Last night I went to an advanced screening of Chiraq. Being honest, when I first saw the preview I was turned off. Nick Cannon as a gang member? Using sex to control violence in Chicago? Spike Lee (let’s be real, Spike has been putting out some trash)? My thoughts going into the film were purely negative, but I went because it was free and I had no intention of ever paying for the movie. (WARNING, THERE MAY BE SPOILERS)
When the film started I decided to view it with pure eyes and push my conscious mind aside. Within about 5 minutes that went away because the stereotypes were super glaring. Every stereotype about the sexuality of black women was perpetuated, even Sara Baartman’s name was dropped. We are taught that men get power from violence, and women get power from sex, specifically the P. Just as I prepared to walk out, I had to check myself. Chiraq is satire, and some of this stuff was going to piss me off, but it is done with a purpose. It’s meant to be extra, it’s meant to be uncomfortably hilarious, and it’s meant to make you talk about it.
About an hour into the movie the women had confidently decided to withhold sex in order to get world peace. They were actively denying men, and my mind kept going to rape. I kept hoping and praying no one would get raped. Amongst my hoping, I had to figure out why my mind kept going to rape. It was because I know that there are people that rape, and it was quite possible that one of the guys in the film could try to get that power back. Then it happened, the men threatened to take what was theirs. They had the keys for the chastity belts and threatened to open them. Luckily their attempt failed because the leading lady talked them out of it. Still, I started to get pissed because that is not always the case.
Throughout the film there were acknowledgements of all the black lives that have been lost to hands of guns and police brutality. Name after name was dropped, and that is what will keep this movie relevant. It’s not because it’s a Spike Lee film, it’s because the movie appeals to our generation. If I watch this movie when I’m 50, I will still get it. It will still mean something to me. When the news stories stop and the media coverage ceases, we will still have a reminder in this film.
Overall, I left the film with mixed feelings. There were some things I really liked and others that made me want to leave the theater. For example, the acting was good, even corny Nick Cannon had me convinced for a while. The use of profanity was remarkable. I forgot how well Black folk can cuss. The play like dialogue took a while to grow on me, and then it became somewhat poetic. I still don’t get John Cusack’s purpose, but the film did acknowledge this lone white savior that cared about a black community. It also acknowledge that Chiraq is a terrible name and that gun violence happens in many cities across the U.S.
I won’t give away too much more, but I do encourage people to see the film. If it pisses you off, it probably served it’s purpose because that is what satire does. It makes a serious issue comedic to raise consciousness. I was pissed about a lot. The objectification of Black women’s bodies pissed me off. The use of bitches and hoes to address women pissed me off. And number of other things. I can’t say I left feeling smarter or more aware, but I did leave thinking and wanting to talk about what happened. I probably should watch it again because there may be other things that pissed me off. Amongst feeling pissed, I couldn’t help but laugh. Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious. If you still need convincing, support the film because it is full of black and brown faces. There are new and old actors/actresses throughout the movie. Regardless of how the film makes you feel, it’s someone’s truth and it’s still our black.