Popfilter Special Report: Watch a Movie for Social Justice
If you’ve visited the website for longer than 2 seconds, you get that the tone ranges from semi-serious reviews to the out-and-out farcical. We do our best to shy away from political discussions of any kind, as they are mostly total bummers. We try to be entertainment about entertainment, and (because we refuse to do it ourselves) don’t try to inspire our audience to think-critically about the socio-political world that surrounds us.
That being said, I’m going to recommend that everyone in the country watch Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. This film was released 25 years ago, but the news cycle as of late makes it incredibly topical and gives it a high cultural premium.
What is so profound about this film is the rate at which it portrays racially-charged tensions accelerating into violence. The first two thirds of the movie barely touch on racial tension, or handles it in an absurd way, but the third act explodes with it. Racial tension is represented as a super-charged thing that isn’t always visible, but is constantly boiling subdermally. It’s like a river of lava bubbling half a mile below the surface of the earth. It’s got several megatonnage of potential energy, and when the right amount of pressure is applied, all hell breaks loose.* The catalyst that initiates the violence is almost hard to nail down. Sure, the excessive and unnecessary use of deadly force by the police plays a major role, but it’s not the genesis of these catastrophic events. There’s a monster hiding under the bed of the community that’s responsible for what happens.
This movie is a quarter of a century old, yet it deals with issues we have barely begun to comprehend, and should stop pretending like its not happening. There has been so much discussion about what happened in Ferguson and now the tragedy of Eric Garner. This movie is a great example of how art holds a mirror up to society and shows the ugly truth we don’t always want to see. Do the Right Thing doesn’t have the answers, but it promotes understanding, something that’s so important for a society trying to wrap its head around its own demons. The truth is, we are all responsible for what happened to Eric Garner/Mike Brown/countless others; we’ve all got blood on our hands. And we’ve got to own the responsibility. This movie gives a voice to a fictional community where almost the exact circumstances of these incidents happened. The police, though major players in the injustice, are not the only problem and to stop with them doesn’t address the real problems. The poison has long been steeping in the tea kettle we all drink from. If we refuse to recognize the ways in which our society doesn’t work, how are we ever suppose to put an end to the violence?
*Scientifically speaking, this is not exactly how volcanoes work. I worded it that way for metaphor. See your local 6th grade science teacher for more information on volcanoes.