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The Spike Lee Enigma

Challenge and Incorporation in Media Culture

Bill Yousman

The Spike Lee Enigma is an exploration of ideology and political economy in the films and career of one of America's most controversial filmmakers. Since the 1980s Spike Lee has created numerous films that are socially challenging, some would even say radical, while simultaneously maintaining a collaborative relationship with mainstream Hollywood and the global advertising industry. Lee, thus, seemingly represents an enigma – operating on the margins of both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic cultural production.
This book incorporates multiple perspectives, ranging from media effects theories, critical cultural studies, and the political economy of media, to semiotics and ideological, auteurist, and feminist approaches to film theory and analysis. Early chapters provide a clear explanation of these theoretical and methodological approaches while later chapters explore several of Lee’s films in great depth. In a social environment where popular culture has supplanted education and religion as a primary force of socialization and enculturation, this book demonstrates why a popular filmmaker such as Spike Lee must be taken seriously, while introducing readers to ways of viewing, reading, and listening that will allow them to achieve a new understanding of the mediated texts they encounter on a daily basis.
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← 212 | 213 →AFTERWORD


In the summer of 2013 Spike Lee was once again trying to raise funds for a new project. This time, however, innovations in digital technology and culture provided him with a new way to generate financial support.

Kickstarter is a web-based platform for crowd-funding, enabling filmmakers, artists, musicians, writers, designers, and others to solicit small donations that can potentially add up to large sums of money. Initially meant for independent artists and non-profit organizations, by 2013 mainstream film producers were using Kickstarter to supplement their studio funding. For the big screen version of a network television series, Veronica Mars, for example, producers raised almost six million dollars through Kickstarter, despite the involvement of one of the world’s largest media companies, Warner Brothers, as the film’s distributor.

Lee started a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 to raise money for an untitled project. Setting a goal of 1.25 million dollars, Lee managed to surpass that, raising over 1.4 million from 6,421 backers. On the Kickstarter website Lee anticipated questions about why an established filmmaker would need donations from fans. Lee posted:

I’m an Indie Filmmaker and I will always be an Indie Filmmaker. Indie Filmmakers are always in search of financing because their work, their vision sometimes does not ← 213 | 214 →coincide with Studio Pictures. But I do put my own money in my films. I self-financed RED HOOK SUMMER. My fee for MALCOLM X was put back into the budget. The truth is I’ve been...

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