Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, released in 1989, takes place in a predominately African American neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, located in Brooklyn, New York. Lee, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in this film, tells the story of an African American community that is filled with racial tension on a hot summer day. The heat takes a toll on the members of the community and tragedy strikes with the death of an African American man named Radio Raheem. Lee uses many techniques in the film, allowing the audience to explore central themes and provoking them to react a certain way. Through the use of mise-en-scene, montage, and camera angles Spike Lee is able to highlight the message of racial intolerance in the film.
Spike Lee makes effective use of mise-en-scene through the use of sound, setting, costumes, lighting, props, as well as movement of the actors. The combination of these elements effectively adds to the plot and the theme of racial tension that erupted at the end of the movie.
Sound is used to highlight the emotions of each character as well as to set the mood. For instance, the opening credits starts off in a darkened area on the streets with the focus on Tina, who is dancing to the song titled, “Fight the Power.” She is dancing and punching the air. Her demeanor, along with the message of the song, sets a negative tone. The “Fight the Power” was used in both a diegetic and non-diegetic manner. This song not only incorporates various snapshots into African-American culture, including a message about civil rights, but also symbolically relates to the message of the film, encouraging the viewer to embrace courage and do the right thing. This song was pla...
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... disrespectful exclusion of the African American race.
Lee’s skillful use of mise-en-scene is depicted in illustrations #4 and #5. In this particular sequence, Mookie watches Sal flirt with Jade, then follows Jade outside to tell her that all Sal wants to do is play “hide the sausage.” Mookie and Jade’s argument is shot against a brick wall with the words “TAWANA TOLD THE TRUTH” written on it. This phrase alludes to the 1988 interracial rape case involving Tawana Braadley. Spike Lee specifically framed this shot so we could see this graffiti on the brick wall, and he purposefully placed the two actors far enough away from each other so the audience can see the words. In addition, Lee does not cut the shot until after the two walked away, allowing the viewer’s attention only to focus on this one spot. It was easy to see that this was symbolically placed in the shot.
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