This 25-Year-Old Reaction To 'Do The Right Thing' Still Pisses Spike Lee Off

Spike Lee arrives to the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN SANCHE
Spike Lee arrives to the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

As Spike Lee's film "Do The Right Thing" celebrates its 25th anniversary. The legendary director has reflected on the movie's groundbreaking approach to race relations and tensions in inner-city neighborhoods.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lee shared one of his least favorite memories: a response to the film that he classified as both unfair and racist.

I’ll tell you my least favorite: the reviews of David Denby and Joe Klein saying that black people were going to riot after seeing this film. That they [black people] weren’t intelligent enough to make the distinction between what's happening on screen and what happens in real life — so they would come out of theaters and riot all across America. You can Google it! Blood was going to be on my hands, and I was going to be personally responsible for David Dinkins not being the first African-American mayor [of New York City], because the primary was in that September. That still bugs the shit out of me. I know people might read this and say "Spike, move the fuck on," but I’m sorry — I can’t. They never really owned up to that, and when I think about it, I just get mad. Because that was just outrageous, egregious and, I think, racist. I don't remember people saying people were going to come out of theatres killing people after they watched Arnold Schwarzenegger films.

In his review, Denby wrote that the movie was "going to create an uproar, in part because [Lee]'s so thoroughly mixed up about what he's saying." He went on to say that Lee had created "the dramatic structure that primes black people to cheer the explosion as an act of revenge," and concluded, "If an artist has made his choices and settled on a coherent point of view, he shouldn't be held responsible, I believe, if parts of his audience misunderstand him. He should be free to be 'dangerous.' But Lee hasn't worked coherently. The end of this movie a shambles, and if some audiences go wild, he's partly responsible."

Read Spike Lee's full interview on Rolling Stone.

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