Spike Lee is probably America’s best-known “African-American” film-maker.
I don’t know if it’s proper to call Mr. Lee an “African-American,” “black,” “Black,” “Negro,” or even “nigger” film-maker. I doubt that it’s politically correct for me (a White man; “white man”?) to call Mr. Lee a “nigger film-maker,” but I’m pretty sure it would be “cool” for some “brothers in d’ hood” to do so. I don’t know the nom du jour for African-American-nigger-Black-black-Negroes. I don’t even know the handshake.
And I never could dance worth a damn unless I was drunk (I still wasn’t a good dancer, but I thought I was). I did attend a black church in the south side of Dallas for three months. I liked it, but it wasn’t for me. The church had a great, charismatic preacher. The blacks and whites at that church tried very hard to get along with each other. But all that “trying” struck me as evidence that differences remained that couldn’t even be easily erased in church. We were determined to “get along” without ever confronting or talking about our fundamental differences. So long as we couldn’t talk about those differences, I didn’t see how those differences would ever disappear. So I “disappeared”. I left that church.
I don’t really know a thing about the “black experience” other than what I read in the news, see on TV or hear from politicians. When it comes to blacks, I be dumb.
However, I do know that everyone seems to agree that “growing up black” in America is way different from “growing up white”. I also know that, while we generally (if secretly) agree that there is a difference between the races, the reason for that difference is not only debatable but politically incendiary. Some people argue blacks tend to live in the lower classes of society because they are genetically “different” and generally “inferior”. Others argue that blacks are genetically equal to whites (except in terms of athletics where they are superior) but nevertheless tend to live in the lower classes because they’ve been unjustly suppressed by “whitey” therefore culturally deprived.
I also know that nobody wants to talk about these “explanations” for the black/white differences because doing so in the wrong neighborhood can get your ass kicked or even killed.
And I know that Spike Lee produced a film called “Bamboozled” in A.D. 2000. I recently saw his film on the internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhnsaMLtQM8&feature=related. The film is brilliant. It’s a kind of racial propaganda that will generate sympathy for the plight of today’s blacks. Its slant is not necessarily true, but it Mr. Lee’s mastery of the film-maker’s craft is undeniable.
Mr. Lee played me like a fish. He showed me so much of what I secretly wanted to see for the first half of the film (that blacks are ignorant and largely responsible for their own plight) that I thought Lee had finally come to the realization that blacks really were, on average, a bunch of buffoons. But then he turned on the heat in the second half to show the incredible pathos of being black in America. I was so hooked by the first half of the film I couldn’t turn away from the second. I don’t think you can watch this film without feeling sympathy for those who’ve endured the “black experience”.
If you’re white, this film will make you squirm. If you’re black, this film will make you squirm. If Lee’s sympathies are with the blacks, he still spends much of the film showing blacks’ own complicity in their predicament.
• Lee gets to so much truth that’s critical of both “sides” in Bamboozled, that I can’t imagine anyone watching the film without being offended. It may be a great film, but grossly “politically incorrect” and it’s not the “feel-good” movie of A.D. 2000.
In fact, as I watched the film, I doubted that it was a box office success. Though I deem it to be brilliant, I’d never even heard of the film, so it figured to be a financial flop.
According to the Wikipedia article on Bamboozled, I was right:
“Bamboozled is a 2000 satirical film written and directed by Spike Lee about a modern televised minstrel show featuring black actors donning blackface makeup and the violent fall-out from the show’s success. The film was given a limited release by New Line Cinema during the fall of 2000, and was released on DVD the following year. . . . Bamboozled received mixed reviews; it currently holds a 48% ‘rotten’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus “Bamboozled is too heavy-handed in its satire and comes across as more messy and overwrought than biting.” The movie was not a box office success, earning only $2,463,650 on a $10 million budget.”
Lee lost $7.5 million making Bamboozled. But I’ll bet that if you asked him about that loss, he might say “It was worth it.”
Even though I doubt that any of you will like this film, I feel “compelled” to post Bamboozled on this blog because some of you might nevertheless admire it.