Black Lives Matter & Brotherhood

In one of our previous class discussions, we talked about the representation of an “individual’s story” and “stories of individuals”. Malcolm X’s story was an individual’s story, while Get On the Bus is a conglomerate of stories of individuals. In elevating one person’s story to represent the story of a people, I understand the significance of Malcolm X; but what I appreciate more about Lee’s Get On the Bus is that he showcases lives that doesn’t seem to matter in a larger context to be just as important– black lives matter. 

Not only do the audience get a glimpse into all the struggles of the seemingly “common” black man, but we get the nuances of every single one of their careers, passions, love, and sorrow. Each and every one of those black men on the bus have just as much depth as any individual story, and each and every one of those lives were real. Spike Lee does a phenomenal job portraying individual stories to the audience so we get a sense of various intra-racial identities and narratives. And although they do not get a 3 hour long movie like Malcolm X does, every single one of them takes the spotlight at some point in the movie.

Another way that Lee emphasizes black lives matter is in the final scenes when Jeremiah dies from a heart attack. The men on the bus travel across the country to support the Million Man March, but ultimately choose to stay by a brother’s side despite their long awaited participation in the movement. The movement is right outside their doors, but they choose to sacrifice their dream for the life of one man. The cohesiveness of brotherhood in this film further emphasizes the importance of black lives that Spike Lee alludes to. Not a single one of them is disposable; not a single one of them deserves to be left unloved. In the end, the brothers cry outside the bus grieving collectively because to them, that one black life mattered.

 

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1 thought on “Black Lives Matter & Brotherhood”

  1. As an audience, I think that we gravitate towards individual’s stories because we can humanize these stories and the story gains more depth. This was achieved in films, such as Malcolm X, Get On the Bus, and 4 Little Girls, where we gained an attachment to the character’s realistic development over the course of the narrative arc.

    When I watched Get On the Bus, I remembered my viewing experience with this joint. I noticed that especially towards the end when we see Jeremiah suffer a heart attack, the visual framing of the shots change. Although Lee was telling the story of Jeremiah at this point, intimate moments like when the nurse tells the group that Jeremiah died or the scene where the guys deliver the news and cry outside of the bus do not show an attachment to a single character. When the nurse is in the process of delivering the news, her face and other faces are obscured in the process, and when she finally delivers the news, the camera cuts to a long shot of all of the people in the waiting room reacting. Also, what began as Gary delivering the news that Jeremiah has died turns into a zoom out to show the reactions from everyone but at a distance.

    I found this jarring because when something climactic occurs in a film that is emotional, I anticipate a close-up, but Lee ends up doing the opposite. I’m still confused by why he chose to use this technique, but it might have to do with his idea of looking at these individual stories in relation to one another since he orients everyone in that moment during these emotional scenes.

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