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Do the Right Thing By Spike Lee


The movie, " Do the Right Thing", by Spike Lee is a hard
hitting drama that deals with violence and racism in
today's society. This film is set in a primarily black
neighborhood in close to the present time. Right in the
center of this neighborhood stands a pizza parlor that is
owned and operated by one of the most important characters
in the movie, Sal.
In the beginning of the movie, Sal is shown arriving to
work with his two sons Pino and Vito. Right from the start
Sal is portrayed as a hard working, kind, and devoted
individual. Just the fact that he owns his own business in
these rough and tough times shows that he is a smart,
efficient, and dedicated man. Later in the movie we learn
that Sal did in fact build his pizzeria by himself from the
ground up, brick by brick, and board by board. The fact
that Sal gets to share his creation and hard work with his
sons makes it all the more special to him. 

After Sal has finished his pre-opening preparations Sal's
Pizzeria is open for the day. Shortly after this, the main
character of the movie, Mookie, comes strolling into the
restaurant. Mookie works as the delivery man for Sal,
however, more important than that, he also acts as a
mediator between the two races. Sal relies on Mookie not
only to get the pizzas delivered, but also to keep his
fellow black folks happy with Sal so they will come and
patronize his restaurant. This reveals a very different
side of Sal and introduces the racist element of the story.
On the one hand he can put on a happy face and greet all
the black people as they dole their hard earned money out
to him for his pizza, while on the other hand he turns into
a bigot, hating most black people and talking behind their
back while they are not around. 

Sal's feelings towards Mookie and his sister are different.
Even though Mookie is a black man, Sal appears to have a
close rapport with him that goes beyond an
employer/employee association. They appear to have a bond
that almost resembles a father-son relationship where Sal
is the white father and Mookie the black son, who in the
end finally rebels. Mookie's sister, Jade, is also treated
with more respect and whenever she enters the pizza parlor
Sal insists, if not begs to make her some special slices of
pizza. He then stops what he is doing so that he can sit
and visit with her. 

This might prompt one to ask, if Sal is a racist then why
does he own a restaurant in the middle of a black
neighborhood. Sal explains this to Pino early in the movie
by telling him that it is purely business. Sal knows that
he is not able to compete with the large restaurant chains,
so he must travel to someone else's turf to make a go of
it. This is a point that is expressed in Bell Hooks Counter
Hegemonic essay. She says that a scary, conservative idea
voiced over and over again in the film is that everybody is
safest in their "own" neighborhood and that it is best if
we remain with people like ourselves. Now this doesn't seem
to hold true for Sal and his pizzeria at first. Apparently
he has been in this neighborhood for almost 15 to 20 years
without any problems. Through the years though, Sal has
built up some sort of grudge or hatred against a variety of
black people that he has been holding inside and it is at
the end of the movie that he reaches his limit of tolerance
and blows his top. 

The movie and Sal's character for that matter really start
to take a turn for the worse when Buggin Out comes into the
restaurant for a slice. While he is enjoying his slice he
happens to notice that there are no pictures of black
people hanging on the wall. This angers Buggin Out and
prompts him to tell Sal to put some up. In no uncertain
terms, Sal tells him to mind his own business and that no
one was going to tell him what to do in his place of
business. The scene that follows allows us to see another
side of Sal; one of being very domineering yet insecure.
This fear of change leads him into a shouting match with
Buggin Out who insists that he will form a boycott against
Sal's and that none of his friends will ever eat there
again. Here Sal again relies on Mookie to smooth things
over so this boycott really does not happen. Mookie really
doesn't have to work too hard because Sal's pizza is well
liked in the community. 

Day turned into night and it was getting near closing time.
The second after the doors were shut and locked, four kids
showed up at the door wanting a slice. Here Sal showed his
nice side and he let them in because after all they love
his pizza and he can't fault them for that. Right after Sal
let them in, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem (who had previous
encounters similar to those of Buggin Out with Sal) stormed
into Sal's Pizzeria with the radio blaring, a big pet peeve
of Sal's, demanding that Sal put some black people up on
the wall and they weren't leaving until he did it. Sal
wouldn't even deal with them until they would turn that
music down. Since Raheem and Buggin Out refused to turn the
music lower, they just stood there and shouted at each
other for a while. At first when they are shouting the four
black kids that came in earlier were on Sal's side because
they wanted to get their slices. However, as the shouting
match continued, Sal lost his self control and said
something that made every black person irate and every
white person cringe because they knew that something bad
would happen. Sal said something to the effect of "you
niggers have no right to come into my restaurant and tell
me what I can and cannot hang on my wall." The character
played by Martin Lawrence then stands up and says "oh so
we're niggers now?" It all goes down hill from there. 

Even Mookie has a hard time dealing with Sal's comment but
his love for him is still strong. In his attempt to help,
Mookie throws a garbage can through the window and starts a
riot. When peace is finally restored, the inevitability of
the situation is apparent and Sal knows that he can no
longer remain in business in that neighborhood. This is
fully realized when Mookie gets his last wages and says
good-bye. When the door closes behind him and Sal is alone
in the store, he understands what his obstinacy has cost
him and the immensity of his loss. 

The essay written by Bell Hooks brings up a good point that
I believe pretty much sums up the movie. She says that the
lunatic violence that can erupt without any motive, is not
just prone to the community that is depicted in the movie
but can occur in almost any segregated area. It is
triggered off because of inner turmoil and prejudice that
exist within people's minds. Instead of eliminating the
problem, violence only exacerbates it and backfires onto
the segregated area and the retributions bring more pain
and suffering to innocent people. 



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