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Agent of Chaos Or Nah?: Starring ‘Buggin Out’

A character analysis on Bugging Out from ‘Do The Right Thing’ and “Agents of Chaos” in the Black community.

It’s safe to say if you’re Black in America, you have a much harder time just trying to live than many non-Black people do. Ironically, it’s the ONLY thing that’s “safe” for us here, right? I mean we could go down the list of things Black men and women are going through, such as police brutality, wage gaps in corporate America, racism (of course), living in poverty, single motherhood (don’t get me started), and an insurmountable amount of young Black men being put in institutions. I mean the list makes your skin crawl just thinking about it, right? Or maybe you’re numb by now. Either way, we can all acknowledge that we are all very aware of the obstacles that await us, as well as the obstacles we’re going through AND have overcome. 

Over the years, it seems the way of living we’ve become accustomed to has resulted in some of us wanting to be more “woke” as some would put it. In many cases, being woke is a result of past trauma—and it has the potential to help us move forward as a people. In fact, being woke is typically great if you’re Black…. until it’s not.

You see, being that I am a Black man, I feel as if it is my duty as well as yours to make sure we stay alive and safe. But I believe some Black people play that ‘woke Black card’ so much that it backfires, making our community look bad in the long run, regardless of whether or not they know what they are doing. These are the individuals I call “Agents of Chaos”

And that’s where this eraser head ass adolescent by the name of Buggin Out comes into play.

Character Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) in “Do The Right Thing”

Good ole Buggin Out! A character played by the one and only Giancarlo Esposito in arguably the MOST notable Spike Lee joint, Do The Right Thing (1989). Aside from the movie being such a cult classic, Buggin Out was definitely a character to remember with his off the wall rants, erratic behavior, down to them ugly ass glasses and his white cement Air Jordan 4’s. 

Of course, as you know the movie was and is still held in high regard, not just because of who Spike Lee is, but because the plots within the movie are very real and are STILL relevant today! This is especially true for the character Buggin Out. So, follow my thinking as we analyze and dissect the problematic ways of this character.

Problem #1: A REGULAR CUSTOMER 

For starters, let’s take Buggin Out’s first appearance at Sal’s Pizzeria. The scene in which Sal (the owner of the pizzeria) and Buggin Out get into it over “no brothers being up on the wall” was indeed iconic, but let’s consider what took place within the pizzeria before hand with Buggin Out that gave us signs early on of his nature.

The scene opens with Buggin Out already having made his way into the restaurant as Sal is finishing up the slice of pizza he ordered. Sal pulls out the pizza (like he ALWAYS makes it) but because Buggin Out wanted more cheese, he just looks Sal and the pizza up and down with utter disrespect. He hadn’t even paid for the pizza yet, and at that point, Sal was getting heated (and I think we all understand why.)

If you remember from watching the movie, Sal’s price for one pizza slice is just two damn dollars, so, even in that late 80’s economy, it’s crazy to think you you deserve extra anything without paying for it. Not to mention, the rocky relationship between Sal and Buggin Out was written in a way that suggests they’ve known each other for quite some time.

In fact, Sal had owned that store for years. This is a fact he confirmed at the end of the movie while talking with Mookie, and I’m going to make an educated guess that Buggin Out was born and raised in that particular neighborhood in Brooklyn. So, when Sal said, “You eat in here 3 times a day,” while giving Buggin Out an explanation as to why he can’t get extra cheese, it leads me to this conclusion: If it were YOU who placed a certain price on whatever it is your selling, wouldn’t you find it offensive and aggravating that you have to keep telling a regular, not random customer, the price of a product that you KNOW they already know? Also, if you remember, after Bugging Out paid Sal for his food, he put a whole bunch of parmesan on his pizza and left a big mess on Sal’s counter without cleaning up after himself. Wow, right? That’s strike #1 for this character.

Scene from “Do The Right Thing” with characters Sal (Danny Aiello) and Buggin Out (Giancarolo Esposito)

Strike #2: NO BROTHAS ON THE WALL?

Strike number 2 of course comes in when Buggin Out is sitting down eating his pizza, and ACTS as if it’s his first time noticing a wall full of pictures of Caucasian people. Now the reason I said he acts like it’s his first time seeing it is because it’s obvious Buggin Out was very familiar with the shop. It’s one thing if you frequently visit a store for a few minutes to a hour before close, late at night, and don’t notice certain things, but it’s another damn thing if you’ve lived around the way from a place you always go to, and not ever did you once look at the pictures on the wall?

Nevermind the fact that if you ask me, unless there are offensive pictures hanging up in a family centered place, I don’t see anything wrong with a white man or anyone for that matter having white people on their wall. I mean after all, it’s Sal’s store, so why does it matter? Especially when considering all the Black people in the community that do business with Sal in the background, indicating to us that no one really had a problem with the pictures on the wall prior to Buggin Out making a fuss.

This is key to understanding that in most cases, unless a service is being turned down because of your color, ethnic origin, or something along those lines, you absolutely have no reason to try and tell someone how to run their business. In the case of most businesses all over the United States, the reality is that there’s not too many businesses that turn down people of based on just their background (as far as I know.) In fact, most businesses refuse service to certain kinds of people based off their behavior or lack of “class”, whether you’re Black or not.

So, in other words, if you’re the type who liked to feel as though you need tell off or “expose” every non-Black owned business, maybe you need to try your best to find a Black owned business that provides the same service. Otherwise, it’s just dumb and chaotic as hell for you to give yourself unneccesary frustration, as a result of you taking in too many damn pro-Black memes and documentaries on the internet, especially when don’t even know how to apply the messages in said memes and documentaries with proper insight.

Strike # 3: INSTIGATION

It’s one thing if you’re an agent of chaos, but what happens if you’re surrounded by them too? Well, that’s when things become completely asinine, if you ask me.

If you’ve ever been in a confrontation or witnessed one, you know that there’s alaways a bunch of ways it can start and end. Especially when there’s a bunch of stupid people standing around looking for trouble, and even worse, when it’s one sided. You may have heard things like, “OH, MAN! You gonna let him talk to you like that?!” or “You better get him! I know you ain’t gonna let him do you like that!” Just a complete bunch of fools preying on people, and pushing them to do deeds that they’re too scared to do themselves.

Like that scene when Buggin Out was standing on the sidewalk yelling at the white guy, making up all types of stereotypical assumptions he concocted off the top of his head, because of what his Black “friends” were telling him. Can you believe that the argument started over some Air Jordan’s that were ACCIDENTALLY stepped on?!? The worst part about it is wasn’t even the fact that he and his friends harassed a white man who was simply minding his business. The worst part is it wouldn’t have even went as far as it did had his “friends” not been in his ear.

The reason this scenario is key to understanding my theory on agents of chaos is because we have to admit, there are always some people within our community who do crazy, even criminal acts, that can result in YOU ending up dead or in prison. DMX in my opinion is a great example. If you ever go back listen to some of the stories X told when he was alive (RIP), or the stories people tell about him, when it came to conflicts he had with artists and other people, it always stemmed from what people in his camp were putting in his ear and telling him that he should do.

The truth is, what many of us ignore, or seem to have trouble remembering when one of ours is killed or end up behind bars, is that 9 times out of 10 it was instigated by another senseless Black person from around the way. Of course this situation from the movie is small, but these type of things happen in real life between white and Black people (racial tensions.) As many of us have witnessed, things often get worse when we don’t cut the bad apples from the tree to keep them from rotting the lives of others.

Side note: instigating can keep a toxic person from evolving, and even make them worse (like in Buggin Out’s case.)

Characters Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) (l) and Buggin Out (Giancarolo Esposito) (r) in a scene from “Do The Right Thing”

Strike # 4: DRAG YOU DOWN WITH ME

Once again, for those who have seen the movie, toward the end Buggin Out was still upset because Sal refused to put pictures of Black people up on the wall inside of his restaurant. So, in the long awaited finale, Buggin Out comes up with this grand idea to try and get as many Black people in the neighborhood in troub… Oh! excuse me, I meant he “convinces them to boycott” as he put it, so he could scare Sal into doing what he wanted. By the grace of God, most of the people he knew in the neighborhood turned the idea down immediately, as they should have, and he was only left with an autistic grown man by the name of Smiley and a guy we all know as Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) (another agent of chaos, who was also mad at Sal because… he couldn’t play… his loud music in HIS store??)

Anyway, long story short, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem were two fools who had a common enemy for no good reason in the first place. So, they both convinced each other to storm down to Sal’s just to cause more commotion over some damn pictures and a damn boom box just to end up where? As I said before, DEAD and BEHIND BARS! Ultimately, Radio Raheem was choked to death by a cop and Buggin Out ended up in the back of a squad car, literally getting beat on his way to the station.

Now, even though I believe Radio Raheem didn’t deserve to die, he wouldn’t have gotten killed by that cop if he had enough common decency to understand not everyone wants to hear your loud ass music coming down the street. There’s a time and place for turning up/down your music, and a peaceful restaurant full of customers is the last place people want to be distrubed. As for our main guy. Buggin Out, well… like I already mentioned, his role and the movie is still relevant to what goes on in our community to this very day. I say that to say, you’d be surprised how many problems can stem from one person with the wrong mindset. It is our job to be more aware of these behavioral patterns and decide whether or not we want to stay away from them or interact with them.

Finally, may I add, Sal’s store was demolished and burned down for no reason. People were sprayed with water hoses by the fire fighters and the tensions within the community went right back to square one. So, please my beautiful brothas and sistas, alike! It’s important you understand your neighbors, because your life and freedom may depend on it! Peace!!!

Scene from ‘Do the Right Thing,’ New York, 1989. (Photo by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)
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