The Philosophy of Spike Lee

The Philosophy of Spike Lee

The Philosophy of Spike Lee

The Philosophy of Spike Lee

Synopsis

Over his twenty-plus year tenure in Hollywood, Spike Lee has produced a number of controversial films that unapologetically confront sensitive social issues, particularly those of race relations and discrimination. Through his honest portrayals of life's social obstacles, he challenges the public to reflect on the world's problems and divisions. The innovative director created a name for himself with feature films such as Do the Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992), and with documentaries such as 4 Little Girls (1997) and When the Levees Broke (2006), breaking with Hollywood's reliance on cultural stereotypes to portray African Americans in a more realistic light. The director continues to produce poignant films that address some of modern society's most important historical movements and events.In The Philosophy of Spike Lee, editor Mark T. Conard and an impressive list of contributors delve into the rich philosophy behind this filmmaker's extensive work. Not only do they analyze the major themes of race and discrimination that permeate Lee's productions, but also examine other philosophical ideas that are found in his films, ideas such as the nature of time, transcendence, moral motivation, self-constitution, and justice. The authors specialize in a variety of academic disciplines that range from African American Studies to literary and cultural criticism and Philosophy.

Excerpt

Mark T. Conard

One of the most significant developments in U.S. cinema during the last thirty years has been the rise of the new black film wave. Filmmakers who grew up and matured in the wake of the civil rights movement and its aftermath began to break through to mainstream audiences with their films and place before those audiences distinctly African American views about life, liberty, and pursuit of the American dream. At the forefront of this development has been Spike Lee, whose films are by turn daring, funny, angry, empathetic, alienating, confrontational, entertaining, and thoughtprovoking. I chose Lee as the subject of this volume because I think his work is important and worthy of study. It’s important cinematically because he is obviously a talented auteur making significant contributions to the history of cinema (in fact, some of his efforts are remarkable achievements), but it’s also important because of the themes and issues he takes on and the ideas he expresses through film. He obviously has much to say about race and racism and problems endemic to the black (usually urban) community, but there are a number of other philosophically rich ideas being pondered in his movies. Indeed, Lee is most often striving to say something important, something significant that’s controversial and worthy of consideration. Because of that, he engenders strong feelings; one could argue that he’s simultaneously one of the most loved and hated filmmakers. He often makes audience members uncomfortable—particularly white audience members, I should think—so it’s no wonder that people like me are sometimes ambivalent about his work. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that Lee really doesn’t want to be loved, so much as listened to and confronted.

The current volume is the result of our having listened closely to what he has to say. The first part, “Justice, Value, and the Nature of Evil,” opens with Douglas McFarland’s “The Symbolism of Blood in Clockers,” in which he . . .

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