In Speech at Northwestern, Spike Lee Defends ‘Chi-Raq’ Film Against Charges it Belittles Women: ‘I Don’t Believe It’
Director Spike Lee’s trip to Northwestern University Wednesday evening was highlighted by controversy surrounding his latest Chicago-based film Chi-Raq, which tackles gun violence with satire, sexuality and comedy.
Lee spoke to a crowd of 800 people at the university to alleviate any remaining controversy surrounding his latest film, which is based on the ancient Greek political satire, “Lysistrata,” by Aristophanes. The controversy is in reference to how Lee portrayed Black women in the film.
“I don’t believe it,” he said. “Angela Bassett would not be in this film if she thought we belittled black women.”
The women-centered play focuses on the main character, Lysistrata, who recruits Greek women to withhold sex from their husbands to stop the Greek Peloponnesian War (427 to 387 BCE). The film takes place in present-day Chicago and uses the same premise to stop gang warfare. Lee made the film “to bring light to this epidemic [of gun violence] that many people in the world do not know about.”
Critics have stated that the film dehumanizes and objectifies women because they featured in a sexual way and wearing skimpy clothing. The director has come out before to address the various criticism by pleading with many of his critics to visit the original source material.
Lee’s stance on gun violence has also become a bone of contention for many local residents because some believe the film makes light of the real violence in the city.
“I came up in an era where we never made fun of someone who was smart. We never said, ‘Why are you trying to be white?’ ” Lee said. “Now this whole thing has been flipped. Smart Black kids are undervalued. Killing people is not hip. You get props for killing people. The aspiration is not to be a doctor or lawyer; it’s to be a savage.”