Fan my fevered cliché

Wednesday, October 23, 1991 - 10:00

Fan my fevered cliché

Jungle Fever
A film by Spike Lee
Reviewed by Melanie Sjoberg

Jungle Fever left me feeling confused and uncertain about just what message Spike Lee is trying to convey.

The boy-meets-girl scenario attempts to explore the complications and dynamics of a mixed race relationship. Flipper, a middle class black, is an architect living in cosy yet fairly passionate wedded bliss. Along comes the new secretary, Angie, a young and personable Italian. She spends her time between work and playing mother substitute for her father and two grossly overprotective brothers. You are also introduced to an uninspiring Paulie, her long-term boyfriend.

The expected affair between Flipper and Angie eventuates after many long nights of working late. Family and friends on both sides discover the relationship, and the two are thrown together on the strength of their mutual ostracism.

This opens up the potential for the plot to explore the complexities of racism and societal expectations about sexuality. Unfortunately, this potential falls flat in a sea of clichés and overdone stereotypes.

The physical violence against Angie from her father, for allegedly losing her virginity, is shocking. Patriarchal dominance is clearly not dead in the Italian family. Flipper's defrocked Baptist priest father appears ridiculous with his monotonous sprouting of biblical passages, and his mother is a fawning personality caught between her husband and a weak crack-head son.

It is never really clear whether Lee is trying to condone, condemn or simply identify the difficulties of mixed race relationships. The drollness of the plot is summarised in the comment Flipper makes about the affair, that "maybe he just wanted to try white".

From GLW issue 32