Do the Right Thing in Sound and Color
Do The Right Thing locates African-American populated area in Brooklyn, during a hot heatwave. With the heat, the racism intensity rise throughout the film. Viewers, as third-person viewed observers, follow multiple characters intense conflicts by following an African American boy who works in the Italian white-owned restaurant. The film starts with characters waking up and climaxes with a huge riot after police officers accidentally kill a young black man, Radio Raheem. Without following one particular character, audiences spectates the flow of intensity buildup in Brooklyn through various perspectives, but in one common lens, Racism. The director, Spike Lee, uses color to illustrate tensions ends up as violence and tragedy. He ,by using warm and cool colors, increase the clarity of emotional journey throughout the film.
Primarily, it emphasizes the hot weather with red tones. Red, as a main color, visually dramatize the eagering heat and emotion at once. In the opening scene, Rosie Perez dances wearing a red costume by “Fight the Power,”. Major colors like blues and reds explosively glows with yellow light pours through windows. The vibrant colors make strong emotional exaggeration. Red tones maintain the hot mood of heat not only in the place but also in the storyline. By time goes, darker tone alternates the yellow bright lights. T
his use of color tells both time process and emotional climax process. When Sal’s pizzeria set on fire, light contrast between the darkness and the flames carries the rage of the people because of the death. However, the color is not used only in one side. It also stresses Sal and Vito’s emotions of anger about losing their place and home . The mise-en-scene of color shows up in almost every scene of the film such as the brightly colored cars, brown buildings, Buggin’ Out and his group wearing bright orange and all the neighborhood. However, when the white man shows up with a green shirts, it distinct the character automatically from the rest by the color.
The difference is emphasized in whe Buggin’ Out and his friends wearing the warm colors while the Vito is wearing the cool green color. Not only the backgrounds and the props but costume colors are also significant in this film. Like what “Robin Hood” did by using Red, Blue, and Green colors, the clothings emphasize the weather and moreover, the relationships between the characters. While Buggin’ Out and his group wears the warm tone clothings, Italian workers at Sal’s wear either plain white or some cool tone costumes.
Even in the same group , unlike Sal and Vito, Pino switches from a all-black to a white t-shirt redolent for work. Unlike any others, Mookie shows his independence through wearing a uniform that has plain white background with red tone points. The role of costume in Do The Right Thing is not just for a scene-setting, however, it underscores the theme and structure. But color isn’t the only tool that Lee used to guide the audiences. There were different types of sounds in Do the Right Thing.
In various scenes, different sounds such as effects, background music, and dialogue set the mood and tone of the storyline. Jazz and hip hop music, especially, the Public Enemy’s song called, Fight the Power is working as a main thesis of the film, that point right at the topic that Spike Lee wants to tell. The song is playing when Radio Raheem brings it in the store as a protest against the disrespect to the Black people. “Fight the Power” speaks to these microaggressions, racism, and all the division of the society that is depicted in the story of “Do the Right Thing”.
The main song, “Fight the Power” is thus a rage from one side of the group, while also a reaction from the other to survive from the rage. With on going song melody, audiences experience a semi-hypnotism of thinking “the Right Thing” as a “fight against the power”. Not only the song but the sound effects are critical in the movie. It climaxes when the rage overflows and people burn the pizza restaurant, background noise of yelling, throwing, fighting, and chanting brings audiences into the crowd of the scene and let them experience the moment, feel like they are part of the movement that characters generate.
All the above techniques blend clearly in a particular scene which begins with the sound of Latin drums through the radio in front of Puerto Rican Latinos in their region. The colorful shirts of Latinos explains that they are not the majority, however, also not either Black, White, or even Asian. Ironically they are having a debate of the beauty of their land, non-warm colored tone of the scene separates their culture from the Black majority region.
At this point, before the camera pin to Raheem, the sound of “Fight the Power” already introduces the character through the sound. Even after the music, without showing Raheem’s face, the clothings, color of his skin, color of his clothing, costume of him creates the distinct atmosphere in the scene. More than his face, costume, color, and sound identify a single character from the group of the others. And at the end, instead of any physical touch or challenge, the volume of two music that represents the culture, and “group” in this movie compete one another until Raheem’s radio win the battle. Ironically, even if it’s the same use of the same song “Fight the Power”, the song put Black culture as a dominating position against the Hipics.
At this point, audiences are manipulated to think that the fight for the power achieve its goal, which creates a bigger tension later when the riot faces White majority dominance and the violence from the police. As the sound of Latin music gets smaller, the no dialogue but the music leads a one big part of the storyline and brings even an emotion of happiness and success. Raheem then turns up even more and totally drowns out the salsa. This short scene, depicts that the racism isn’t a one way thing but a multilateral topic. Moreover it shows how music can just lead the story without having any major dialogue between the two characters.
In the climax, Raheem plays the radio, Sal breaks it with his bat. Warm versus Cold tone and the cold tone of the color dragged into the darkness by the bright red tone colors. Chaotic sound effects and yelling increases the tension. Every little detail of the color and sound creates higher and higher tension, yet the movie ends with an open ending, just throwing the question of who’s right and who’s wrong. But while the audiences leave the theater with debating himself/herself about the meaning of the movie, they won’t realize how the sound and color guided them throughout the film without being unrealistic or hyper-exaggerated, instantly.