Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever focused on many kinds of identity including: racial, gender, and parental identity. Jungle Fever explored the clashing of two cultures incited by an extramarital affair between African American Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) and Italian American Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra). Flipper entered the affair in the heat of passion, but turned cold and cynical when the rest of his community discovered the affair. Flipper seemed racist and unable to stand up for his multiracial relationship. Unfortunately, Flipper and Angie’s relationship was complicated by the fact that Flipper was married. If Flipper hadn’t been married, the film could have taken a more universal examination of the reaction of different cultures to multiracial relationships. But it is difficult to tell whether the anger towards from African American community towards Flipper’s affair was the result of Flipper’s infidelity or racism.
Flipper’s wife Vera announced that she didn’t care whether or not the woman that Flipper slept with was Italian. Her concern was over the infidelity in general and the fact that she couldn’t be with her husband after being disgraced. It was primarily Vera’s friends who were obsessed with Flipper’s affair. They appeared more concerned over losing the men in their community to white women. Flipper seemed to express a more bitter racism that might have been fueled both by society and his community as well as his recent rejection by his company for a promotion. Flipper seemed to have contributed immensely to his company, which hinted that his bosses were racist, though companies frequently avoid promoting those who deserve to be promoted. Still, this rejection might have played on Flipper’s mind, encouraging his racist feelings. The police officers’ reaction to Flipper and Angie also didn’t give Flipper a warm-and-fuzzy feeling towards his relationship with Angie. The two police officers immediately participated in racial profiling by assuming that Flipper was raping Angie. Still, Flipper lacked any feelings of love towards Angie and was willing to abandon her.
The racism seemed more intense on the side of Angie’s family. As soon as Angie’s father discovered Angie’s affair, she was beaten and thrown out of her house. Angie’s father’s racist feelings, as well as the knowledge that his daughter was having an affair in general, seemed to shame him and cause him to disown Angie. Her boyfriend Paulie entered a more legitimate interracial marriage with a single African American woman, though he also experienced the racism of his community by being assaulted by his former friends. The racism directed towards Paulie was more explicit because neither him nor his girlfriend were married. The racism that lead to Paulie’s beating seemed to not be fueled by anything but pure racism.
The other identity explored frequently in Jungle Fever was parental identity. Angie’s father disowned Angie without hesitation, sending her immediately to live with her friends.
Initially Angie’s father’s love seemed conditional, though he eventually took Angie back in his home. Paulie’s father wasn’t much different. His father immediately forbid that Paulie go on a date with an African American woman and Paulie responded with defiance. Paulie seemed to be the strongest character in the film, accepting Angie’s breaking off of the engagement, defying his father, and absorbing punches from a gang of his friends in order to arrive at the doorstep of his girlfriend’s home.
Parental identity not related to race in Jungle Fever was the Reverend Doctor and Lucinda Purify’s relationship to Gator Purify. Doctor and Lucinda had opposite attitudes towards their crack-addict son Gator. Doctor had a zero-tolerance policy towards Gator, kicking him out of the house and ordering Lucinda not to invite him back or give him money. Lucinda, however, refused to admit that Gator was addicted to crack and continued giving Gator money. The Doctor was similar to Angie’s father in the way he dealt with his offspring’s violation of his principles. The Doctor’s punishment for Gator’s bad behavior was more extreme, since he felt that Gator was “better off dead.” His mother seemed just as irrational, though in an opposite sense. Lucinda took naivety to an extreme, believing everything his son told her and emptying her family’s savings dry. Both parents were detached from their children, but otherwise offered polar extremes in parenting.
The final example of parental identity was between Flipper and his daughter. Flipper seemed to be a fantastic father, bonding well with his daughter enough that she preferred that he take her to school. Flipper was extremely protective of his daughter and had the typical fatherly fear that his daughter would turn out like Angie or the prostitute walking down the street. When Flipper was kicked out of his home, the worst part of the exile seemed to be the separation of him from his daughter. Flipper and his daughter were the only two individuals who seemed to have an ideal relationship.