Spike Lee had a message for Emory students last week: Search and
discover what you love to doregardless of how much money it
will make youand do it. Otherwise, in 20 years, you might
end up overweight, divorced and unhappy.
The 44-year-old filmmaker and Atlanta native spoke Thursday night,
Feb. 21, in Glenn Auditorium as part of Dooleys Week. Though
he was born in the South, Lee was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., before
returning to his birth state in 1975 to attend Morehouse College.
Lately, Lee said, as hes traveled around the countryparticularly
during the month of February, Black History Month, the shortest
month of the yearhe has visited with several classmates
from Morehouse and found them less than fulfilled as they enter
middle age. Lee said many of the men played the good sons
in college and, recognizing the sacrifices their parents made to
afford them the opportunity to get a college degree, chose careers
that were secure and financially rewarding.
Now theyre fat, divorced and miserable, Lee said.
And the reason they are the way they are is because theyre
not happy with the work theyre doing. These four years [of
college] are a crucial time for you find out what you likenot
just what you like, what you loveand not worry about how much
money you can make.
Im lucky, he continued, because a lot of
people never find out what makes them happy. Mine was cinema.
Strolling about the dais with a microphone and speaking off the
cuff, Lee spent the remainder of his time talking about contemporary
films and other popular entertainment.
I take cinema very seriously, he said. The reason
the United States dominates the world is because of movies, television
and music. Thats why we dominate the worldculture. If
you can make people think, dress and talk [a certain way], thats
more powerful than any bomb.
Lee then dropped a bomb of his own on the supposed progress
African Americans have made in Hollywood.
Several people have asked him whether the nomination of actors
Denzel Washington, Halle Barry and Will Smith for Academy Awards
this year, along with the planned lifetime achievement award for
Sidney Poitier, signal a change, but Lee said only when more African
Americans become gatekeeperspeople who control
which films and TV shows get producedwill meaningful change
He also spoke critically of some films that feature African Americans
in prominent supporting roles. One of the funniest film genres
to me is the Magical Mystical Negro film, he said.
Theres this character who has all these special powers,
but he cant use the powers for himself, only for the white
star of the film. [These include] films like Family Man,
The Green Mile, The Legend of [Bagger] Vance.
Regarding the latter film, in which Will Smith plays a golf caddy
who teaches Matt Damon a sweet swing in Depression-era Georgia,
Lee said, How is it that when your brothers are being lynched,
your sisters are being raped, Jim Crow is at its height in the state
of Georgia, how is that the only thing this guy is worried about
is teaching Matt Damon a golf swing? Where do they get these people?