Remember that time Spike Lee did a movie about Chicago that almost everyone IN and FROM Chicago hated? With the exception of Jennifer Hudson and Father Pfleger, because money talks, most Chicagoans and the rest of the world were perplexed about the actual purpose of Spike Lee’s film “Chiraq”. It’s always exciting when your city is being represented on the big screen, but disheartening when it’s just wrong. Dreadfully wrong.
My husband and I went to check out Barbershop: The Next Cut this weekend and was pleased. Like “I can’t wait for this to come out DVD” pleased. Like “Can we go see it again next week?” pleased. It was THAT good. It was so good, that it made us wonder again where a legend like Spike Lee went wrong with Chiraq. I’ve identified 5 lessons Spike Lee can learn from Barbershop: The Next Cut.
- Respect CHICAGO, not Chiraq. Yeah, yeah, yeah… That was Nick Cannon’s character name (Yep, Nick Canon played the lead role in a movie about Chicago. That still hasn’t sunk in), but it also justified the use of a description of my city, that us Chicagoans despise. I know it’s considered art, but why start off on the wrong foot? From the name alone, Chiraq never stood a chance.
- Be clear about your message. Barbershop: The Next Cut was FULL of messages and lessons, and guess what? Everyone understood EXACTLY what those messages were. Chiraq on the other hand, has left me in a permanent state of confusion. The other day someone who has yet to see Chiraq, asked me to explain what it was about to them, and after 5 minutes of me talking, I’m sure they left more confused than me. Chiraq was based on Lysistrata, which is a classical Greek comedy, in which the women withhold sex from the men in the community in an effort to achieve peace. Ummmmmmm, I wonder how many Greek comedies Lee’s target audience for Chiraq have watched. I can tell you how many I have: zero. Oop.
3. Black faithful fathers & husbands exist in Chicago. Nick Cannon’s character Chiraq was unfaithful to his girlfriend in the beginning of the movie. Jennifer Hudson was portrayed as a single mother, and Angela Basset was single as well. Being single isn’t my issue. However, where were the positive MEN? While Nick Canon and Wesley Snipes played the role of gangsters, the only positive male was the White man (Father Pfleger). This is why my husband dang near smiled the entire time while watching Barbershop: The Next Cut. We finally saw Black men on film being faithful to their wives and being HIGHLY active in the lives of their sons. Something that happens in Chicago EVERYDAY.
4. Laughter helps. Chicago has its issues, but I highly doubt a sex strike will cure them. Shout out to Barbershop for addressing our issues head on, but also giving us a comic relief when needed.
5. Show some love. If you’re going to come to a city, film a movie in that city, and use a name that clearly disrespects that city, I’m left to wonder about your motives. The last thing us Chicagoans want to feel like is someone is making a mockery, along with a few dollars, from the reality that we deal with every single day. I’m convinced that most of my paranoia and stress can be attributed to living in Chicago. You don’t know pain until you’ve cried for Chicago. I often find myself yearning for old Chicago. However, I will never give up on my city, and that is what brought tears to my eyes at the end of Barbershop. Ice Cube acknowledges the obvious that’s occurring in my city, but he also highlight’s the good, which led to a thunder clap in the theater.
And THAT my friends is how you do a movie about Chicago. Future directors, please take notes. Malcolm D. Lee, THANK YOU.
P.S. I can’t lie, I was a bit pressed about the portrayal of gangs in Chicago identifying with certain colors. Maybe in 1991 Chicago. Today? Not so much. But I still LOVED the movie <3