This paper analyses how directors have achieved realism in the two films and further explores how the distinct film styles and politics relate in these two films.
Spike Lee’s assertion that his films “tell it like it is” means that his films are a representation of the reality in terms of what happens in the real world. This means that what the characters in his films do, say, or experience is a reality of what really happens in the lives of the people that the characters represent and this notion is commonly referred to as realism. Although separated by a whole 15 years in their production, Do the Right Thing produced by Spike Lee and henceforth referred to as DTRT, and Paul Haggis’s 2004 Crash, the two films resonate in their style of production. Dualism and realism are used to highlight the roles that prejudices and stereotyping play when making interpretation of the actions of others. The two films culminate with a worthless violent demise of an innocent Black man (Pospíšil, n.d.). This paper analyses how directors have achieved realism in the two films and further explores how the distinct film styles and politics relate in these two films.
In order to determine the consequences of style in films, I will explore these two films in relation to film style and politics in the setting of these films. These two ensembles bagged various accolades including Academy Awards and Oscars amongst other awards. The directors have used these oeuvres to exemplify serious and motivated determinations to take on racial plights in the US (Pospíšil, n.d.). These two films directs attention to the various socio-political tensions and frictions that arise due to the interaction of persons of diverse races, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures within the urbane settings in the US. I am going to use 8 scholarly articles and one magazine article to illustrate how Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Haggis’s Crash explores the notion of “telling as it is” and how the distinct film styles and politics are related in these two films.
Black films, commonly referred to as race films, although previously present, became prevalent between the 80s and 90s and Spike Lee was constantly a common figure. Lee, in fact, featured in most posters including the “class of 91” which was a cover of a film which encompassed many young and black individuals. This was a transient period where Hollywood and other productions embraced black production. The film production at the time began portraying the adept situation of the African Americans from the perspective of the blacks themselves. However, the roles that the blacks played did not exactly give black stories and Hollywood let them play different and insignificant roles. Therefore, Spike Lee’s DTRT surprisingly became a success in using dualism and realism to clearly depict racial issues that are apparently present in Paul Haggis’s Crash (Rose, 2016).
Dualism entails the use of two opposing ideologies of characters in different sides who will give insights into their notions and perspectives about the other. This strategy has been successfully employed in the two films by use of characters of different races. Its success has been the ability of the characters to freely engage from their own context and from their interactions with those of the opposing sides clearly illustrate reality. Just as Spike Lee asserts that his films “tell it as it is” his film categorically gives the reality of the situation. The instances of dualism in Lee’s film include; antagonism between Sal, an Italian pizzeria owner, and Mookie, his black employee representing two politically opposing sides of black and white. Marxist dualism in terms of property ownership also is evident in the kind of people Sal’s pizzeria serves (Lightning, 2012).
There is also a conflicting perspective of Martin Luther King versus those of Malcolm X. where Mookie is caught in the middle of deciding to engage violent activism as advocated by the latter perspective or a pacifist approach as advocated by the former. Further, the theme of peace and conflict is evident in the hip-hop song “Fight the Power” and the host of “We Love”. Sal’s character is given in two perspective where he is compassionate and friendly towards the blacks but when provoked utters racial slurs. The emotions of one race are depicted in a dualism where Pino, a racist son is distrustful of Mookie while Sal and Vito seem more sympathetic and forgiving towards Mookie. Da Mayor who is initially depicted as a very nice fellow is later depicted as a racist when he utters racial comments in a store belonging to a Korean couple. Buggin’ Out who questions Sal’s idea of placing white pictures on the walls instead of blacks who are his customers depicts another duality of Sal (Spike, 1989).
On the other hand, Paul Haggis’s Crash uses a series of interlocking scenes of the interaction of characters of different race, class, religious backgrounds, and gender dualistically where individuals of different extremes come together to form consciousness. The film challenges the imaginations and intellectual capacity of the audiences depending on their perception of the events. The two detectives, a black male and a Latino woman represent two aspects of race and gender. The black males failure to step out of the vehicle with a philosophical perspective against that of Ria, his partner quick and decisive approach to the accident gives two opposing sides (Haggis, 2004). The racial dualism is best played by the female detective and the Asian driver woman in their utterances that depict their differences that are racial. Dualistic behaviors are evident in Crash in how the characters of different races do some things such as locking gates, buying guns, and harboring prejudiced beliefs about others. Specifically, when the Asian father and daughter speak in their language in front of a racially different gun dealer, the dealer gets agitated and throws racial vitriols at them. The two men represent different views on nationality and race (Stewart, 2007).
When two African-American young males are walking and talking about how they were treated in a coffee shop, there is a duality in their views. An uptown Caucasian couple walking towards them creates a very dualistic scenario. The woman pulls close to her husband to the detriment of the two young black men who throw a stereotype that they are respected because of the guns they have and confirm the fears of the woman as they steal the couple’s car. This represents a racial duality that is intertwined in reality. Upon reporting the stolen car, the next scene ushers in an officer who racially and physically abuses a black couple asserting his prejudice for their status and wealth (Stewart, 2007). Later on, gender duality is depicted by the black man’s wife who accuses him of failing to protect her. Further, as Haggis’s tells the audience the reason behind Officer Ryan’s behavior, he juxtaposes his initial views dually when Ryan helps a black woman trapped in a vehicle. One cannot make a clear view of the reality in Ryan’s decisions (Haggis, 2004).
Through the use of duality, Crash depicts that the antagonistic differences have a potential of revelation and redemption. By use of accounts of blacks, whites, browns, and yellows who interact within Los Angeles, Crash does not exactly show how hatred can be resolved but shows how the violations can lead to connectedness (Flory, 2015). Crash uses duality in subtle allegories between the different characters of varied races, gender, and socioeconomic status to show that people from these different backgrounds can have some sense of connectedness. Spike Lee, on the other hand, being an activist uses his cinematic presentations including Do the Right Thing as an avenue to showcase these ills of racism. By using a certain cinematic aspect where dualism meets reality, Lee has been able to connect cinematic typecasting, representative short-hand for villainy, liability, and violence vis-à-vis actual world police brutality and politics of race (Diawara, 2000).
Both Lee’s and Haggis’s films present the US’s cultural plurality in a dualism which emphasizes realism. The films highlight the various gaps existing across different sections of the communities. They both illustrate the way in which negative stereotyping of others affects the day-to-day interaction amongst the different groups (Shohat, n.d.). Within the scope of complex racial world, ethnical and cultural plurality, these two films give one basic opposition of the white populace which with its massive power dominates the rest of the races and ethnic groups. In Lee’s film, Sal represents the white domination in his pizzeria. In Haggis’s film politics, power, authority, and media are dominated by whites who maintain their influence over others by adept manipulations of racial slurs of the population and using the media to stereotype others. The two films depict the police figures as a bigoted and racist lot who subjugate and even kills innocent blacks (Palis, 2018).
The two films, Doing the Right Thing and Crash can be taken as voices that pass a vital message that warns people on the impasse that a society can get to in case it ignores divisions resulting from the racial pluralism and let manipulators take domination in sociopolitical aspects (Flory, 2015). Crash in its promotion of cultural awareness shows reality subtly unlike DTRT. Lee’s DTRT presents important cinematic assets where characters have got an inner logistic, consistent, and high verisimilitude. Crash predominantly uses extreme levels of racial stereotyping and violence to affirm its position. The symbolist style employed by Lee in his film sets it as a useful tool where avenues of resolving disputes for blacks can be found from the characters’ behaviors (Valdez, 2016).
The use of dualism where voices and discourses are used is rife in Lee’s film (Lightning, 2012). Even though is less reference of feministic approach in his film, the staging of interracial and community rhetorics has successfully given the audience and the characters a chance to synthesize two sides of realism. These two films analyzed here have covered various aspects of society from racism, economic status, politics, power, authority, domination, and education. It is only by delving into the issues of the society can the reality be well understood which Lee and Haggis have successfully done (Shohat, n.d.). Dualism aids in giving an insightful perspective of a certain group of people upon which interrelationships can be successfully formed which take into consideration the others. Spike Lee and Paul Haggis have in fact, “told as it is” in their films by use of realism and dualism concerning socio-political plights in the societies that their films are based on.