Spike Lee is unimpressed with criticism he’s received for remarks about Brooklyn’s rapid gentrification.
And he really took issue with an essay New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote about Brooklyn for the Sunday edition. On Monday, the Manhattan-based filmmaker defended himself, and his views about Brooklyn, on WhoSay social network, vigorously refuting the notion that he could not criticize the borough’s gentrification because he no longer lives there himself.
“Mr. Scott, what you fail to understand is that I can live on The Moon and what I said is still TRUE,” Lee argued in his open letter to the New York Times about Scott’s “Whose Brooklyn Is It Anyway” essay. “No matter where I choose to live that has nothing to do with it. I will always carry Brooklyn in my Blood, Heart and Soul.”
Lee caused a stir last month when he railed against the changing complexion of his beloved borough, and the cultural politics — and real estate prices — that have forced many longtime residents to relocate. He called it, “motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome,” and told new white residents: “You can’t discover this! We been here.”
Those remark earned Lee some major criticism, in part because he no longer lives in Brooklyn, and because he’s profited from real estate deals in the increasingly expensive borough.
Scott wrote about Lee’s charges through the lens of film and fiction’s depiction of Brooklyn through the years. The essay included a remark about Lee living in a “glass brownstone” that alluded to the charges of hypocrisy. Lee did not appreciate that; he invoked Jay-Z as another former Brooklyn resident with strong ties to the borough.
“Did anyone call Jay-Z a Hypocrite when he helped with bringing The Nets from New Jersey to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn at the Corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue?” he asked. “Hey Buddy, Jay-Z had been long, long gone from The Marcy Projects and Brooklyn a long, long, long time ago and more Power to my BK ALL DAY Brother. Should Jay-Z no longer mention Brooklyn in his Songs because he no longer resides there? You already know the answer to that one, Sir.”
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In the same vein, Lee dove deep into the Brooklyn DNA of each of his films, challenging Scott’s assertion with a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of his own films.
“Let’s just say Mr. Scott, we follow your ill thought out, half developed argument that I’m a Hypocrite. Since you are a New York Times Film Critic this should be very easy for you,” the filmmaker wrote. “According to your logic I should not have Written and Directed JUNGLE FEVER because I have never lived in HARLEM and BENSONHURST. I should not have Directed CLOCKERS because I have never lived in Boerum Hill and the Gowanus Projects. I should have not Written and Directed HE GOT GAME because I have never lived in CONEY ISLAND. I should have never Directed my two Epic Documentaries on Hurricane Katrina – WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE and IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE because I have never lived in NEW ORLEANS. Or maybe, perhaps I should have never WRITTEN and DIRECTED DO THE RIGHT THING because I have never, ever, ever lived in BED-STUY (DO OR DIE). Do you see where this is going?”
Lee continued his long response with a list of celebrities with Brooklyn still living within their soul, including Sandy Koufax, Darren Aronofsky, Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand. Read the rest on WhoSay.