In 2000, Spike Lee released the controversial film Bamboozled, which follows a frustrated black TV producer on his quest to create a show so offensive it will get him fired. The result is a modern-day minstrel show that, contrary to expectations, becomes a massive hit. A satire of race, media, celebrity, and American history, Bamboozled received mixed reviews at the time of its release and has been conventionally regarded as one of Lee’s lesser efforts. In this reappraisal of the film for its 15th anniversary, film critic Ashley Clark makes the case for Bamboozled as one of Lee’s most rich and enduring works, and as one of the most important satires of American culture in this young century.
Ashley Clark is a freelance journalist and film programmer who divides his time between London and New York. His writing has appeared in Sight & Sound, The Guardian, Time Out, Moving Image Source, Reverse Shot, Little White Lies, Film Comment, and VICE, among others, and he is a contributor to books including The Complete Woody Allen and Directory of World Cinema: Britain Vol. 2. He has programmed at venues including BFI Southbank and Clapham Picturehouse in London.