Sometimes you just have to live long enough to see some of your heroes unfortunately become villains. In this case, it was a trailer that broke my heart.
Like every other enthusiastic Spike Lee fan, I watched the trailer to his latest joint Chiraq.
I had to watch it again to see if I wasn't missing anything. No, it was that damn problematic.
Disclaimer: I was born in Chicago, but was grade-schooled in Houston and currently residing in Philadelphia...so don't try to act like I'm some crazed native who isn't watching this trailer objectively.
The trailer, in all its glitz and shock value, is arousing - but the premise of this film isn't.
Chicago, known for its rampant bloodshed, is being mocked in this film for its gun-touting behavior. The black men in these urban streets are portrayed as unruly gangsters who are hyper-sexualized in violence and lust. Black women are already put in this Hotep gaze of Nubian goddess-like possession.
The brothers need a kryptonite to stop them from killing each other. The answer: a sister's vagina put on pause. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
I can't. Sorry, Spike, but I can't rock with you on this one.
It's 2015, not only is this problematic, but just downright sexist. If you thought placing women as sex props to end gun violence was empowering - you are a part of the problem.
I know you understand what's really causing gun-violence in these streets. You have read Malcolm X and directed it, you have filmed some of this most cinematic historical fictions of all time...Chiraq doesn't seem to be one of them given how lax you are with the context.
New York City was always your blueprint and you have given lots of real truth to how crime works. In Clockers, you didn't lose sight of how interwoven the cops are with drug dealers. In Do the Right Thing, you didn't ignore the impact real racism has on the value of black lives.
But with Chiraq, from what it appears, you try to come to my birthplace and get lazy. You make this a black-on-black trauma without taking into consideration external systemic factors. And to top it off, you place women of color as the barriers to these men's burdens. That's not original, that's just plain pathetic.
To be quite frank, we don't need a Greek comedy on what is currently a tragedy in one of the most landmark American cities - we need your truth. While you had the nerve to rightfully get cross with Quintin Tarantino on Django Unchained - how is Chiraq any different when it comes to making light of the current crisis happening in Chicago?
I know that cinema is an art form and its creator is entitled to certain liberties - but that still doesn't make it right. Seeing all of those black women in that trailer being used only for the discussion of sexual purpose of men upset me. In a world where we are now seeing such actresses of color awarded for having more complex storylines and identities - this just seemed backwards to me.
Furthermore, you hetero-normative perspective on black masculinity and femininity is also non-evolving as well. Seriously, you're going to place Nick Cannon in a bunch of fake tattoos, blow weed smoke, and yell "Chiraqqqqqq" and think that's really what's up?
But now that I'm on the subject, it seems as though you haven't really put much effort into evolving the women in your films. Either they are hyper-sexual or subservient. I challenge anyone to name me a strong female lead character in a Spike Lee Joint that didn't fit that narrative.
But perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. At 24 years old, I might be at a generational divide that is against the regurgitation of black lives being coonishly violent and uncontrollably lustful. I'm over imagery of us as troublemakers that just break things for no reason. Over women of color crying in tears over the slain men they love...but forget they are dying out there as well.
Perhaps #SayHerName, #TransLivesMatter, and other non-hetero-normative black lives don't seem to fit your joints in this new era of black cinema that you have outdated yourself in.
But I'm hoping that I will soon beg to differ. That maybe, just maybe, you will stop trying to market this film as a statement and more as something that was done in poor taste. It was tone-deaf and Chicagoans shouldn't have to be exploited in order for you to get that.
We need truth -- not a modern adaptation of the Greek comedy Lysistrata, Spike Lee. You should have done the right thing when it came to depicting the crime in Chi-town...you seem to always get it right when it came to New York City.
Here's to hoping you will next time.