After 30 years of making movies as one of the most influential directors of our time, Spike Lee has finally won an Oscar. On Sunday, February 24th, Lee came away with Best Adapted Screenplay for his film, BlacKkKlansman. Lee has been nominated four other times during his career for different awards but has never come away with the coveted award– until now.
Samuel L. Jackson announced the award and let out an excited scream before reading the names, extending Lee’s name in cheer. Once Spike Lee got onto the stage, he leaped into Jackson’s arms for a hug.
The acceptance speech that followed has lots of people talking- including the president of the United States, Donald Trump. Trump sent out a tweet early Monday morning, criticizing Spike Lee and calling his speech a “racist hit on your President.” Lee’s speech didn’t mention Trump by name, only saying that people in the 2020 election should, “Make the moral choice between love versus hate.” Trump was not mentioned, was not attacked, and yet took great offense to the speech. According to USA Today, comedy hosts had a field day with the tweet. Seth Meyers said that what Lee missed was that the word “hate” is like a bat signal for the president.
“Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts, etc.) than almost any other Pres!” – Donald Trump’s Twitter
There are two things that are so insane about Trump’s tweet. He starts off by making fun of Spike Lee and the way he read his speech. Anyone who watched the Oscars Sunday night knows that Lee stumbled during his speech and rambled quite a bit. According to The Washington Post, this reaction confirmed Lee’s speech. He is insinuating that Spike Lee, a man famous for his use of words, is close to illiterate. It’s rude and hateful.
The tweet then claims Trump as the president who has done more for African Americans than almost any other president. As Trump mentions lowest unemployment numbers in history, some people were quick to point out that the unemployment numbers dropped by 8.8 points in the last decade, eight of those points dropping under Obama and only 1.1 points dropping under Trump. Trump is insinuating something that just isn’t true and is trying to take down an accomplished filmmaker in the process.
Spike Lee’s speech started with referencing the past and 400 years of work to get to where African Americans are today. He thanked his grandmother for getting him through college and grad school at NYU and finally rolls into talking about the 2020 election. His final line is, “Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there!” This is a reference to his 1989 film, Do The Right Thing, which lost the Best Picture Oscar to Driving Ms. Daisy. Many noticed the history repeating itself in BlacKkKlansman and Green Book. Both Driving Ms. Daisy and Green Book are stories talking about race through a white person’s perspective and they both have a “racism solved, tie the bow” ending.
In contrast, Do The Right Thing and BlacKkKlansman are both stories talking about race through a black person’s perspective and they both end without the “racism solved” ending. They both end with reminders from Spike Lee that the issues reflected in this movie are real and still exist. BlacKkKlansman, for example, shows footage of the Charlottesville white nationalist riot from 2016. When Driving Ms. Daisy won Best Picture, there was a lot of upset. This year, as predicted, history repeated itself, and Green Book walked away with Best Picture over BlacKkKlansman.
Spike Lee had a very emotional reaction to the announcement of Green Book for Best Picture. According to The Huffington Post, Lee raised his hands in disgust and tried to walk out. Backstage, he said he was “snakebit” over losing. Lee also made the joke that he “always loses to driving movies,” again referencing Driving Ms. Daisy. Driving Ms. Daisy is about a racist woman and her black driver, while Green Book is about a white driver who drives around a black musician.
Spike Lee voiced his disappointment with the choice adamantly, but it’s somewhat justified. Lee has worked extremely hard for the past 30 years and his movies, which are amazing, are constantly getting passed up for the “safer” choice by the Academy. His movies tell a truth about our world while keeping us entertained. It’s a remarkable feat and he does it gracefully. So what if that means he gets a little angry when he’s passed up again; Spike Lee deserves credit for his work and it’s about time the Academy gives it to him.