Do the Right Thing:Controversies

The film was released to protests from many reviewers, including Joe Klein in New York magazine; it was openly stated in several newspapers that the film could incite black audiences to riot. In the event, no such riots occurred, and Lee criticized white reviewers for assuming that black audiences were incapable of restraining themselves while watching fiction.

The central question at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, thus inciting the riot that destroys Sal's pizzeria. The question is directly raised by the contradictory quotationsthat end the film, one advocating non-violence, the other advocating violent self-defense in response to oppression. Lee himself has stated that this question is only one that bothers white viewers. He believes that the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who consider the riot unjustified are implicitly valuing property over the life of a black man.

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