Spike Lee

Paula J. Massood

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Spike Lee


Spike Lee burst onto the national and international film scenes in 1986, when his first feature, She’s Gotta Have It, was a hit at the Cannes film festival. At that time, the young filmmaker, along with the directors Jim Jarmusch and Steven Soderbergh, helped usher in a new moment in American independent filmmaking. But Lee’s significance extended beyond independent filmmaking or international film festivals, as he began making films at one of the bleakest moments in the history of contemporary African American cinema. Following the disappearance of blaxploitation film and the rise of blockbuster production, there was little money or interest left in Hollywood to fund films either by African American filmmakers or for African American audiences. Lee, along with newcomers Robert Townsend, Warrington Hudlin, and Reginald Hudlin, and veteran Michael Schultz, changed the look and sound of black filmmaking during this time by borrowing from African American popular culture, particularly hip-hop music and dance. Since his debut in 1986, Lee has branched out from theatrical film production to a variety of media, including television, advertising, and publishing. The same time period has witnessed the growth of scholarship on African American film in general and on Lee in particular. Such a development cannot be fully credited to Lee, as changes in the methodological and theoretical foci of film studies more generally and the establishment of cultural studies as a field have expanded considerations of African American film and popular culture. In this expanding field, however, Lee holds an interesting position. On the one hand, he is responsible for ushering in a new moment in African American film, through his prolific output and support of younger artists. On the other hand, Lee can be seen as representative of the changes in American film more generally over the last three decades, changes that have seen the rise of film schools, an increased use of popular culture references, and a decreased reliance on Hollywood financing. The following bibliography provides a cross-section of the scholarship currently available on Lee, with an emphasis on film and popular culture. The subsections of the bibliography represent some of the most common approaches to Lee’s work, from studies that situate the director within the larger rubric of African American filmmaking to others that focus on myths of black masculinity and media’s role in their production. Lee’s productivity is ongoing, as is the work that follows.

Article.  8372 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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