Throughout this semester, I think that the most common misgiving that people have vocalized in regards to Spike Lee is his perception on black women. At best, he engages in bad feminism, and at worst, he hates black women. He does not afford black women the same complexities that he gives men, and he’s more inclined to redefine black masculinity over discussing problems relating to black women. The movies that elicited this response the most were Mo’ Better Blues, School Daze, and his most recent film Chi-Raq, and there were also problems with female representation in Malcolm X and Get On The Bus. Continue reading “Future Projects Laced with Past Mistakes”
Satire needs to have a cutting point. It needs intention, and in this film, the intention was unclear. That being said, we identified scenes interspersed throughout when Lee used form to make statements about power. When the men sneak into the armory to unlock the chastity belts, Old Duke decides to challenge Lysistrata. He insults her, asking the women “to be polite… bow down to the man.” Rather than give in, Lysistrata attacks the men’s masculinity. The sound design of the scene is important: we hear her heels but not his footsteps. When she smacks Old Duke, all of the men seem physically affected when their heads flinch. This is an exceptional scene from the film, and by that we mean both powerful, and an exception. We found Chi-Raq’s ending to be too digestible, and out of touch with reality. The film isn’t grounded in reality, but we are.
Throughout the film, we see women of color use their sexuality as a weapon.
This past weekend was a weekend of commemoration and appreciation. Specifically, this was a weekend of women empowerment. I attended three separate events that celebrated and/or commemorated the female body, mind, soul, and courage, which made me feel am immense sense of pride and empowerment.
This screenshot from Mo Better Blues urges viewers to think critically about the role of women in Bleek’s life, and in the context of other men in the film.
The women in Do The Right Thing are so stereotyped that their supposed allegories dominate their identity to the point where character development is loss. Characters such as Mother Sister, Jade, and Tina (Mookie’s baby mama) all signify both stereotypes of women of color and work as prophetic storytellers for the men in their lives. Their dialogues and roles revolve around typical preconceived notions of women, meaning these women are usually forgiving, caring, and committed to the men and children in their life. Following these stereotypes up, these women also fulfill preconceived notions of women of color: they are bold in speech, strong, and stubborn. They especially exemplify these qualities when they are around the men in their lives. Mother Sister is always strong and stubborn with Da Mayor, Tina is always stubborn and bold with Mookie, and Jade is also always bold and stubborn with Mookie. The women offer interesting and different perspectives to their male counterparts but they are always seeped in “women of color stereotypes” that sometimes make their commentary less effective in message. For example, Tina will be screaming at Mookie so much that the viewer will pay less attention to what she is saying and more to her outward emotional appearance.
This could perhaps be the point though, that what they say is not so important as how they say it. I think Spike Lee likes the “aesthetics” of black women and finds a special comfort in their strength, how they don’t take nonsense from anyone. So much so that he wrote Mother Sister, Jade, and Tina’s roles for the purpose of providing specific kind of emotional support for the men in their lives.
I want to talk about how Spike Lee treats women in this film as it has been a persistent topic of conversation in class. First of all, I thought he portrayed them as sexually empowered in their own right without objectifying. Teyonah Parris especially, shone on screen. You don’t often find darker skinned women getting the beauty nod by Hollywood (eh hem Halle Berry, Beyonce, it’s all been said before), but Spike Lee puts her up there and you don’t even think about it. She is beautiful, and strong, and just the right amount of everything. Her character is neither too much, in fact, maybe a little too little. I agree that Chi-raq got more of a triumphant moment at the end, in that we attribute the change a little more to him than we should. She started the movement and it should be her in triumph. However, she was already there, ready for change, and he was not. Just because she triumphed earlier does not lessen the significance of the act. I hope I see her in more roles, she is absolutely amazing.
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.
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.