The film Do the Right Thing was a story of the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, New York. In this mostly African-American neighborhood, everything seemed to be peaceful at the beginning of the hottest day of the year.
The Italian-Americans that owned Sal's Famous Pizzeria opened the restaurant, Mookie, the African-American delivery boy for Sal's Famous Pizzeria, reported for work, and the rest of the neighborhood went about their daily business.
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Toward the middle of the day, Buggin Out, one of Mookie's friends, tried to get a boycott of Sal's pizzeria organized because there were no pictures of African-Americans on Sal's “Wall of Fame.” No one wanted to be a part of it, because they all loved Sal's Famous Pizzeria.
By the time night fell and the pizzeria was about to close for the night, Buggin Out got Radio Raheem to join in the boycott. After a fight started when Sal busted Radio Raheem's boom box, the entire neighborhood got involved.
When the police showed up, Mookie's friend was arrested, and, as the police were trying to subdue Radio Raheem, they accidentally strangled him to death. The police put Radio Raheem's body in the back of the police car and left. This act of violence made the neighborhood react violently toward Sal, who had nothing to do with how the police treated Radio Raheem.
Mookie was the first to throw a trash can through a window of the pizzeria. After that, people from the neighborhood stormed the restaurant, stealing the money, breaking everything inside before finally setting the pizzeria ablaze. Sal's Famous Pizzeria was gone.
The heat outside was a metaphor for the tensions that arose in the neighborhood. As the weather got hotter, the tension mounted. As people became agitated because of the heat, they also became agitated because of the underlying racial conflicts that seemed to infiltrate the neighborhood. When the heat rose to its hottest point, the tension boiled over, resulting in the death of Radio Raheem and the riot at Sal's Famous Pizzeria.
For example, at about the mid-point of the day, Da Mayor is confronted by a group of neighborhood teenagers. The teenagers ask Da Mayor why he gets to be the “mayor” and that he walks up and down the block like he owns it. They resort to calling him a fossil and a bum. Da Mayor replies that until they know how it feels not to be able to feed their families, they do not know him, or anything at all. From this scene, the tension got worse as the day got longer, resulting in the riot.
The heat was palpable; it was an entity that slowed the characters down and each were forced to overcome it. This entity was akin to a demon. It interfered with each person's conscience and forced each individual to make rash decisions.
In essence, the heat made the characters act out in the violent way that they did. If it were not for the extreme heat, perhaps the decisions would have been different, and the riot could have been avoided.
Several people “do the right thing” throughout the film. For example, Da Mayor does the right thing when he pushed the little boy out of the way of a speeding car, saving his life.
Mookie does the right thing when he escorts Buggin Out out of Sal's Famous Pizzeria when he started to get belligerent. Sal does the right thing when, even though Mookie started the riot, he pays Mookie what he owes him for his work the previous night.
However, in the events leading up to and during the riot, no one does the right thing. Sal broke the boom box, which resulted in him being attacked and Mookie threw the trash can through a window of the pizzeria, which resulted in a riot. In view of the bigger picture, Sal's pizzeria still burned down, Mookie is still out of a job, and the entire neighborhood is a little worse for wear.
Just because a couple of people did the right thing throughout the day does not mean that everything should be forgiven. The tension, like the heat, infected everyone like a sickness. People were already belligerent from the heat, and the accumulation of the day's events added fuel to the fire.
The riot turned into a race war. In the end, no one won. There was still a loss felt, for both Radio Raheem, who died at the hands of the police, and for a long-time member of the neighborhood, Sal's pizzeria.
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