When my daughter texted me a picture of Billy Porter posing in a Christian Siriano Tuxedo Dress on Oscar night, oddly enough, it was the perfect symbol of my reaction to Spike Lee.
“A woman shows up in pants, and no one bats an eye,” Porter told Bazaar Magazine’s Erica Gonzales. He said that a woman wearing pants is praised as “powerful and masculine,” while “a man in a dress is ‘ehh.’ What is that?”
Self-proclaimed cross-dresser Allison Steinberg wrote in the Washington Post that Porter, “a man bucking gender norms,” is furthering equality by “inspiring all of us to push through our inner critic and wear whatever we feel good in.” Equality, especially for “the many transgender people who continue to face the harshest social punishments for transcending their assigned genders.”
Porter’s strange Oscar exhibition was rooted in a preachy victimhood, a detachment from reality, an obsession with making history and, above all, clownish.
That’s how I see Spike Lee. He has virtues that endear people like Denzel Washington to him, but he’s fighting for a ‘60s-style equality in a time when racism has all but disappeared in America. It all just looks so strange.
Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee toiled down an arduous road from nearly nothing to making a name for himself in an excruciatingly tough business, cranking out 35 films in 36 years. He’s employed more blacks than any single person in the history of the business, according to Denzel whose son, John David Washington, played the lead role in Lee’s Oscar-winning “BlacKkKlansmen.” That’s respectable. That’s impressive. That’s the tuxedo.
But the 5-foot-5 filmmaker’s prestige is dwarfed by his hateful comments about “white folks,” his glass-half-empty view of American history, and his hellish hatred for Trump. That’s the dress. And these days, the dress is 90 percent of the outfit.
“We have a guy in the White House – I’m not gonna say his f***ing name – who defined that moment [Charlottesville] not just for Americans but the world,” Lee grumbled during an angry monologue at last year’s Cannes Film Festival where he got a six-minute standing ovation for “BlacKkKlansmen.”
“… and that mother***ker was given a chance to say we are about love, not hate. And that mother***ker did not denounce the mother***king Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis mother***kers.”
Lee must’ve missed Trump’s televised statement two days after Charlottesville:
“Racism is evil,” the president said. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, new-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
It didn’t matter. Nine months later, Lee was still boiling with Trump hatred at Cannes.
While promoting his 1991 movie, “Jungle Fever,” Lee unleashed his disdain for mixed couples. “I give interracial couples a look,” he said. “Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”
Lee has also become part of the authoritarian “cancel” culture that’s infecting blacks in the entertainment industry – “cancel” being a one-word term for blackballing any black entertainer who shows an iota of support for Trump. Black entertainers, especially on the cusp of breaking through, have slavish fears of “getting cancelled.”
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele was a warning of what happens to black entertainers who don’t tow the line. When Lee heard that Michele accepted an invite to perform at Trump’s inauguration, he decided not to use her song in his Netflix Series – officially “cancelling” her with this childish tweet:
“Good Morning Folks. I Wuz Sorry To Read That “Sistuh Girl” is Singin’ At DT’s Inauguration (And To Use His Fav Word – SAD). I Wuz Thinkin’ ‘bout Using Chrisette’s Song – BLACK GIRL MAGIC in My Netflix Series SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT … NOT ANYMORE. And Dat’s Da Truth, Ruth.”
Michele’s backlash from “Black Twitter” was also ruthless.
“Soooo, 250k just to lose all your fans and never be able to perform again,” writes one tweet. “No promoter will book you now dummie this was the worst business mistake. Just for a quick payoff.”
Another: “’Bye black fans, you’sa wants mees a sang again massa’ – Chrisette Michele.”
One more: “Hope she stretches that $250k, because that might be the last check of her career.”
Michele’s husband, music manager Doug “Biggs” Ellison, responded to Lee on Twitter with just two words in Spike Lee’s love language: “F**k You.”
But despite her husband’s support, Michele said the backlash was so severe that she had a miscarriage.
“The stress of Trump becoming the president, me becoming so associated with someone I don’t support, and then the stress of the hatred online and then the stress of me wondering if I ever wanted to sing again, I think that had a lot to do with the stress on my body,” Michele said.
It’s no wonder that blacks in Hollywood – like Justin “Jussie” Smollett – find it so easy to bash Trump. It’s a Hollywood career core competency. It’s hard to see clearly when the death of your career is always flashing before your eyes.
So much for freedom and equality.
Spike Lee’s purple clown attire and Billy Porter’s tuxedo dress at the Oscars are perfect metaphors for what the majestic Civil Rights Movement has morphed into: A sad clown show that has no basis in 21st century realities. For a man who pays so much lip service to love, Lee spews an awful lot of hate. It’s a joke.
In a time when racism is hardly anywhere, they hijack the sacred language and history of Civil Rights to create the illusion that racism is still everywhere. Ironically, by constantly beating people over the head about a largely fictitious racism, they create real hatred and division. Americans are so sick of the race-baiting that if it keeps up, it’s hard to imagine what will happen.
We’re also tired of the “king has no clothes” white people who sheepishly tell the Spike Lees of the world how wonderful they are – cheering for them, giving them ovations, or just nodding in agreement when they say really dumb stuff.