Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What if "Chi-Raq" paints too rosy a picture?

"Slaughter of the Innocents," altarpiece detail, Philadelphia Museum of Art
     On a usual day in Chicago, the big story Tuesday would be the release of the trailer of Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq," which would seem to be the fulfillment of the worst fears of City Hall.
     It begins with flashing red letters, "THIS IS AN EMERGENCY," then a gunshot, the red stars of Chicago, dripping blood, and a voice, "Homicides in Chicago, Illinois, have surpassed the death toll of American Special Forces in Iraq."
     But whatever outrage the mayor might be tempted to indulge in should be resisted, given the facts on the ground. A 9-year-old boy gunned down Monday, perhaps deliberately. A few hours later and a few blocks away, a promising young woman murdered.
     Watching Spike Lee's trailer in the wake of that and it seems stylized, funny, wrong. A cartoony, Quentin Tarantino version of something serious as death.
     In non-movie Chicago, Kaylyn Pryor, 20, who a few weeks ago won Mario Tricoci’s 2015 "Mario, Make Me a Model" competition, was standing on a street corner in Auburn Gresham when a car pulled up, shots were fired. She was taken to Christ Advocate Medical Center and pronounced dead. That was 6:20 p.m. at 7300 S. May. Two hours earlier, six blocks west and six blocks south, Tyshawn Lee, 9, was shot in the head and back and died at the scene.
     I haven't seen the movie. That'll be released Dec. 4. And I'm not criticizing it. Maybe it takes the stark horror of crimes like the deaths of Pryor and Lee and makes them real and heartbreaking.
     But it is in rhyme, an update of "Lysistrata," a 2500-year old play about the women of Greece trying to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding sexual favors from their men until they agree to a truce and transporting it to Chicago in 2015 — well, you can't accuse Spike Lee of being derivative. The words seem right.
     "Welcome to Chi-Raq," exclaims Samuel L. Jackson. "Land of pain, misery and strife."
     The words are right. But delivered with a swagger, while wearing an orange suit. The two minutes-and-change trailer makes it seem like "Schindler's List" done as a Warner Brothers cartoon, with Bugs Bunny in the lead.
     I hope I'm wrong.
     But just as all the feel good pink ribbon breast cancer ballyhoo in October is increasingly criticized for making it seem like defeating cancer is a matter of enough positive attitude, so the implication that, even in a fantasy, the black women of Chicago's violent neighborhoods could bring this to an end if only they tried, well, there is something ugly lurking there.
     "We're going to make sure these fools put down these guns," Lysistrata says.
     Uh-huh.
     "Lysistrata" was a comedy, remember. Although it does share one sad fact with "Chi-Raq." Both productions are about wars that were still going on when they debuted. One thing is very clear, whatever the full movie turns out to be. Any embarrassment that Spike Lee's movie brings to Chicago is deserved. We should have been embarrassed by this ongoing human tragedy already, no movie necessary.

38 comments:

  1. What, exactly, should Rahm do to fix this?

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    1. He might start by putting the same energy he puts into getting baubles for downtown into getting jobs for the South and West sides....

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    2. easier said than done

      many businesses won't go there, understandably so

      and jobs isn't going to stop those who can make a few grand a day selling drugs

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    3. I believe it has been demonstrated that the kids who sell drugs on the street could make as much money working at McDonald's, if they could get a job there.

      john

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    4. No, the drug selling teens,etc can get much more and flashy toys and cars too.

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    5. "Easy" is not in the equation. You asked what he should do. Actually, he is doing that kind of thing. But society is entrenched and ongoing.

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    6. I didn't ask what he should do. Susieq did and it's not me. I understand you'd have no way of knowing that.

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  2. I had the exact same strange feeling when I saw the trailer. First I became aware of the Lysistrata connection. Rhymed?! The tone seems way off; I guess we'll see soon enough...

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  3. If the movie, whatever the tone, brings attention to this ongoing horror in our city, then get it out there and let the discussion begin. Hopefully the outrage will spark some action to address this violence.

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    1. "Let the discussion begin?" Pal, if the killings don't do it, a sex romp about the killings sure won't.

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    2. I disagree. In our fucked up society, movies and social media light fires in a way the actual events often do not. Sadly, art imitating life is sometimes more effective in this regard than life itself.

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  4. The Ghost of Christmas PastNovember 4, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    Nonsense. We need to repeal harsh gun control laws and arm the homeless.

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    1. I'm uncertain whether to leave the stupid non-sequiturs that Dave posts under his various aliases, or remove them. Thoughts?

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    2. They are nonsensical & repetitive. I vote they are removed.

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    3. I vote for remove. Despite my strong "rights" stance, I'm tired of wasting time on iteration of idiocy. Opposing viewpoints, OK, I'll make the effort to consider. Being OCD, however, I have to read what out there, even though I would prefer not. Help me out by judicious editorial command.

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    4. Janet, there are pills and counselors for OCD.

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    5. I think the Ghost's silly rants can be tolerated. They're usually short and to the point, even if that point is goofy and unreal. We can take it. After all serious people wouldn't be writing and reading a blog every goddamn day.

      john

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    6. NS,

      I believe that your occasional policy of "let folks see what some of the oddballs who contact me think" should apply here. If there were hundreds of comments and dozens of non-sequiturs, that'd be different. One or two every few days don't get in the way very much, IMHO. It's the redundancy that seems like more of an issue to me than the stupidity, actually. Apologies to Janet...

      As for the movie, until I see otherwise, I trust that Spike Lee can combine comedy with drama in an effective way to address this issue. The second half of the trailer didn't look much like a cartoon. As for the first part -- he's trying to get people to see the film! You'd think the mayor would be happy that, if this is any indication, Lee at least seems to be putting the blame for the ongoing tragedy on the men in the neighborhoods to a much greater extent than The Man.

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  5. Good article on the Palatine school and the transgender boy, twofer in the paper today. I guess it's not here yet. One wonders what his parents are thinking. The others deserve privacy and have civil rights as well.
    And having his own private space in the locker room won't help once he walks through the rest of the locker room. The school is right in this case.

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    1. Thanks. I figured I'd post it here tomorrow.

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  6. It was only an aside, but your comment about that annoying "positive attitude" stuff about cancer really struck home with me. I get especially irked at those TV ads for cancer drugs, treatment centers, etc., that make getting cancer seem like some sort of wondrous, life-affirming experience.

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    1. Yes, and I've read some have been oversaturated on the breast cancer bit or that only some of the funds get to the actual charity. So all those people running 5k or whatever, wasting their time.

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  7. The only way to change things in those areas is for the residents to become involved. Too many crying for help and then clamming up when it's time to rat out the bad guys. Stop screaming the authorities won't do anything when neither will you. Option 2 is the National Guard and a heavy handed approach - which we all know will only blow up in the faces of those there to help.

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    1. The solution is there & the black community is against it.
      Lock up any felon possessing a gun for five years. No parole or probation.
      But there have been protests by black legislators that it would lock up too many young black men!
      But that's exactly who's firing wildly all over the South & West Sides!
      Absolute insanity.

      And NYC doesn't have this problem because they do have laws that automatically lock up felons possessing a gun for at least five years!

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    2. Clark St.: A couple of points:

      1) America already locks up the highest proportion of its population, by far, of every nation in the world. If locking people up made you safe, America would be the safest place on Earth.

      2) NYC had 328 murders last year. Granted that's a big drop, but it's still a long way from "doesn't have this problem."

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    3. But Scribe, the problem is criminals are back on the street too quickly. How many times does one read of some crime committed by someone arrested time and time again.

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    4. Hard for them to snitch when they know they could get killed for doing so, anon at 9:52

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    5. Bitter Scribe:
      The people we have too many in prison are low level drug offenders & other so-called "victimless crimes"!
      A felon carrying a firearm isn't a victimless crime, he's an extreme danger to all sorts of people & that's proven almost every day here with the wild shootings of innocent victims.
      As for the number of murders in NYC, NYC has 2.5 times the population of Chicago, but the murder rate is at least half of ours.
      That's because their felons are actually afraid of going to prison for 5 or 10 years for just having a gun or even their prints on a gun!

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  8. Well said to anon at 9:52 and Clark St. Sometimes some of the pol. leaders or people in that area are the ones who keep a solution at bay.

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  9. I wish Lee had focused on the code of silence and dysfunctional families in these neighborhoods, rather than sex games. City officials deserve all the criticism they get, but the cure must come from within these communities. I don't think incarceration is the only solution.

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  10. That is disappointing if that is Lee's focus. Didn't know that. And some guys would just beat the lady into submission, so he's not too realistic.

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  11. Chi_Iraqi, or whatever is pandering to black audiences from the latest, dumbest Spike Lee Joint, is a comedy.

    A mayor pledges two terms, then runs his patronage army for life, highest sales tax, and winter's coming. Thank you for the movie, paychecks for all ! May the killings never end.

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  12. You're right about that. The notion that sexual congress between gang bangers and their ladies must be consensual is, to say the least, risible. If done right Lysistrita can be funny, if a bit bawdy -- I saw a musical version a few years back which featured a chorus of dancing phalluses. But parallels between 21st Century Chicago and Fourth Century B.C. Athens are a stretch. And I would think most people will find life and death on the south and west sides of our town too raw a subject for satire.

    A major point of Lysistrata was that war deprived women of their men for long stretches and some forever. Aristophanes alludes to the fact that the state provided war widows with leather dildos free of charge..You can't say the Greeks lacked compassion.

    Tom Evans

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  13. Young women and teens who have babies with men who are gangbangers are ensuring the continuation of cycle of violence.The 9 y/o who was shot and killed was the son of a gangbanger whose gang killed some other people. Pay attention to news stories about shootings. Notice the ages of the victims and their offspring. Many times only 16 or 17 years separating them. No woman (or girl) should have babies with a man who is a thug. That IS something they can control. Instead they should be working on getting themselves the hell out of the neighborhood and getting prepared to get a decent job.

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  14. Young women and teens who have babies with men who are gangbangers are ensuring the continuation of cycle of violence.The 9 y/o who was shot and killed was the son of a gangbanger whose gang killed some other people. Pay attention to news stories about shootings. Notice the ages of the victims and their offspring. Many times only 16 or 17 years separating them. No woman (or girl) should have babies with a man who is a thug. That IS something they can control. Instead they should be working on getting themselves the hell out of the neighborhood and getting prepared to get a decent job.

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    1. "Thugs" and "gangbangers" are our terms. The young woman or teen is having a baby with the good looking neighborhood guy who's learned how to practice age old arts of seduction. Or maybe with the uncle or mother's boyfriend who has raped her. It's pretty easy for us to tell her what she "should" be doing, but without deep understanding of her circumstances, a bit preachy. And easier said than done.

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  15. Good point, MH, except again, easier said than done to get out of there. But true, their choice on saying no or getting free birth control from clinics. Will their no's be listened to, is another story.

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    1. Some women today, of different backgrounds don't seem to have self esteem or respect and let guys use them or don't realize the difficulty of being a single mom. Nor do they demand marriage. Of course some groups may do that more than others and without 2 parents at home to say better not, more chance of this becoming a cycle. If this is what the 60s sex revolution brought about, no thanks. Doesn't seem like it really liberated women in that sense, just piled more on them and leaving more guys scot free.

      Great discussion today.

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