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(Credit: Athena LeTrelle)

Film

Spike Lee discusses the biggest regret of his career: “It was just totally stupid”

No doubt one of the most influential and prolific filmmakers in the history of cinema, Spike Lee has forced his uncompromising approach to social injustice and racism onto the big screen for decades. Remaining a pertinent voice in the industry even 43 years after he first stepped foot into it, Lee continues to bring poignant stories of the black experience to the big screen, with films such as Do the Right Thing, Get on the Bus and, most recently, Da 5 Bloods. forcing Hollywood audiences to consider their place in the civil rights argument. 

Entering the industry on the cusp of the 1980s, Lee helped to formalise his style following the release of his second feature film School Daze in 1988. A satirical look into the prejudice and snobbery in black academic industries, the film led Spike to create his third feature film, Do the Right Thing, which would become the most iconic movie of the director’s career, popularising the ‘Spike Lee joint’.

Adding the subtitle to a large majority of his movies, the ‘Spike Lee joint’ acts as a reminder of the director’s presence as a creative free-thinker. Speaking to Atlantic in 2015, Lee explained the meaning of the ‘joint’, stating, “‘A Spike Lee Joint’ is ‘…really all the ingredients that I put into my film. Whatever film it is, whatever subject matter is. Whether it’s a documentary or a narrative film. The connective tissue is that it’s coming through me, but all the stories I feel are different”.

In fact, the acclaimed director’s biggest regret in cinema came shortly before he brandished the ‘Spike Lee joint’ subtitle, telling Deadline that there is one scene in the 1986 india movie She’s Gotta Have It that he would have never have put in the film in hindsight. 

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Told in black and white, the romantic comedy told the story of a woman (Tracy Camilla Johns) who becomes attracted to three different men. As the movie plays out, it eventually transpires that one of the characters rapes the protagonist, and in a truly troubing conclusion, she ends up wanting to be with the man in question. 

Speaking to the publication, Lee states, “If I was able to have any do-overs, that [rape scene] would be it. It was just totally…stupid,” admitting that the film “made light of rape” and that it would be “the one thing” he would go back and change if he could. 

“I was immature and I hate that I did not view rape as the vile act that it is. I can promise you, there will be nothing like that in She’s Gotta Have It, the TV show, that’s for sure,” the filmmaker further added. Indeed, as promised, Lee did redeem himself with the Netflix series named after his 1986 movie, with the filmmaker telling a story of sexual assault from a far more mature perspective, dropping the rape scene entirely.

Take a look at the trailer for Spike Lee’s Netflix show, below, starring such names as DeWanda Wise, Anthony Ramos, Lyriq Bent and Margot Bingham.