NPR logo 20 Years Since Radio Raheem, Mookie and Sal

Arts & Entertainment

20 Years Since Radio Raheem, Mookie and Sal

Spike Lee (left, with Danny Aiello as Sal) both directs and stars in Do The Right Thing. Lee's character, Mookie, works at Sal's Famous Pizzeria in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Universal hide caption

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Can you believe it? It's been 20 years since the big-screen debut of film director Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing?

We decided to join forces with the online magazine to commemorate the anniversary. Together, we're exploring why the film remains an artistic heavyweight for many, and whether this country has made progress when it comes to respecting differences in an increasingly multi-ethnic nation.

In other words, do collisions of class, race and culture remain so profound that the 20-year-old message of Do The Right Thing still resonates?

If you've even remotely followed Spike Lee's career in film, then you know that this particular project was no exception to his earlier suite of films. Many would agree that his trademark, if you will, in Hollywood has been using the cinema as a vehicle to speak out (and loudly) about issues he thinks are too commonly unspoken of and under-explored by some of the big thinkers of our time — interracial and interracial divisions, for example (School Daze, Jungle Fever and Bamboozled come to mind)...

So here's a question for you ...

If you remember watching Do The Right Thing when it first debuted in 1989, is the focus on stubborn cultural perceptions and complacent ignorance still relevant in the of this country's first black president?

Or have we moved forward? ... Or nowhere?

And we know that Spike Lee is only one such filmmaker to explore these issues, and that he enjoys a much larger profile than others who also use the arts to examine these realities extensively, and with a much smaller spotlight. So, please, if you think of others whose work line of work lies within the same vein, do share.

(And, I can't resist, what's your favorite — or least favorite — "Spike Lee joint"? And for what reason?)