Owning the Block

In the opening sequence of Crooklyn, we discussed in class how the kids are the people who “make the world go round”. In fact, not only are the kids the centerpiece in the film, but they also blend the boundaries of property within the neighborhood. The opening sequence shows kids playing many different games around the block; they utilize all the resources they have in the streets– light poles, stairs, the ground etc. The open and public spaces occupied by kids create a sense of boundlessness. No stairs belong to anyone, no street or block is owned by any one person. The neighborhood is owned by the community, and the block is owned by the kids who reside there. 

Property has always been contentious in Spike Lee’s joints. In Do The Right Thing, what belongs to whom, and how people/institutions take ownership of their property is often the root of conflict in the film. What makes Crooklyn unique and different from Do The Right Thing is how the kids deconstruct property boundaries, and in turn, eliminating the conflicts that can arise from property disputes.

Crooklyn is not completely devoid of property disputes, however. What is even more interesting is that property continues to be a source of conflict, but only among the white demographics in the film. For example, in the opening sequence, the Italian women begin to argue with their tenant about paying rent amidst the jovial playing and community of the kids in the streets. Arguments between Troy’s family and their neighbor Tony Eyes is often and almost always over throwing trash on his property. These conflicts tend to escalate and cause chaos in the neighborhood, such as Vic being arrested. Spike Lee creates a world in which the innocence of relationships within the community is manifested through child play, only to underscore further the world of conflicts that arise from property disagreements. The juxtaposition defines the two clashing worlds with even more clarity.


4 thoughts on “Owning the Block”

  1. Interesting point, @rnghe. But what about when Troy’s family cannot pay the electricity bill and thus the electricity bill gets shut off, and Troy’s father must tell Vic (who pays him rent) that he will no have electricity? That causes tension in the film, though you could argue that no conflict really comes from that tension.


  2. Yes I have to agree with @arohde16. Because Troy’s family cannot pay the electric bill, they must go the night with candles (which I must point out was a huge fire hazard). Two, Troy was also concerned when she would not return home to a house with lights. When Troy does return, she spends a minute on screen flicking the different switches on and off. Two, Tony Eyes does continue to try to improve his property condition as the film progresses, but he is effort often goes overlook until he try to talk with Troy’s dad again by complaining about the behavior of Troy’s brothers. I guess we cannot ignore the fact that property tensions affect all groups.


  3. Good point, and to add just one more thing to this idea of property I think it is important to note how this is contrasted to the suburbs in the south. Where there is no “block” and there is no apparent community, people have their individual homes and yards and siblings (cousins in this case) play with each other in and around the house. This sense of community and the block having blurred property lines help emphasize the contrast between the two different settings in this film.


  4. Yeah to add to @nicholaspmarsh ‘s comment it’s interesting how it seems that when people have less property (virtue of living in a city like NYC) they need to claim property or make spaces (like the kids do when they play on other people’s steps) and in the South the need to do that is less


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