leave a comment
Spike Lee's second film is an ambitious misfire. Promoted as "a comedy with music," SCHOOL DAZE is set during homecoming week at Atlanta's all-black Mission College (a thinly diguised version of Morehouse, Spike's alma mater). Student militant Larry Fishburne tries to rally his
classmates to protest Mission's refusal to divest from South Africa. Opposing Fishburne is Giancarlo Esposito, head of the campus fraternity, Gamma Phi Gamma. These characters represent two hostile factions at the school: Fishburne's "Jigaboos"--darker-skinned, lower-class kids who are concerned,
sometimes self-righteously, with the plight of their race--and Esposito's "Wannabees" (as in "wanna be white"), the light-skinned, straight-haired blacks who aspire to BMWs and Brooks Brothers suits. SCHOOL DAZE raises questions about the conservatism of black institutions and their dependence on
white dollars, the now-forgotten issue of South African divestment, treatment of black women by black men, degradation of fraternity pledges, and color prejudice among blacks. These conflicts, however, receive largely superficial treatment in comparison to the disproportionate care lavished on
negligible musical numbers. The result is a shapeless mess that falls far short of the high expectations created by Lee's first feature, SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT (1986).