I like Spike Lee a lot, as a filmmaker. As a neighbor, not so much. I live in Fort Greene, the Brooklyn neighborhood that Lee's production company, Forty Acres and a Mule, has called home for some 20 years.
My problem with Lee doesn't stem from the usual neighborly complaints; as far as I know, he doesn't let his dog poop in Fort Greene Park, and his company doesn't throw crazy Tuesday-night parties. Rather, my beef is with his latest "joint," a flavored vodka from Absolut called, of course, Absolut Brooklyn. Lee designed the bottle and helped pick the ingredients. The result, he says, is an ode to Brooklyn stoop life. It joins a growing list of city-themed vodkas from the Swedish brand, including Absolut Los Angeles, Absolut New Orleans, and Absolut Vancouver (not sure about that one). Each has a different set of fruit and spice infusions, supposedly locally inspired; Brooklyn is apparently all about ginger and apples. Why not?
A few cineastes have gone after Lee for selling out his artistic reputation to promote vodka. I'm not so bothered by that; Lee can do whatever he wants with his name, including ruin it. Others have lashed out at him for promoting booze in neighborhoods with rampant poverty and alcoholism (a recent survey by the Children's Aid Society found 56 Absolut Brooklyn ads in Bedford-Stuyvesant alone). I have something of a problem with that, but he's hardly alone: P-Diddy hawks Ciroc and Billy Dee Williams sells Colt .45 on ads all over Brooklyn, after all.