I think do the right thing is a great film however after watching and analyzing this film a question that arose in my head was what do the women in this film represent. In the film do the right thing, I think all of the women represented in the film are allegorical, stereotypical and troupes of sorts. My question is why? What is spike trying to say about black women in the film and outside of the film. The first women character I analyzed in this film and primarily helped me come to the conclusion that spike lee is lacking in his writing of women character is Mother Sister from the movie do the right thing, she stereotypically represents and perpetuates the narrative of black women’s domesticity, care taking, subservience and suffering. One thing I over looked that is a telling detail in support of my critique of women’s representation in Lee films is her name! Mother Sister, the name fulfills exactly what it is supposed to,it is a title that tells of the role that she plays within her community as a black woman. In an ending scene mother sister can be seen taking care of Mayor a neighborhood man who is laying in bed with a look of distress on his face after one of the neighborhoods most beloved youth is killed. Immediately preceding that scene in the film we are immersed in a scene where the mother of spike Lee’s child in the film is angry after an argument they just had about his absence from his sons life. During the argument she does most of the screaming/talking (rightfully so) but how does this portray her to the audience as an angry black woman and a single mother again another stereotypical role for a black woman in his film.
Women are subjected to a lot of things and unfortunately are taught to become accustomed to certain types of subjection. Whether it be in careers or American domesticity, women are subjected to unfair and unequal standards in comparison to men. Laura Mulvey published an essay in 1975 that argued that the camera in film forced the same kind of unfair standards that existed for women in the outside world also in the world of film. She argued that there is an inherent male gaze in cinema that often portrays women in parts or in inferior positions to their male counterparts. Even when a woman is a main character in the film her role is often subjected to the decisions and emotions of the men in her life. The camera also focuses on women in ways that it rarely focuses on men. While a woman is talking it may often travel her body and linger on/highlight her legs, breasts, or hair. It constantly is compartmentalizing her. Mulvey uses examples from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and other popular films during the time to make her argument.
What’s interesting about Mo’ Better Blues is that the camera interacts with Denzel’s character, Bleek, in the way that Mulvey says it does to women. Bleek is constantly being compartmentalizing by the camera. He is cast as a musical genius and a playboy, and both those categories make the audience understand and like him for his physical capabilities. The camera is consistently zooming into his lips while he plays– forcing the viewer to admire them. When is he not playing his instrument is he often hooking up with women and therefore other parts of his body are highlighted along side his lips: his eyes, his hands, and his chest specifically. The women in the movie are not sexualized nearly as much as Bleek is– which is a rarity in this period of film (late 20th century.) Lee’s use of the male gaze on Bleek deviceful and adds to his character development or lack thereof to be honest. It is not until the end of the movie that the audience gets the chance to see Bleek as more than just a player or a musician. He becomes a father and a husband. When he transitions into these roles then the camera stops viewing him in parts and starts showing him in more full body shots and as a complex individual that had a planned out past but now an unknown future.
What do we do when we see someone stumble? As for me, when it happens, I first hope that they’re okay (or at least I believe this about myself :B). Then, provided they are unharmed, I hope to laugh together with the person at what we both know was visually amusing. I apply this to my skateboarding falls/fails. Falling is an occupational hazard when one does something that requires balance. Standing and walking are the same. Conversation and dialogue are analogous. Continue reading “Trippin’”
It is made clear from the beginning of the movie that the men in School Daze are what the narrative centers around. Their inner struggles with identity that translate into their outward struggles of inclusion and exclusion from certain on campus groups are the heart of the film and the women in the movie are either subplot additions to their lives or carry weak storylines in comparison.
For example, the argument could could be made that the main characters are Dap, Big Brother Almighty, and Half Pint. Their personal struggles and issues with Mission affect all the characters in the film– and shape the plot line for everyone else. The female main characters (“main” meaning they have the most speaking lines and are closest to the male main characters) Jane and Rachel, receive their entire storylines in relation to the men in their life. For example, Rachel is dating Dap and they have been dating since their freshman year at college. She has always wanted to join a sorority but has always been afraid to do so because she knows Dap will disapprove. Thus, her inner struggle for most of the film stems from Dap’s own insecurity with fraternities and sororities. Her friends in the movie aren’t as obviously connected to male group on campus, but they are also never really shown. They are only around to comfort or confront Rachel about her relationship with Dap. Jane also falls under a male shadow. The only scene in the movie where she and her sorority are not made in immediate relation to Big Brother Almighty and his fraternity is the hair salon scene. Jane and her sorority sisters are made to look like the Gamma Rays little helpers, whether it is with the step show or during their pledging process. Their sorority exists because it validates the Gamma Ray fraternity. It is a shame that the women and their own struggles that are not in relation to boys are never explored fully. The full black woman experience at an HBCU is one worth analyzing and putting up on screen and I wish that Spike Lee had worked hard to do that.
Following Sal’s flirtatious interaction with Mookie’s sister, Jade, Mookie forcibly takes her around the corner of the pizzeria to speak with her. Mookie, visibly upset, demands that Jade stop visiting Sal’s because he believes Sal is courting her in an effort to “hide the salami”(1:14:46). At first glance, it seems that Mookie may just be uncomfortable with the notion of his boss being sexually attracted to his sister. However, by conducting a Mise-en-scène, it becomes apparent that Lee is making larger, social comment about interracial sexual relations in the late 1980s. During the entirety of the scene, the two characters are standing in front of a brick wall that has the words: “TAWANA TOLD THE TRUTH!” graffitied on it.