Brooklyn

January 13, 2017

What Does it Mean to “Do The Right Thing”

*The opinion of Matt does not necessarily coincide with the opinions of the rest of the crew of Simplistic Reviews. 

This year will celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Spike Lee Joint, “Do The Right Thing.” But the question we always ask ourselves is, “What is the right thing?” Is there a “right” thing? And if there is a “right” thing, how does one make the decision on what the “right” thing is?

There’s no doubt that “Thing” was a film that happened at the right place at the right time, and while other films have tried to emulate the race divide and a sign of the times, see also Lee’s “Summer of Sam” for a look into the racial and cultural divide in 1970s New York, there still isn’t a film, for my money, that captures the anger, anxiety, and zeitgeist of a city sitting on a powder keg. Of course, art often imitates life, and in recent years with police shootings, gang violence, political discourse, and attacks on immigrants, minorities, and the LGBT community on the rise, we all live in uncertain times.

Oh, there is also the fact that we have a bullying, fear-mongering, divisive, reality-show starring megalomaniac about to take the Oath of Office as the 45th President of the United States, but don’t worry folks, go watch some foxes jumping in the snow (actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea).

Back to the point, in “Thing” the climax reaches a fever pitch when the character “Radio” Raheem is murdered by NYPD officers, a fire hose is turned again an angry mob and our “hero,” Mookie, played by Lee, throws a trash can through the window of local pizzeria, Sal’s Famous. A lot of anger is loaded into the final 15 minutes of the film, but it brings up the question; What is the “Right” thing?

This is an argument that I’ve gotten into with a lot of people. Personally, I’m always interested to hear what people think is the “right” thing. The biggest point of contention is always whether Mookie should have thrown the garbage can through the window of Sal’s Famous. While I understand why this might be a point to argue between people, I’m on the side of this being the “right” thing. Simply, it was rightful rage over the death of an innocent citizen by the “trusted” police force which forces another citizen to act in way that many may never understand how to act. Of course, in turn, this action also saves the lives of Sal and his sons, despite the fact that their business is destroyed by an angry mob. That’s the simple way to breakdown the climax of “Thing,” but there is much more leading to this choice.

Other aspects of the story certainly play a big part in Mookie’s decision. The New York heat, Sal not paying Mookie before the day was up, being accused of being a dead-beat father, the constant harassment by Smiley, there are several aspects of the day that sets Mookie off, but the most reasonable is always going to be seeing “Radio” Raheem murdered in front of him by police who are tasked with upholding the law and having the CPR (Courtesy Professionalism Respect) on the side of their cruiser (the irony). It’s a layered argument that can be tossed back and forth, but the reason we still reference “Thing” as the movie that still commands our attention a quarter of a century after it’s release is the climate we live in currently.

Police still systematically target minorities which often ends in horrific results, and police are overworked with less officers on the ground to do the job correctly, not to mention the fact that many officers are ill-equipped to get the job done correctly. An overburdened and broken system leads to misjudgment and tragedies that will continue to happen.

Is violence the “right” thing…no….however, when you are kicked, prodded, marginalized, and made to feel that you have no rights as a citizen, what are you going to do? Throwing a TV through a window might be a start, but how about throwing your vote in a ballot box on a local level to make the immediate change that is needed to hopefully, at some point, make a bigger change.

Much was made when “Thing” was released, including comments that viewing this film would incite riots. Lee’s response was whether critics believed that minorities, namely African-American’s, were unable to control their impulses while viewing a work of fiction. It was a perfect response for people that just don’t get it, and will never get it. Hell, if “Thing” makes you angry, IT SHOULD! While it WAS a work of fiction it was still inspired by true events, namely the beating and murder of Michael Stewart by NYPD officers, and we are still seeing the endless deaths of African-Americans around the country, sadly at the hands of law enforcement officials. We should all be upset by this, while Lee is being a politician about it, he should have said “Yes, people should get upset about this film, it’s happening, this is the world we live in!”

So, what is the “right” thing? IS there a “right” thing? The “right” thing is to take tragedy and knowledge and apply it in a way that changes the course of your life, your country, and your politics. We are living in scary times, with people in charge that seem to like to “troll” the American people. We literally have an Internet troll who is poised to take the office of The President of the United States shortly. Think about that….someone who made his career firing the like of Lil John and Dennis Rodman from a fake job interview show is going to be hiring people to look after Civil Rights cases and reading the most classified of files, will be running our country for what could be up to eight years.

The “right” thing is to follow the mantra of Public Enemy and “Fight the Power.” But fighting the power is more than just with your fists. Fight with your empathy, fight with your courage, fight with your knowledge, shit, fight for your right to party, because if anything you always have the “right to fight.”

January 17, 2013

Simplistic TV Holiday Hangover: Girls, Season One

Girls, Season One – Polarizing

*The following is a wrap-up, of sorts, of Season One of “Girls” as well as an op-ed, or sorts.  Sorry if this offends anyone, but don’t take it personal, I’m sure you’re all lovely people.  There also might be a few spoilers, so tread carefully*

Hooray!  The Hipsters won!  They finally won!  Oh wait, they really don’t care, they were too busy drinking PBR, waiting for their parent’s monthly check, and hitting up the vintage clothing store looking for a blazer with padded shoulders.  Yes, I’m talking about “Girls” which I might call the most polarizing show I’ve ever started watching.

Let me start from the beginning; I ended up watching the premier episode when it first aired on HBO last April.  I figured, give it a chance and see what comes of it.  I knew from what I read about the show it was going to be “Hipsters in the City…..and Sex.”  Of course, that was the show in a nutshell.  Did I really want to watch the type of people I normally don’t like on TV?  No, that’s why I gave up after the one episode.  Turn the clock almost a year and we have “Girls” winning Golden Globe awards, a show that glamorizes being privileged, lazy, submissive, and sad.  Of course I only had one episode to go off of so I decided to take the plunge and really give the “Girls” an opportunity to redeem themselves in my eyes.  Watching the entire first season over the course of a day and a half did prove one thing; I still don’t like these characters, any of them, and I blame a growing group of viewers that think this is how you are supposed to act if you are a struggling 20-something living in the big city.  Maybe I sound like a really old f*uck (I’m only 29 by the way) but I feel like I’m a generation removed from Hanna, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshana, all privileged white girls who want to think their life is so bad, but really do nothing to improve it.

Climbing off the soapbox now, and getting into the brass tacks of the first season of “Girls.”  Throughout the season we follow our “heroine” Hanna as she navigates Brooklyn after her parents cut her off financially. This is the one idea of the show that I thought was great.  Yes, finally, something that does happen in real life. After a certain point you have to go into the big bad world on your own and the fact that you chose one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, how long do your parents have to support you?  Good start, but then we meet Hanna’s friends; Marnie works in an art gallery and acts the part of the prude who knows what she wants, yet doesn’t know what she wants.  Jessa is the free spirit and least responsible member of the group.  But I ask, since when did being irresponsible and not caring become so cool?  Oh another thing, and this is a very important lesson for you Hipsters in training out there, everything will be all right in the long run, because as long as you act like an arrogant shit you’ll find YOUR “Mr. Big” and you won’t have to worry about looking for a menial job while living in your cousin’s paid-for apartment, because acting like a shit will get you everything you’ve ever wanted in life.  This is Jessa’s lesson to you.

The Hipster mentality is both a fad and a state of mind.  I know people that fashion themselves as hipsters, or call themselves hipsters (whether that is ironic or not you’ll never know because Hipsterism is founded on irony….ironic, don’t you think?)  The conflict in “Girls” is that the girls really aren’t Hipsters, sure they dress in vintage clothing and constantly complain about their situation even though they are probably better off than most of us who are really struggling in this world, but it’s pretty much a Hipster in Carrie Bradshaw’s clothing.  To be fair here is another article that is a little nicer to the Movement.

What’s so polarizing about the show is that while you might get a few chuckles here and there because these “real” life experiences by show creator, writer, and star, Lena Dunham, are so out of left field you have to laugh; all the characters are as unlikable as unlikable gets.  I return to the character of Jessa, and I didn’t even mention Shoshanna yet, but I’ll get to her shortly.  I keep going back to being a responsible adult in the big city.  Yes, for the record, when I was 24 I didn’t have an idea what I really wanted in life, but I did have a job that supported me while going to school and actively seeking better employment.  A prime example of what vexes me about Jessa is her high and mighty attitude while remaining willfully irresponsible and blaming her irresponsibility on children, please see Episode Four for an example.  I know this is supposed to be for comic relief, but in reality, is this the type of behavior that people enjoy and tolerate?  I could talk about a character like Adam, Hanna’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, but he’s the only reason to watch the show and not want to throw your lace-less Converses at the TV.


Shoshanna is an interesting character because she lives a pretty good life, she’s in school, and wants to live the “Sex in the City” lifestyle while still living in Williamsburg.  She is a walking, talking, contradiction.  It’s assumed that she is wealthy, doesn’t work, and only goes to school, so why does she decide to slum it? Well, because it’s cool, and settling is way better than trying hard.  Out of all the female leads Shoshanna seems the happiest with who she is, despite being the only virgin in the group.  Her quirky attitude is welcome respite from Hanna’s self-destructive behavior, Marnie’s constant indecision, and Jessa, well, being Jessa.  If I was to liken her to another character on TV, I might say Ralph Wiggum from “The Simpsons.”

People also have a problem with the nearly-All White Cast.  I personally don’t care about this gripe, but the fact that the Brooklyn-area is supposed to be a melting pot, hell, all of New York City for that matter, is a little troubling.  The show becomes an exercise in “White People Problems.”  Even though the strife that the cast deals with is pretty much universal (pregnancy, unemployment, rent, relationships) the fact that it’s coming from an all white-leading cast neglects the fact other races have the same problem.  Personally, the people that complain about this aspect of the show need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that just because a white cast is depicting struggle doesn’t mean they don’t understand that other social and racial groups are experiencing the same thing.  I don’t remember a lot of people complaining about “Seinfeld” and their all-white cast, or “Mad About You.”  Don’t worry though, Donald Glover showed up in Season Two, which started last week.  While I love Glover, it’s still a feeble attempt by the show-runners to introduce a black member to the cast.  Glover is about as urban and black as Urkel from “Family Matters.”  Sorry Donald, I love you, but it’s the truth.

The last person I’ll blame for the polarizing affect of “Girls” is Judd Apatow, the Executive Producer.  Once again, I usually love Judd, and he’s been a driving force in some of the funniest comedies in the past 10 years.  But the one thing that you’ll notice about most of his later work, starting with “Knocked Up” is that he really likes to make women look like bitches.  I never gave credence to what Katherine Heigl said after “Knocked Up” came out, and that it made women look like shrews, but looking at “Girls” now, he likes to do two things now;  make girls look like bitches, and supports the Hipster agenda.  I appreciate the fact that he supports young artists and comedians, but as time has gone on his subject matter has gotten dark and again, bitchier.  Some people might say it’s maturation in his art; I call it giving a dog a treat after it poops on the carpet.

So “Girls” are you a fad, or are you the real thing?  I’ll tell you one thing, you sure have a lot of people talking, and in recent memory I really can’t remember a show that had this many people polarized.  I was reluctant to watch the show after a long hiatus of watching, but I did finish the whole season within two days.  Did it captivate me?  No.  Is it exasperating an already obnoxious and silly subculture?  Yes.  Will I keep watching?  Probably.

Fun Fact:  Fun Fact?  No Fun Fact!  Go get me a PBR and my Member’s Only jacket.

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