Bloods Are Thicker Than Gold

The protagonists of Da 5 Bloods may have been Vietnam vets, but in this Spike Lee directed film, they fought a war against white America, gold, and cycles of violence with the strength of their friendship. Through the flashbacks, shootouts, and traumatic episodes in their return to Vietnam, the characters discover that family is what truly mattered to them, and that the desires/motives fueling these wars had nothing to do with them.

We hear later from their guide, Vinh, “After you’ve been in a war, you understand it never really ends. Whether it’s in your mind or reality, there are just degrees.”

Early in the movie, the vets eat dinner together at a restaurant and reminisce while a Vietnamese boy with an amputated leg approaches their table begging for change. While Paul is evidently unnerved by this boy’s presence, the others remained calm and gave him a $20 bill. We see the leftover trauma of a former soldier, and also the acceptance from other former soldiers who have moved on from the fighting, referring to it as “America’s war” instead of their own. As black men who understand America’s insidious tactics and intention, the accepting Bloods at the table had no quarrel with the current Vietnamese. But Paul, still resistant, felt very patriotic and even encouraged voting for President Trump, another figure with intentions that were not in favor of any black man.

This scene critiques misguided people who take pride in the motives of the White Man’s America, or those who look to the white man to legitimize them as Americans. Paul’s loyalties would continue to haunt and effect his character negatively, straining his relationship with his son and comrades through the movie. It’s not until he accepts that his family are the only thing worth protecting that he is eventually redeemed.

The difference between the bloods discovering the gold they had hidden for reparations versus the discovery of the remains of their captain who was killed in action also emphasizes the sincerity of each’s values. They were excited to find the scattered bars of gold along the mountainside, but the riches they labored to gather began to weigh them down in several ways. Their hike was slowed by their bags, and their communication with each other became more strict, emphasizing that each would carry their own share and could do as they pleased with their split. The bloods went from a family to every man for themselves when their focus became the monetary value of what the money could bring for them as individuals. These troubles would even cause one of the bloods, Eddie, to lose his life. As he takes a bar of gold and warns them of the rift it begins to cause between them, he loses focus and steps on a landmine that is still active. This is proof of the deterioration caused by this vice, and where it will lead for anyone who is not mindful. The more money, the higher the risk.

When discovering the remains of their former captain, the bloods exclaim how proud they are to finally get him home and they gather for a prayer over his corpse. This is notable of  the inherent love that is intertwined in this interaction. They unite as a family and feel no danger, expectations, or fears. The genuine love felt for their captain offers them peace in this scene that is not felt when they are obsessed over golden riches. Togetherness and family is the only true salvation.

Otis’ discovery of his long-lost daughter, Michon, was another indication of the importance for people of color to know their family and have pride in their heritage when the world around them forces them to struggle. The mother, Tien, details that their daughter’s early childhood consisted of being viewed as too dirty to even clean toilets, and even being referred to as a “cockroach”, because of the dark shade of her skin that came from a black father. With her father not around she was never able to make peace with that side of herself. We also discovered that the white American Soldiers had taught the N-Word to the Vietnamese people, along with their negative connotation associated with black skin. Even the soldiers that Otis and his fellow brothers had fought beside had continued to spread and teach hatred about them to different parts of the world to make life harder for the darker skin. The only true solace that Otis or his daughter could find was in a family that would love them unconditionally, which also rings true for many people of color within America.

 Stormin’ Norman was never able to enjoy any of the gold because he was killed in action from the beginning of the movie, but his rich spirit lived on perpetually through the other characters. Da 5 Bloods find strength in their togetherness as they battle against the world of temptations that pit them against each other. It is their love for each other that gets them mentally, spiritually, and physically out of Vietnam again, not the gold.

By: Jeron Randolph

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