Story by Ashley McCann
Prior to seeing “Chi-Raq” it was important for me to review the definition of satire. According to the Oxford Dictionary, satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices—particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Comprehension of this definition and a true understanding of previous Spike Lee films lead to a fair assessment of Lee’s controversial piece. To understand “Chi-Raq” the audience will need to know and appreciate Spike Lee as a filmmaker and how he chooses to highlight relevant social and political matters. His style and approach has generated conversation for decades. Why would he stop now? The growing violence in Chicago is undoubtedly one of the most prevalent problems this country faces today, much as the racial tensions of Brooklyn were in the late ‘80s, which Spike focused on in “Do the Right Thing.”
Some have criticized his approach but name another writer/director/producer that dares to shine light on the taboo topics in this country, specifically in the Black community?
Plainly stated Spike Lee is not afraid to confront the elephant in the room. From my vantage point, “Chi-Raq” is no different from “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze,” “Jungle Fever,” “Drop Squad,” “Clockers” or Bamboozled,” just to name a few. Chicago in the media is focused on the gun violence but no one is talking about the poverty and the educational and socioeconomic impact that has led to an uncontrolled outrageous amount of murders in our beautiful city. The fingers are pointing at the symptoms and not the systemic disadvantages that have created an environment for gangs and violence to fester.
“Chi-Raq,” although humorous at times, makes a genuine attempt at shining light on these important topics. Using Chicago as a latter day set for “Lysistrata” was nothing short of genius, even if it just makes people fired up enough to want to actively be involved in changing the trajectory of this wonderful city. To recap, like “Lysistrata,” the plot centers around one woman who strategically chose to withhold her loving from her mate (she recruits more women to do the same) in order to get two opposing sides to talk to each other and cease their war.
There were mixed reactions from around the country ahead of the film’s release due to the name. But as a native Chicagoan I guarantee most moviegoers will have a different understanding and appreciation for the project, not necessarily acceptance of the name, as I still despise referring to my hometown as a war land. I urge everyone to see “Chi-Raq.” Watch it once. View it before passing judgment. Voice your opinion only after giving the art a chance. The old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” most definitely holds true when it comes to “Chi-Raq.” So if you want to get to the story, do yourself a favor and open up.