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In his opening sequence to Jungle Fever, Spike Lee introduces the
theme of the appropriateness of sex. Through the red haze of a Harlem
morning, we are introduced to Flipper and his wife Drew in a very
compromising position. Entangled in both the sheets and a moment of
the couple begin their morning in copulation, all the while trying
desperately not to `wake the baby.' This `baby' could be a child who
already produced or a child who is potentially in the making.
This notion of sex as a means of producing children runs throughout the
film. We find that even after Flipper has begun his relationship with
Tucci, he would never think of having children with her. Flipper's fear
having mixed (`octoon, quadroon, mulatto') children is very high. We
that his wife is mixed herself. Her father is white and her mother is
During the scene in her office, we get a glimpse of the kind of heartache
that she has suffered from her skin color, a result of the intermingling
the two races of her parents.
This sex-and-its-aftermath theme manifests itself in the dysfunctional
parent/child(ren) relationships throughout the film. Angie is tied to her
father and two brothers as a sort of domestic slave. Not only does she
to work hard in a distant part of town all day, but she also has to
home to cook for and clean up after her three male family members. She
to receive no financial or emotional support for her efforts either. This
becomes very clear when her father beats her up after learning of her
relationship with Flipper. We see a similar relationship develop with
and his father. His father's constant nagging about the number of each of
the periodicals that he orders on a daily basis coupled with his lack of
gratefulness for the meals that he cooks for him each day drive Paulie
Though Paulie's father isn't as physically abusive as Angela's father is,
see his proclivity toward violence we he forces his way into the bathroom
and whaps a teary-eyed Paulie on the head with a magazine. Eventually,
Paulie is able to stand up to his father, telling him `I'm not your
wife; I'm your son.'
The most powerful and destructive parent/child(ren) relationship that
unfolds on the screen is that of Flipper's family, including his brother
Gator and both of his parents. Lee's choice to introduce the reverend
and his wife as parents of Gator first necessarily colors our impression
them as good parents. What type of parents produce a crackhead? Certainly
not the same type of parents that produce an upstanding architect, but
the type of parents who would rear an interracial adulterer. Other than
Drew, who we really never see interact with her child, Gator's mother is
only mother to which we're physically exposed in the text. She loves both
her children and would rather not talk about the problems that exist in
their relationships. Instead, she closes her eyes to the truth of Gator's
drug habit and hands him money while he does the dances that she likes,
she would rather change the subject at the dinner table than broach the
topic of adultery. This approach to parenting doesn't work any better
that of her counterpart. The reverend doctor doesn't ever want to really
talk to his kids about their problems without using biblical metaphors.
These one-sided diatribes seem to drown out any potential discussions
as much as the wailing of his favorite Mahalia Jackson records. In the
he must kill his neglected son because he has deteriorated so extensively
from crack use.
The film's concluding sequence has brought us full circle. The framing of
the newspaper landing on Flipper's stoop initially suggests that
has returned to normal - that Drew has accepted her husband back into her
life. Their daughter's smiles and giggles also point to the same
But we find, as Drew rolls over in bed and tells Flipper he better leave,
that the sex is only a temporary fix for a desire for pleasure. The sex
not solve the problems that it has created. In the film's resolution, we
echoes of Paulie's father's former explosion in the bathroom: `All they
think marriage is for is humping.'
The final, seemingly confusing line of the film - `Yo, daddy, I'll suck
big black d*** for $2.' - sums up this theme well. It both mirrors in
and echoes in audio an almost identical part from earlier in the film.
Flipper was walking his daughter to school, a crack whore approaches him
with the offer, `I'll suck your d*** for $5.' By the film's end, the
has lowered, the sex has been cheapened, and the whore is addressing
as `daddy.' In this final line, the importance of parent/child
is emphatic. Sex, a supposedly physical manifestation of love, often
in a product - a child. This child will then live in a society where sex
love is misguided or undirected altogether.
Tags for Jungle Fever Full Movie
, Ossie Davis
, Spike Lee
, Wesley Snipes
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