Spike Lee has done it again! He’s made a movie that has pissed some people off. The man who garnered iconic status for his thought-provoking, in your face, knock you upside your head black conscious projects back in the early 80s to late 90s has not deviated from his brand of cinematic flavor, all of which has always made him a source of irritation for the Hollywood film industry.
Well, now Lee is back with his film BlacKKKlansman (produced by Jordan Peele), but this time around, it’s quite a few black folk that are irritated and extremely bothered by what they feel is a way too gentle approach to his signature storytelling. From Do The Right Thing, to Malcolm X to School Daze and more, you could always expect to leave “A Spike Lee Joint” fired up and ready to justifiably slap a white jerk in the face, but instead be inspired to “fight the powers that be” without lifting one little finger. BlackKKKlansman didn’t do that for a good amount of black critics, including some really disappointed black fans. Yet, white film critics, and both the Sundance and Cannes film festivals are all giving it a thumbs up. What’s that about?
|Spike Lee & John David Washington|
BlacKKKlansman was based on a true story. “Based” typically indicates that there is freedom and discretion for the filmmaker to adapt a true story, using his own better judgement in order to incorporate some creative embellishments that move the main point along in a captivating way. Personally, I think Lee filled those empty spaces brilliantly. He told the story about a black undercover cop named Ron Stallworth (played by Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington) who infiltrated the KKK with the help of his white partner back in the 70s. True story. He also infused some very obvious, yet subtle similarities between the times of old (from slavery, lynchings and racist leadership) to the Trump presidency, its jacked up administration, and the reality that not much has changed in the America that was not so great in the first place. Another true story. And even though managing to merge two separate truths from two separate time zones into a 2-hour movie is a humongous undertaking, Spike Lee did it with flying colors! However, none of that stopped his mini-me wanna-be Sorry to Bother You director, Boots Riley, from complaining that he should’ve not only stuck to script, but should’ve given a harsher portrayal of police injustice and systemic racism. Sooooo, showing actual pictures of real lynchings and burnings of black people ain’t “harsh” enough?…Clearly pinpointing how such brutality is based upon baseless stereotypes and ignorance that is beyond embarrassing for white racists is “way too soft”…and Harry Belafonte’s detailed account of seeing his teenage friend tortured to death left you feeling warm and fuzzy all over? Look Boots, even the Gospel of Jesus Christ was told from four different perspectives, highlighting what each disciple CHOSE to emphasize. Yet none of them failed to establish the consistencies that mattered most; that God was real and Jesus was His Son. Spike too, chose what he wanted to emphasize, all while establishing the consistencies that mattered most; that racism was real and that Trump was the modern-day David Duke, the KKK’s puppet of choice. No, it doesn’t have the guns blazing, murderous fantasies of Django or anything like that, but BlacKKKlansman does manage to leave a really bad taste in one’s mouth, even after laughing at the movie’s plot twist. Mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned.
The Apostle Paul had to put Peter on blast that one time he rolled into town (Galatians 2:11-21). ‘Cause Paul got a glimpse of some racist nonsense and he wasn’t about to let it go down. See, Peter conjured up in his own cocky mind that being born a Jew made him privileged. And being called to follow Jesus only cemented his wacky claim, since Jesus was Jewish too. Now, Peter was chosen to lead Gentiles to Christ, but he considered them very low class. So Peter was like, “Aaaaiiiight Jesus, whatever you say, but I won’t be fraternizing, uh uh no way!” Only on certain occasions would he sit with them after he preached, and when his homies came around, he’d start frontin’ and leave. So that’s when Paul had had enough, and he went over to Peter like, “Yo, what’s up?!” Sadly, Peter’s issue still popped up now and then, but he knew not to pull that crap around Paul ever again!
Clearly racism is something that goes way back and is an evil that has to be confronted. But no one can say our way won’t work and we shouldn’t judge someone else’s effort either. Instead, let’s just keep the fact in mind that we all have a role to play, and whether it’s through movies, a book, a speech or a play, we all have something valuable to say.