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Text Commentary

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.

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