Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
English Language and Literature
This paper examines the commodification of blackness in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (2017) and Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). The paper traces the differences in representation of a commodified blackness; whereas Lee created a commodification of blackness that celebrated black culture and represented it positively, Jordan Peele used the commodification of blackness as the source of his film’s horror. D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) helped propagate the trend of American cinema to exploit blackness and commodify it for a source of filmic entertainment and marketing. The blaxploitation era shifted this method towards a representation of blackness by black directors and writers, who attempted to shift the commodification of blackness to one that represented the lower-class. By the time Spike Lee rose to prominence in the 1980’s, this process was again beginning to adapt, this time at the behest of Lee.
Lee successfully proved to Hollywood executives that blackness was something that did not have to be ridiculed and stereotyped to make a profit; rather, it could be respected and celebrated. This concept extended to Lee’s marketing strategies, leading to his connection to the sneaker sub-culture and the NBA. He would take criticism for this however, something he explores in his 2000 film Bamboozled. Bamboozled explores Lee’s fear of the commodification of blackness. Jordan Peele, almost 20 year later, explores the horrors of black commodification through the Coagula process in Get Out. This paper does not argue for a historical timeline that can be traced between these two films. Rather, it merely compares the processes of representation in each film, and what this may mean for the next generation of films.
Blauner, Nicholas, "Commodification of Blackness in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Jordan Peele’s Get Out" (2019). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 1071.
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Available for download on Thursday, June 25, 2020