Social Justice Complexities: ‘Twilight’ Versus ‘Do the Right Thing’





Social Justice Complexities: ‘Twilight’ Versus ‘Do the Right Thing’

Social injustices and their causes are inherently complex transcending individual actions to systemic factors. Nonetheless, the said systemic factors are a culmination of individual choices that fortify these structures. The options availed to the victims of systemic oppression are largely skewed in the ruling culture’s favor. The decisions are made informed by both ignorance and arrogance. The victims are defined by race, social, and economic standing. Social justice is a perspective that champions equal social, economic, and political rights and their accompanying opportunities. ‘Twilight’ and ‘Do the Right Thing’ both address social justice issues with an emphasis on different factors. They both subscribe to a singular universal truth. The convergence of cultures has elevated a singular truth to be used as the benchmark amidst the subjectivity. Spike Lee highlights that social injustices do not stop at race, and there are critical underlying issues that need to be resolved. Twilight is relatively subtle highlighting the disparities in opportunities to attain the ideal life in modern society. Though both ‘Twilight’ and ‘Do the Right Thing’ depict individuals as players in an unjust society, the latter reiterates the need for social change.

Individual enlightenment is the first key to a social revolution. Mookie has to find his self-identity. The old drunk is portrayed as the voice of reason in Spike Lee’s production. He counsels Mookie to do the right thing. The term is ambiguous, as it does not specify right by whose standards leaving it open to interpretation. Acknowledging one’s subjectivity is the beginning of truth (Reid 87). In the confrontation at the pizzeria, ‘Bugging Out’ believes that it is unjust for an establishment benefiting from the black community does not have a corresponding icon of color on Sal’s hall of fame. Sal is of the opinion that since he is the owner, it is his prerogative to put up his personal heroes. To an extent, both arguments are valid. However, truth in a pluralistic society demands compromise. In this instance, Sal could accommodate at least one hero from the other culture. Furthermore, the said compromise has economical returns, as the customers will feel at home in the restaurant (Lubiano 57). One has to overlook the negative aspects of the compromise like the perception that bugging outs self-entitlement will be legitimized. Mookie is at the conundrum of which of the above truths to subscribe. His identity as a Black person demands he support for his own kind. On the other hand, his economic attachment through employment gives Sal leverage. Power relations are informed by interactions between social ties and economic transactions. In reality, rather than Sal compromising his stand, Mookie is forced to safeguard his livelihood ignoring his cultural obligations.

‘Twilight’ highlights that one’s social status and race determine his/her access to society’s opportunities. ‘Twilight’ covertly points out the intersection between race and social standing. Edward is a reformed vampire who after centuries of amassing wealth through human oppression has risen up the ranks of the propertied class. Jacob is a werewolf who resides in his family’s reserve (Borgia 157). Furthermore, he is a Native American as opposed to Edward, who is a Caucasian American. In a society where property is idolized, they fight for the love of Bella. Bella is a Caucasian human from relatively humble beginnings and as the name suggests, beautiful. Jacob and Bella are childhood friends. Nonetheless, Edward gets the girl as he has all the values admired in a man in this society; he is white and rich enabling Bella to overlook the fact that he is a vampire. By virtue of being a Native and werewolf with a shorter lifespan, he is not able to amass such amounts of wealth (Borgia 163). From a different perspective, Bella is attracted to the superior race, vampires. Bella is portrayed to have a diminished capacity for decision-making. Despite valuing Jacob’s friendship, it is Edward that she finds attractive. People of an inferior race have lesser rights at attaining their goals. Had Jacob been a white vampire even with the social status remaining constant he would have a better chance. Similarly, in Spike Lee’s production, Sal considers Mookie as a son but the ownership of the pizzeria will be inherited down the blood lineage. A truth that emerges is that loyalty to fellow kin is inherent; one is attracted to similarities. The preference of one’s race is socially just until it undermines the rights of others.

Persistent frustration breeds conflict that is innately polarized. The continual denial of access to opportunities escalates into a violent expression. Sal breaking Radio Raheem’s boom box is merely a catalyst. ‘Bugging Out’ believes that the white establishments should not be in a black neighborhood. Social justice tenets contradict with the above perspective as every member of a heterogeneous society can leverage resources anywhere (Gibson 44). However, the core issue is the disparity in the distribution of the resultant benefits. The benefit is not mutual; as such, one has to choose sides. The white establishments may raise the real estate prices condemning the black residents to the periphery. Bugging has the fear of losing the neighborhood to white settlements starting with business enterprises. The blacks’ frustration finds expression in the riots. The conflict causes an undecided Mookie to overlook the benefits accrued from the white enterprise and choose a side.


Works Cited

Borgia, Danielle N. “Twilight: The glamorization of abuse, codependency, and white privilege.” The Journal of Popular Culture 47.1 (2014): 153-173. Print.

Gibson, Casarae L. “There’s a riot going on! Race and rebellion in contemporary African American culture.” Purdue University, 2015. Print.

Lubiano, Wahneema. “But compared to what?: Reading realism, representation, and essentialism in School Daze, Do the Right Thing, and the Spike Lee discourse.” Black American Literature Forum. Vol. 25. No. 2. St. Louis University, 1991. Print.

Reid, Mark A. Spike Lee’s Do the right thing. Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.





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