the emotion and detestation in their face.

The last direct address of the scene is filmed a bit differently as Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Mister Senor Love Daddy, isn’t zoomed into, but rather wheeled into a close-up.  It is evident that Mister Senor Love Daddy is encouraging the community to “cool that shit out!” It is interesting that he uses the words “chill” and “cool out” as it is the hottest day of the summer, but that is exactly what needed to happen. Instead racial tensions continue to fly around on the hottest day of the summer and ends with the Italian-Americans’ pizza store being destroyed and a life of an African-American taken.  Not only does Lee show the state of the community through vocal violence, by the means of the direct address, but he also reveals it through the physical violence that occurs.

It is important to note that Lee puts the direct address in the middle of the film because of the fact that up until this point the audience has been able to create their own opinion on the racial tensions that are occurring in the film.  However, after the direct address the audience now understands how the characters truly feel about the other races in their community and have more insight on why the physical violence did occur.  

Addressing the Direct Address in Do the Right Thing

by Clint Upchurch

In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, he attempts to unearth the racial tension that’s rampant in Bed-Stuy.  Throughout the film, Lee demonstrates the struggles of different races as they are forced to interact around the epicenter of racial tension, Sal’s Famous Pizzeria.  Lee’s choice of mise en scene adds to dynamic stereotypical differences between characters.  Through choice costuming Lee was able to stereotype each character in a particular genre of their respective race allowing for an efficient critique of race interactions suggesting that racial tension does not exist as a binary interaction. 

This is paralleled in Lee’s direct address which contributes to the overall racial tension in the film.  In the direct address, Mookie begins by looking directly into the camera in a medium close shot.  His sweaty appearance suggests that it is a hot day which contributes tension of the scene as Mookie lists series of Italian racial slurs.  This is followed by a shot of Pino which strings together many stereotypically black attributes as the camera zooms into his face.  The zoom into his face increases the tension in the scene felt by the audience.  This is followed by three others’ attacking different races as the camera zooms into their face.  With each passing individual, the direct address adds to the overall tension of that exists between the characters.  Each individual is seen as sweaty which contributes to the tension by suggesting that people are uncomfortable with their current setting, which happens to be the hottest day of the year.  Lee incorporates many different races the direct address catering to the idea that racial tension is never simply a binary struggle, but rather a multi-faceted battle in which every race contributes.  In this manner, Lee is able to use the direct address to drive the film’s plot and force the audience to evaluate racial tension, by questioning the directionality of racism in Bed-Stuy and likewise the United States.

Addressing the Direct Address

by Michelle Robinson

This clip by will be used to explore the technique of direct address as it is employed in the films of director Spike Lee. In attempt to understand the variety of uses for and thematic depth of this technique, students will examine the direct address in the Spike Lee films Inside Man, 4 Little Girls, 25th Hour, and Do the Right Thing, comparing the consistent effects of this shot across some of Lee’s films, but also the variances in subtlety, social commentary, and film genre. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2012).

Racial Stereotypes

In this clip from director Spike Lee's Do the Right Think, Mookie (Spike Lee), Pino (John Turturro) and others let fly a barrage of racial epithets and stereotypes.

from Do the Right Thing (1989)
Creator: Spike Lee
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Posted by Michelle Robinson