In America the African American community, the minority, can be viewed from a different point of view that allows Caucasians or any other majority to have many preconceived stereotypes that allow them to get a glimpse about what the community is about as a whole. These outlets such as the media, television, film, and even the music. Because of these outlets the negative stereotypes of the African American community affect them greatly and allow a gap of economic and social disparities that have been passed down from generation to generation and still can be seen today. These disparities allow other communities to be allowed advantages inside and outside of the community which at the end of the day still allows African Americans to have the short end of the stick.
In the movie, “Do the Right Thing”, which is set in the summer 1980’s Brooklyn, showcased the African American community in all of its glory from the kids playing in the fire hydrant, the boombox frequently playing the black social uprising song “Fight the Power, and stops to the local pizzeria. The pizzeria, which also allowed black business and the black customer but in the end, did not care for black people themselves can still be seen in the communities today, moving into the communities and promoting off of them while having separate prejudices. The rising heat of the summer added to the rising tensions between the community, the police force, and surroundings business, although the move being fiction is not too far off from what we saw back then and can see today. Before we go any further we must ask ourselves how the director allowed the portrayal of African Americans to be seen from the actions to their sense of style and other attributes which allowed them to be “them”. The director uses what we know as “Misenscene”, which according to the book is, “not just listening to dialogue but participate in a visual language which is connected to our specific discourses and ideologies about life. This includes hairstyles, colors, set designs, music, and more.” (Sanchez). One way we can see this is through the character “Radio Raheeem”, this was a character in which we received, as the audience, the message that there was a time for a revolution. We saw this through the gold-plated rings which spelt out the words “love” and “hate”, while also nonchalantly playing the song “fight the power” out of his boombox which eventually led to the demise of his character. The tension between the police in and out of the movie, especially at this point of time was at an all-time high, because of this it was almost as though blacks had to walk on egg shells and not express themselves by which we can see in the movie through music, style, and slang. The author says, “If our culture for example has stereotypical views about black people as violent, inferior, etc., then representation/images may place black characters in shadows and may change musical elements to indicate assumed characteristics.” (Sanchez). This can be also seen in Radio Raheems death, because of his stature on size police saw his more of a threat than he probably was, which led to his Demise.
Instead of portraying African Americans as the violent nature which is perpetuated by the media, this movie shed them in a light which should have been taken place a long time ago. We can see this in scenes such as the “fire hydrant” scene, where they enjoy each other’s company peacefully using the fire hydrant as a hose and wetting each other under scorching summer sun. This allowed for the director to show that just as any other group, they liked having fun without being persecuted or being breathed down the neck by law enforcement demonizing them every step they took. The essence of the scene took them out of everyday life and allowed them to enjoy the simple pleasures of life around them. The movie allowed the characters to express themselves vicariously through means of music, style, and self means. The realities of black inner city American is seen through this film, but only a taste from a broad reality in which they deal with much more.
- Sanchez, Tani. Understanding American Aspects in Hip Hop Cinema. Sent Publishing, 2018. Pg. 22, 23.