This past Monday, June 30, marked 25 years since the heavily controversial release of Spike Lee’s third feature Do The Right Thing. Prior to its premiere, film critic David Denby and political reporter Joel Klein wrote editorials expressing fear that screenings of the film would cause violent outbursts. None happened of course, but 25 years later, Lee’s film still makes an impact emotionally. Revisiting the film, it is shocking to see how ahead of its time it is, predicting the debates that have taken over much of the daily conversation in NYC.
Known more today for his outbursts against gentrification in Brooklyn and as the New York Knicks’ number one supporter than a filmmaker, Lee is actually one of the most outspoken and prolific filmmakers in American cinema. Fearless about his beliefs in public and in his work, his early filmography focused heavy on racial and gender issues in academics and in the community. Raised in Fort Greene and obtaining a film degree from NYU, Lee’s pride of his home city is obvious to anyone who has heard him speak in the past few months.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s vision, Stuyvesant Avenue, the Brooklyn street on which the film is set and shot, was renamed “Do the Right Thing Way” and hosted a block party last Saturday. We took a trip down Do the Right Thing Way, revisiting locations in Lee’s powerful and controversial film.
1. Mookie’s House
The entire film takes place on the hottest day of the summer, in one particular Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. Spike Lee stars as Mookie, a young black man working as a delivery boy for the neighborhood pizzeria. He lives with and is supported by his sister Dawn, on whom the pizzeria owner Sal seems to have a little crush. The brother and sister live in a brownstone at 173 Stuyvesant Avenue, which looks completely unchanged today.