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.