Five Things We Learned From Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing

The iconic joint is plays Dubai's Cinema Akil this weekend

Five Things We Learned From Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing
Yaseen Dockrat

Thirty three years ago this weekend, Spike Lee shook the film world when he released Do the Right Thing a story of racial tension amongst diverse communities set on a hot-as-heck Brooklyn summer’s day.

Until that moment the Atlanta-born director had earned great indie acclaim, but this was the joint that introduced him to the mainstream film world. Do The Right Thing received two Oscar nominations and won several other awards. It also netted nearly $40million – on just a $6 million budget. Perhaps even more impressively it retains a relevance across fashion and social consciousness almost 40 years later.

If you haven’t seen it – or need to see it again on the big screen – Dubai Indie spot Cinema Akil is showing it this weekend and beyond. But before you get to grips with Bed-Stuy’s much-imitated street style, here’s the YUNG guide to an American icon.

It was the first to hype streetwear

Spike did as much as anyone not named Michael Jordan to popularise Air Jordans. It’s that scene where Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito) gets his trainers scuffed by the white guy in the Larry Bird jersey. The scene is not only an important point in the film but also packed with symbolism. Back in 2017, Jordan released a limited-edition version of the Air Jordan IV Do The Right Thing, complete with its own “scuff”.

It’s the film that made Spike Lee

Do The Right Thing launched him towards mainstream stardom – whether Lee wanted it or not. The film gained critical acclaim as one of the finest films of that year, later featuring in the top 10 films of the decade. It’s been on pretty much every worthwhile list of must-watch movies ever since.

It predicted Brooklyn’s Gentrification

In the 1980s, Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy was a predominantly black and Latino area. Lee’s forecast of the arrival of gentrification that would overtake the borough is seen in the stand-off between Buggin’ Out and the ‘colonizer’, a face that is seen for the first time in the neighbourhood. The unnamed outsider claims Brooklyn as his birthplace but his air of entitlement and disregard for its residents is the same dialogue involving gentrification to this day.

Mookie’s signature Dodgers jersey and the arrival of streetwear

Grailed streetwear is central to Mookie’s style in the film. Mookie (Spike Lee) sports a Jackie Robinson jersey that serves as one of the most iconic looks in the film. While throwback jerseys weren’t a staple when Do The Right Thing first aired, they became a fixture in the ’90s.

Do the Right Thing

It showed racial conflict in communities

Lee’s commentary on racial stereotypes in the film is dynamic. The film explores universal stereotypes that different races and ethnic groups have against one another. In a portion of the film, several characters spew these tired insults into the camera. While the slurs are broken up by Mister Senor Love Daddy, the scene highlights prejudice, stereotypes and slurs that are prevalent in all ethnic groups.