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    Hayley Henry University Honors 257 Dr. Maland February 17, 2006 Dual Controversy in School Daze The aim of any film is to combine narrative and cinematic style to communicate meanings and evoke emotions within its audience.

    Spike Lee successfully complies with this goal by making the viewers of School Daze feel as if they are getting a true glimpse of the lives of the young African American college students presented.
    Of the two characters, Julian is the more complicated and interesting. Julian is portrayed by a young Giancarlo Esposito (the future Gus Fring)- an excellent then-new addition to the Spike Lee ensemble- who manages to be both militantly sharp and intellectually clear and concise, which is important considering the odd enunciation and exaggerated expressions Lee’s script calls for. In contrast to Laurence Fishburne’s seemingly morally upright Dap, Julian has no qualms admitting to his flexible morals and willingness to act against his community if it benefits him. Dap’s central conflict, then, isn’t actually with Julian but his suspicion that Julian is in many ways right, or at least more aware of what it takes to survive in the present, and his concern is not with what that means from a moral standpoint but an evolutionary one.

    The film depicts two major problems: the struggles of African American students not only in America, but also within their own campus and social structures. Lee reveals these troubles, and thus the ultimate concern of the film, through an intricate plot dealing with the relationships between the characters and their surroundings.
    Played by Lee himself, Half Pint is central to the story but also somewhat removed from it, pushed by both of these dynamic forces. It’s through Half Pint that Dap gets much of his information about his rival, as Half Pint is positioned as a double agent in Julian’s fraternity, the Gammas. But Dap is troubled by the way that Half Pint takes to the position, drawn to the natural magnetism of Julian, even as Julian becomes more monstrous. Julian and his frat brothers run Half Pint through a torturous gauntlet of hazing rituals, which are at first played up for laughs, but they eventually make the end result all the more effective. Dap ultimately fails Julian and thus himself by not paying enough attention to how he was developing and neglecting to be available when Half Pint was reaching out for a mentor. Dap speaks about being there for his brothers, but when his own blood is reaching out, he’s unable to provide help.

    Lee opens the film with a photo montage depicting the African and African American struggle in the United States, starting with slave ships and moving through the civil rights movement. more.


    The short shot of the brick walkway reflects what Lee is telling the audience.

    Lee also consciously chose blunt iconography for these two opposing forces, reflecting both the social roles they theoretically fit and the expectations of their character. Lee went with en vogue military garb for Dap and more urban dressings for his followers, but he selected a dog as the mascot for Julian and his Gammas, stressing their perceived subservience and complacency in the name of loyalty, specifically clear in their choreography, with the wagging and walking on all fours and so on. Lee utilized the dog symbolism to comment on the sexual appetites of the frat boys, with a key scene involving Half Pint trying to seduce a woman resulting in numerous comments about him being a dog, both in regards to the house he’s pledging to and his behavior. It’s no coincidence, either, that their mirror image sorority utilizes the cat, which of course brings up any number of single entendres.

    Its intertwined bricks are shown going in different directions, but they are related all the same. The differences among these two groups are furthered highlighted as the leaders of each meet. The main argument is between Dap, played by Lawrence Fishburne, who is leading a quest against the school's investment in South Africa, and Julian, leader of the Gamma fraternity.
    Likewise, the film’s most successful scene occurs when Dap is forced to put his ideals into direct action after his crew nearly gets into a brawl with some of the townies who think the students are driving them out of jobs and being uppity. Dap is at first intimidated by the townies, led by Samuel L. Jackson, but when he reconfigures the incident as a way to address how blacks of all tones and social strata are forced against one another by their oppressors, he seemingly has an epiphany…until he then uses the victimizing he was just put through as motivation to then attempt to victimize his rival, Julian. That also goes a way towards explaining the similar victim-on-victim violence that happens immediately after, as Dap and his crew disrupt a step show to call their rivals “Gamma Fags” before attacking their sorority sisters. That scene was supposedly completely organic, with the fight unplanned and occurring because of the tactic Lee used to motivate his actors, putting the actors playing the Gamma-affiliated “wannabes” in a better hotel than where the Dap-led “jiggabos” stayed.

    These two men represent a variety of arguments: dark skin versus light skin; struggle versus complacency; lower class versus higher class. There are a lot of symbols represented in one conflict, but what Lee tries to focus on is that there are two groups when there should be one.
    This week marks the release of Dear White People, a heavily hyped comedic commentary on race in America that was well-received on the festival circuit. Set in a fictional Ivy League school where two characters represent conflicting notions of blackness in America, complete with internal conflicts over the lightness of their skin, astute viewers may immediately experience deja vu and be taken back to an early entry in Spike Lee’s ouevre: School Daze.

    The theme of group identification and opposition is carried over into many sub-plots. Dap's girlfriend Rachel hates Julian's girlfriend Jane. They battle two interesting topics, complexion and hair. more.


    It shows the petty and superficial differences that hinder it from being a unified community.

    In 188, a movie came out that raised the eyebrows of African Americans in every social class, and at every age. That movie was Spike Lee’s “ School Daze” and it was his second film as a director. The film touched on several issues within the black community that no other film dared to address. Lee broke new ground with this film and it did not go unnoticed. Critics in the black and white communities took notice of the messages, but of course they were received very differently. The black approach to the movie would understandably be very different; the experience would hit closer to home. It was easier for the black eye to see the humor when it was intended and the seriousness when it was appropriate. “School Daze” addresses several issues within the black community and through African American criticism they can be brought out and examined. Using this form of criticism allows the critic to take a look from several different angles and throughout this essay some of them will be used to help better explain the situations in the film.

    This is evident during a pre-game speech from the school's football coach to his team of habitual losers. He says that "the essence of love is labor" and "one loves that for which one labors, and one labors that for which one loves." This shadows the idea that the two groups presented in the film and ultimately the black community itself must work for the unity it desires or loves. In School Daze, Spike Lee takes aim at an important issue at American culture and effectively paints the portrait of a worst possible scenario.
    School Daze begins with a title sequence of photographs of important black figures from throughout American history, from politicians and activists to sports heroes to stars, all meant to invoke the cultural black experience and the popular notions of what it is to be black. Though it initially seems gimmicky, it’s a fitting framing device since the characters of School Daze arguably all attempt to slot themselves into positions based on these icons, whether it’s sort-of protagonist Dap and his Huey Newton/Stokey Carmichael militancy or his arch-nemesis Julian, who attempts to be different by rejecting these figures altogether in favor of a new, “rational” blackness.

    He asks his audience to wake up. By giving his viewers a change to really see the lives of the young African American students. Showing the struggles of African American students not only in America, but also within their own campus and social structures on a extreme level helps the filmmaker connect with his audience.
    From the eye of a black critic, this movie raises several good points about the black community. There are so many issues, and possibly one day the message will get through and as a whole the race can grow. Only a black mind can see the issues and see that this is a part of the community and this film is addressing them. Black criticism is not necessary for all works, but it is when the film is dealing with black people and is done by black people. One needs to be able to pull out the issues to fully understand and appreciate the work for what it is trying to relay. In the very end of “School Daze”, Dap comes outside to the campus flagpole very early in the morning. From that flagpole he yells, “wake up” to the whole campus. As students come out of their dorms in pajamas and with rollers in their hair, they circle around him in confusion. Julian ends up right next to Dap and they stare at each other for a moment. They then turn to the camera and Dap says, “wake up” one more time and the credits rolls. It is going to take a wake up call for the black community to realize that they need to embrace every one of the issues raised in the movie. Dap’s “wake up” call was a very appropriate end to the movie, and it made all the messages in the movie sink in and settle. America as a whole needs to wake up, and one day they will.

    This movie is a truly honest examination of racial politics today. more.

    The above preview is unformatted text

    This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Film Studies section.

    Lee’s ideas in School Daze are undeniably great, even if at the time his peers attacked him not for the quality of the film but for the unflattering way he depicted black youth. To those peers, School Daze was ammunition for white pundits attempting to discredit black youth as gangsters and criminals, which is all the more fascinating given the controversy Lee was embroiled in with regards to the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin. But that issue that Lee’s contemporaries had with the film arguably adds to its effect, providing a real world example of the shifting notion of blackness and what that means for those striving to live and thrive within it. Though the film suffers from a chaotic structure, questionable musical selections and a huge disparity in talent between much of its cast- as well as a laughably over the top ending- it nonetheless succeeds as a document of the battle over ethnic and sexual identity, a battle which never really ends. And with the looming success of Dear White People, it seems clear that School Daze has remained a strong influence for some filmmakers, and may even finally get renewed appreciation.

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