I watched Do the Right Thing again a few weeks ago. In some ways it seems very much the product of 1989 that it is (Rosie Perez's dance scene in the opening credits, Spandex biker shorts on every man, woman and child); in most ways it holds up very well. To borrow from Spike Lee, who will remember Driving Miss Daisy in 20 years?
The movie was not well-received by white critics at the time. New York Magazine recently revisited former NYMag columnist Joe Klein's notorious prediction that the film would spark riots among black audiences upon its release. Spike Lee remembers it not-so-fondly:
New York’s former political columnist Joe Klein and its former film critic David Denby had very strong reactions.Klein's original article doesn't seem to be available, but this Time article from Richard Corliss titled "Hot Time in Bed-Stuy Tonight" is.
One of the big criticisms was that I had not provided an answer for racism in the movie, which is insane. And what’s even more insane is people like Joe Klein and David Denby felt that this film was going to cause riots. Young black males were going to emulate Mookie and throw garbage cans through windows. Like, “How dare you release this film in summertime: You know how they get in the summertime, this is like playing with fire.” I hold no grudges against them. But that was twenty years ago and it speaks for itself.
Everywhere, the film has polarized white liberals for whom Bed-Stuy is as exotic and unknowable as Burkina Faso. Some see Lee as the movies' great black hope; others tut till they're tuckered. A few fear that Do the Right Thing could trigger the kind of riot it dramatizes and perhaps condones.I doubt white liberals were the only ones with opinions on the film, but they seem to be the only ones whose opinions were discussed in contemporaneous newsmagazine columns.
I don't know why it is but columnists never seem to expend much ink worrying about the "shenanigans" of white sports fans, for instance, these in Boston after the Celtics won the NBA championship on Tuesday (via).
Love of basketball causes drunken sports fans to riot--Richard Cohen or David Brooks better get on this alarming social trend right away ...