Do the Right Thing (Real life inspiration) Viewer

After seeing the movie Doing the Right Thing, I was extremely curious on whether the film was based on a true story or was it entirely fictional. Upon some research, I realized that Do the Right Thing is actually based on the Howard Beach incident that happened on December 20, 1986. If you want to learn more about the incident, feel free to read more about it here.,their%20neighbourhood%20for%20being%20black.

Upon read more about the Howard Beach incident, I realized that while there are similarities that parallel between the two incidents, there are also a lot of differences. Firstly, let’s dive deep into what actually happened at the Howard Beach incident.

Essentially, a group of white youths, led by teenager John Lester and Jason Ladone, commenced a racially motivated attack upon three black men outside a Pizza Parlor. One of the three black men, Michael Griffith, was severely beaten, and later died after accidentally getting struck by a motorcycle. This is the character that Radio Raheem was based on in the film. However, there is a significant difference between the two’s deaths. In the film, Radio Raheem first commenced an unprovoked harassment against Sal, and after Sal broke his boombox, he even attempted to murder Sal by choking him to death. Granted, the police officers that arrived later did escalate the situation and killed Raheem with a level of force that was unnecessary – an example of police brutality. Compared that to the Howard Beach incident, Michael Griffith did not die due to police brutality but because of a blatant racially motivated attack. After this attack happened, black civil rights activist Al Sharpton organized several protests in Howard Beach and nearby neighborhoods. Additionally, Ministers Floyd Flake and Herbert Daughtry and activist Sonny Carson urged boycotts of white-owned businesses and pizzerias. This is most likely where the concept of boycotting Sal’s pizzeria came from.

Looking at the difference, one can even interpret that Spike Lee was comparing the police officers to the likes of the white youths that led the attack. Although the police officers are supposedly mature adults who are the guardians of peace, their actions mirror those of the white youths who blatantly attacks other based on their skin color. Even more interestingly, although the film was made in 1989, the issue of police brutality is echoed numerous times in the future, especially in 2020 during the murder of George Floyd. The impact of this film is long lasting and will continue to have an important place in film history.

If you want to learn more about things that inspired the making of this legendary film, feel free to check them out here.,the%20predominantly%20Italian%2DAmerican%20community.

One thought on “Do the Right Thing (Real life inspiration) Viewer

  1. This was an incredibly insightful find from you David. I had never heard of the Howard Beach incident before, and the parallels you point out are shocking. The main change that Spike Lee made was the inclusion of police brutality in the film, rather than a fight between civilians being escalated. As you mentioned, the images on screen are eerily similar to the videos of George Floyd’s death in 2020, despite the fact that this movie was released more than 30 years prior to that tragic incident in Minnesota. When watching the film, and seeing Radio Raheem being choked and restrained, my mind immediately went to the death of George Floyd. I think that it is remarkable and heart breaking that Spike Lee’s film has such relevance more than a quarter of a century after its release. The fact that it was based on past events, and the fact that it mirrors events that came after its release is very telling of its importance as both a film and a social commentary. I wonder what other moments in the film are drawn from past events, and which other moments have been repeated since.

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