Jungle Fever is an intense movie that tells the story of two people of different races who develop sexual interests for one another and become the talk of the town when they form an interracial relationship. This controversial topic storms up some strong themes of race and family values throughout the film and the way that director Spike Lee addresses these topics reflects his personal views of the colored middle class – a group of people who he believes do not actually belong with non-colored women, rather they just tend to prefer lighter skinned women of color. These views, however, can not represent the entire group of people who fall into the category of middle class people of color despite the fact that many Americans then and still today would seem to agree with Lee’s views.
The two main characters in Jungle Fever are Flipper (Flip) Purify and Angela (Angie) Tucci. Their personalities develop very much as the film goes on. Flip started off seeming almost insulted when Angie, yet another person not of color, was hired at his office where he was the only person of color. He did not necessarily dislike Angie, however he made assumptions about her being that same as every other person that he worked with. Flip starts off married to a lighter skinned, mixed-race wife who prefers to identify more as a person of color. On the other hand, Angie starts off in a long term relationship with a boy who is not of not of color. Both of them are surrounded by many people who are opposed to the idea of interracial relationships, though there are exceptions. As the film progresses, the characters form a mutual sexual interest in each other and end up leaving their previous partners and dating each other. They both decided to stand up against the discriminatory remarks that others have to say about interracial dating, despite the fact that their relationship did not last.
Throughout the film, Spike decided to give characters different opinions of interracial relationships. Some characters were quite accepting of the relationship between Angie and Flipper while others believed that this was just wrong. However, in the end, it is clear that Spike Lee’s perception of interracial marriage was quite negative. He decides not to make the interracial relationship last because in his own mind he does not like the idea of it. One reason he might not appreciate interracial marriage is because of how his father – a man of color – married a woman not of color, shortly after the passing of Spike’s mother. One can assume that Spike has hard feelings about this and that it is what has led him to not dislike the idea of interracial relationships. Because of this, he generalizes a lot of the middle class people of color in this movie to have the same conservative views as him.
In terms of family values, Spike Lee introduces many circumstances in which characters have to choose between doing what their family wants and doing what is right. For example, viewers encounter Flipper’s drug addict brother, Gator, asking his mother and brother for money several times. Towards the end of the film, after being given what he wants many times, Gator is finally denied the money he begs for. Flipper decided that it is necessary to go against family for once because it is the right thing to do for his parents and for the sake of his brother’s wellbeing. Angie also encounters problems with family when her father beats her for having relations with a person of color – Flipper. She decides the right thing to do is to go against family by leaving the house because she did not deserve that kind of treatment.
Issues that arise between Italians and women of color in regards to interracial relationships seem to be that the women of color feel the men of color should belong to them and only date them. When men of color start becoming interested in the Italian women, however, the women of color grow a strong hatred derived from jealousy when they feel that what is supposed to be theirs is stolen.
The Italians in this film are extremely stereotyped. The Italian men are seen mistreating their female partners, being very rude to them, and acting very sexist. People like Angie’s father and brothers expect Angie, as the only woman in the household, to do all of the cooking and cleaning in the house. They describe this to be her duty as a woman. This kind of thinking is very much a stereotype and is, by no means, true of every Italian household.
Similarly, the people of color are also extremely stereotyped. Many of the women of color in this film are portrayed as angry, man-thirsty people which is not at all a true characteristic of all women of color. There is an entire scene devoted to watching a group of women of color bicker about how Italian and light skinned women of color are “stealing their men” portraying these women as very possessive people.