Thomas helped me to better understand the continuity between Do The Right Thing and School Daze. The two films function as an exploration of leadership within the black community. Where DTRT brings Malcolm X and MLK to life, School Daze is a celebration of Frederick Douglass. He is given the most affectionate treatment of any of the great black Americans. He also “shows up” in the movie. He does this through some subtle (and others not-so-subtle) character interactions.
One particular set of interactions links the character Monroe with Frederick Douglass. His character tips the scales away from violence at crucial moments in the film. Take the moments below.
When tensions might lead to an intra-racial fight, Monroe interjects. All he says is, “Dap, he did say ‘please.'” For a moment, he is the entire focus of the scene. His words are soon followed by, “Man, shut up, Monroe!” It has the tone and timing of a response with subtext. “Shut up,” here, doesn’t mean “I want you to stop speaking.” It’s more along the lines of “Dammit. Yeah..I know we shouldn’t do this; but did you really need to remind me? ..I was caught up in the moment.”
I’ve experienced this with some of my closest friends. As long as each of us knows we’ll understand the actual message beneath the words, there is a tacit agreement that each of us will take every opportunity to throw humor into the mix when it’s okay.
This (above) is the moment the association between Monroe and Frederick Douglass is forged (18:22). Again, there is a subtext-laden pause.
His participation in this step, highlighted in Tongues Untied, may frustrate my reading (1:19:21). Then again, it might not. He is clearly out of step with the rest of the group. And not only at this moment. He often looks to the rest of the group to see the steps. It appears that he joined the group after the choreography was complete. At the very least, I give Lee too much credit to think that the missteps on Monroe’s part are accidental. Is this all wishful thinking? Tell it to me straight, doc.