#ChiraqMovie REVIEW (Blog & Video)

On December 4th, the film "Chiraq" was released in theaters across the U.S. The film was based after the Greek satire play "Lysistrata", the tale of a woman who gathered her fellow women to partake in a sex strike to end the Peloponnesian War. I finally viewed the movie the other night and I actually think it was okay. There were some parts I liked, some parts that made me want to cry, I laughed, and some parts I just had to do an eye squint at because they made no sense. While watching, I noticed a lot of symbols (duality) and metaphors such as the symbolism of sex and life and death, the contrast of the segregated city of Chicago, and even the gun being symbolic of the male's penis (a sexual organ which has also been compared to this object through literature).

I loved the style of the dialogue between the characters, which complimented poetic format used in the theater. I think there were very powerful moments in the movie, and there were even some references to the current onslaught of police brutality witnessed almost weekly in the past years. I appreciated the Chicago music genres of house, gospel, and even drill that complimented the Black culture of the city. It was also nice to see Chicago artists in the film like Vic Mensa, Sasha GoHard, and Jennifer Hudson who lost her mother, brother, and nephew to gun violence in 2008.

On the flip side, I think there were a lot of things Spike Lee missed in the film such as going more in depth about the political and socio-economic system in Chicago (and the U.S.) including the issue of poverty, school closures, redlining and creation of urban ghettos, flooding of drugs into Black communities, and other historical incidents in the last fifty (and even longer) years that have contributed to the current crime rate. Perhaps it would have not flown well with the story line, but I also wish Spike Lee would have also shown more of the organizations and even individuals who are active in helping crime infested neighborhoods, especially with the on going, generalizing, extremely false and foolish like Ashanti rhetoric that Blacks "only care when a White person commits a crime." Several people like Seren Sensei also noted how the portrayal of John Cusack's character, based off Father Michael Pfleger reinforced the "White Savior" complex as another solution for the saving of the Black community.

"Chiraq" movie's Samuel L. Jackson as "Dolmedes" the narrator

It is important that we understand that the issue of so called "Black on Black crime" is not occurring because Black people are uncontrollable and cannot be tamed, but because of generational, psychological, social, and systematic occurrences and normalicies stemming since the times of slavery. In a some ways I can understand how Mr. Lee reiterated those stereotypes in the film. Showing that Black men being hypersexual, violent beats who can only be mastered by a woman's sexual prowness. The notion of using sex to stop violence also puts a responsibility on women that is undeserving.

Sex is powerful and even sacred and spiritual. I think it's something that is widely underestimated and forgotten because we've become so desensitized to it. It has been used to sell things from images to ideas, to products. We do live in an increasingly hypersexual society where the images are everywhere, including in subliminal images in cartoons, believe it or not. While many don't agree with the portrayal of women in regards to having the responsibility to control men through sex, I saw this sex strike theme in the film beyond its surface level and as symbolic to life and death and power. These women used their sexuality as their power for peace, as some women use it as their power to gain other things. Without giving too much away, a character in the movie lost her child to gun violence and I saw that symbolic of  motherhood, life (sex giving life), death, and guns. There was even a scene where an army tank had the words "PENIS ENVY" written on it, and I stated I felt that was having to do with that connection of sex, life, death, and the relationship between men and women.

Although many feel this is an age old solution, many women have participated in sex strikes in modern times. A 2003 Liberian sex strike was even shown in the movie. I honestly doubt a sex strike would work and is the end all, be all solution to stopping gang violence, but I do find a bit hypocritical that within pop culture, some of us have been immune to the idea of women using their bodies to seduce men, gain material items, and so forth. Some of us even call it "women empowerment" and "sexual liberation", but the idea of women owning their bodies by abstaining for sex for peace is an insane idea. I know these two comparisons are not entirely equal, but I do see that as a problem and as I stated before, I can see it as women owning their bodies/sexuality/power, the same way many people celebrate women doing so for other things.

I felt some parts of the film were a bit over the top, all over the place, and didn't flow with the film. Some parts would go from serious to comical real quick. There was one scene in particular where the two main characters Chiraq (Nick Cannon) and Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) were going to have a "sex off" (right, that's what I said, "huh?") for peace and I was just like:


Instead of some of those goofier scenes, I wish Spike Lee would have implemented scenes about the system of Chicago creating the climate for violence as I mentioned previously.

I understand why many of my fellow Chicagoans, and even non-Chicagoans felt the film is
exploitative. Prior to the filming of "Chiraq", Spike Lee had plans to use the story line for other films. It's also questionable that the media's eye has been on Chicago for the past few years and all of a sudden Mr. Lee wants to make a film about the gang violence. While I do not know Spike Lee's true intentions, I do feel we need to be open about the reasons behind the film. I would also hope that the conversation of exploitation extends to the many rappers in Chicago who have been celebrating the term "Chiraq" and creating music off the glorification of murdering Black bodies as well as those of us who support it.

Overall, I don't think the film was giving a message that sex strikes need to be organized in order to stop the violence, I feel it was more of an artistic expression. In closing, I think "Chiraq" wasn't Lee's best work, but it was an alright movie. I wish the plot was stronger and that he used this opportunity to expose the type of system (Black) Chicagoans have to endure because of the historic and current continuation of corrupt policies and government officials, such as the cover up of the Laquan McDonald murder by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In the future, I will be watching this film again to analyze it more.



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