Many believe that the classical Hollywood narrative ceased to exist during the 1970s, however a number of films have been made in the same structure since then. The Classical Hollywood Narrative structure usually centers on decisions, choices, and qualities of the main character or characters. It begins with an explanation of the character including their personality and their problem. After that, the problem arises until it climaxes in conflict. During this time, the character may experience a change in their values and/or attitude.
The Classical Hollywood Narrative normally ends with the main character’s issue having been resolved. The Classic American film, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing is a perfect example of a film which has a debatable narrative structure. Although Do The Right Thing ventures away from the conventional expectations of Classical Hollywood Narrative structure, it still possesses many of the qualities. Do The Right Thing has a Classical Hollywood Narrative structure, it displays this in a different way, however it remains in the category.
Like the majority of Classical Hollywood Narratives, Do The Right Thing begins with the introduction of its characters including the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where it takes place. DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy is used as the common denominator throughout the film between the different characters and their personal issues. His introduction describing the extreme heatwave gives insight to factors that would affect the characters emotions and reactions throughout the film. The second commonality between Classical Hollywood structure and Do The Right Thing is mise-en-scene.
The story takes place in a realistic neighborhood that plays as much a part of the movie as the characters do. The designs, from the setting of the neighborhood to the costumes, are true to life which is most common in classical Hollywood movies. Though most movies in this category have appointments or deadlines, the only appointment present in this film is Mookie getting his check after work. This event is reiterated throughout the movie to express the significance of the check to Mookie’s goal. The final parallel between classical films and Do The Right Thing is that it has two related story lines which are common in Hollywood films.
Although characters in Classical Hollywood Narratives tend to focus on one problem with one or more people being involved, Do The Right Thing has several characters with different problems that all intertwine at the climax of the story. Mookie and Buggin Out both have goals they pursue throughout the film even though they fade in and out of importance to the storyline. Mookie is just looking to make money and provide for his girlfriend and family while Buggin Out wants Black heroes on the wall of fame in Sal’s Pizzeria.
There is a common feeling of strain between Sal’s family and the community that most of the characters in the film relate to. Do The Right Thing has several elements that differentiate it from the Classical Hollywood Narrative. One of the most obvious differences is that there is no specific or precise goal for the characters to achieve. Classical Hollywood Narratives usually have clear, concise objectives that start a conflict that causes a character clash. Instead, the characters’ goals are indefinite and long term.
Although several of the characters have minor goals they would like to accomplish, like Da Mayor predicting that Mother Sister will eventually befriend him or Buggin Out’s plan to get Black heroes like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. on the wall at Sal’s, the goals are not consistent to the plot. Mookie also has a goal of making money by working at Sal’s Pizzeria, but it is never specified what his goal is with the money once he receives it. The audience does not know whether he will use the money to take care of his family or to get a home with his girlfriend and son and to move out of his sister’s apartment.
They leave open ended questions and goals that are not clearly accomplished. This is standard for social problem films especially those involving sexual and cultural disagreements; the current conflict has been resolved, however the catalyst of the problem still remains. Two of these characters’ goals dissolve in and out of importance during the course of the film unlike Mookie’s persistent objective. Buggin Out’s goal simmers after several people turned down his offer to boycott Sal’s Pizzeria stating that they ‘grew up on that stuff. ’ Da Mayor has several scenes of bad luck with Mother Sister until the burning of Sal’s in the last scene.
These goals are not vital to the storyline of a day in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Though several factors could deem Do The Right Thing as anything but a classical American film, it still upholds the structure and meaning of Classical Hollywood Narrative. To begin with, Do The Right Thing has a multi-plot storyline that leads to a causal climax motivated by the previous scenes. Everything that happens at the film’s climax when Radio Raheem is murdered by the police officer and Sal’s Pizzeria is trashed and burned to its foundation is a direct result of events that transpired in the story.
The cops kill Radio Raheem because of existing racial tensions in the neighborhood and due to frustrations from being called there earlier when the neighborhood kids soaked a white man’s car with a fire hydrant. For several scenes, Buggin Out urged his neighbors to boycott Sal’s Pizzeria because of their internal racism; however the problem did not come to the surface until after Radio Raheem is killed. Although specifics in the structure of Do The Right Thing differ from the Classical Hollywood Narrative structure, it still follows the most basic guidelines of the genre.
The movie begins with the introduction of the neighborhood and main character Mookie like most classical American films. After the initial introduction, several minor conflicts arise that culminate into the climax. After the climax, the problems in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood are placated for the present time. While it is not clear if the conflict is completely resolved, the neighborhood resumes a sense of calm and normalcy. The fact that Do The Right Thing is a social problem film makes the lack of problem resolution normal.
In conclusion, Do The Right Thing is a classical American film that depicts the Classical Hollywood Narrative structure with obvious stylistic differences. This film is an American classic that beckons the audience to discuss problems between races, sexes, and classes and to ask questions about methods to resolve these conflicts. Like the most definitive films with Classical Hollywood Narrative structure, Do The Right Thing presents a character, Mookie and the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood that centers on a specific conflict which is racial tension.
Though the conflict is not one that can be easily defined due to its broad nature, it still exists throughout the storyline. Although there are a large number of vital characters for a classical film, they are brought together through the narrator, DJ Mr. Senor Love Daddy who connects separate events because the whole community listens to the same radio show. The DJ also connects the heatwave in the beginning of the film to the events that conspired over the short time span to the end of the film with a dedication to Radio Raheem.
He links the characters by being the voice of reason throughout the movie. DJ Mr. Senor Love Daddy’s last line, ‘Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live? ’ adds to the common theme and question of the film. Like Classical Hollywood Narrative structure, but distinctive to the social-problem genre of film, Do The Right Thing leaves the conflict resolved although incompletely. The catalyst of the conflict, internal racism, still remains and leaves unanswered questions for the audience, the most prevalent being, ‘what is the right thing? ’