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Some Object to the Comedy of “Chi-Raq”

Map of Chicago's community areas, grouped by c...
Map of Chicago’s community areas, grouped by color by “side” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recently released movie “Chi-Raq,” directed by Spike Lee, has caused an uproar among some Chicagoans who say it will offer an unrealistic depiction of the city. 

“I lived in an impoverished part of the city when I was a child and it’s not beautiful or easy to look at,” said Chicago resident Jocelyn Gutierrez.

Gutierrez, who participated in the Chicago protests of the Laquan McDonald police shooting,  has lived on the South Side of Chicago throughout her  life and said she hopes the movie doesn’t “glamorize” the impoverished areas or “censor” it for the benefit of a good movie.

In the movie, which is a satire based on the classical Greek comedy Lysistrata, a Chicago gang leader’s (played by Nick Cannon) girlfriend (Teyonah Parris) persuades other frustrated women to abstain from sex until their men agree to end the senseless cycle of violence.

Another Chicagoan, Yessenia Mercado, said she doesn’t like the portrayal of race in the trailer she has seen.

“I would rather it be some research in the neighborhoods and maybe make a documentary,” Mercado said.

The trailer shows mostly the black community, and Mercado said African Americans are not the only race affected by gangs or in them. She said it may be entertaining, but it would be more interesting to see a movie focused on the real people of Chicago’s suburbs.

Donnia Harrington, a film student at Columbia College Chicago, said basing a movie about real life conflict on a Greek comedy may not be the best idea.

“Part of me feels like it’s in bad taste to tell a story about real life gang violence in the form of a comedy, but I’ve also seen films that have successfully tackled race and violence issues with comedy,” Harrington said.

Though she doesn’t entirely agree with the method used, Harrington said she is glad the movie is talking about an issue that seems to be ignored by society. 

“Chi-Raq” is a term coined several years ago by Chicago rappers illustrating the wave of violence that rivals that of war-torn Iraq.

“I feel like they just heard the name ‘Chi-Raq’ and decided to run with it,” Mercado said. 

Mercado said she expects the movie to be “corny.”

It doesn’t seem like anyone interviewed agrees the real issues of race, crime and poverty will be addressed.

The “sex boycott takes over the issue of gun violence,” Gutierrez said.

Harrington also expressed concern that the stereotypes the trailer seems to portray will create negative outlooks on African Americans because films have such a strong influence on society.

“I think portrayals like that are harmful because society uses that generalize an entire race,” Harrington said.

The only good these women said will come out of the film is that it will start a discussion about the issues that consume Chicago, such as gun abuse and gang violence.

“Gun violence in Chicago has negatively affected too many parts of our lives, and many of us just don’t feel like laughing about it,” Gutierrez said. 

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