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In the news: between Nov. 30 - Dec. 7, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in the media between November 30 - December 7, 2015


In Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq,’ it's women vs. men, with a vengeance - New York Times

Spike Lee’s adaptation of “Lysistrata” in his newest film, “Chi-Raq,” is set for release on the big screen Dec. 4 by Amazon (which will post it online later), Mr. Lee’s movie represents the web retailer’s first theatrical feature. The film had provoked a different kind of backlash, because of the title (a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq popularized by the rapper Chief Keef). It also faced accusations that its use of satire and Aristophanes’ plot of a sex strike makes light of the gang violence plaguing Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods.

“It is not comedy, it is satire,” Mr. Lee told me at the Loews Regency Hotel near Central Park. “Aristophanes satirized Greece over 2,000 years ago. Satire has always been a way to deal with serious subject matter, and we wanted to honor the original source.”

Then again, “Lysistrata,” easily Aristophanes’ most performed play, has always spurred debate, and “Chi-Raq” could be seen as part of a historical tradition of African-American adaptations that have set off unanticipated controversies.

First staged in 411 B.C., it tells the story of Lysistrata’s effort to end the Peloponnesian War by persuading the women of Greece to take over the treasury and withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers.

The idea of Lysistrata as a black woman always appealed to Kevin Willmott, who wrote “Chi-Raq” with Mr. Lee. “She is a real commander,” he told me. “I grew up with blaxploitation films, with Pam Grier and ‘Foxy Brown,’ in which there were strong women that save the community. We took a bit of that, too, and put it in the modern context.”

In the end, much like Aristophanes’ original, the biggest reveal of “Chi-Raq” (Lee’s most important film in a long time) is that hyper-masculinity is its own form of drag, an identity performance on the streets, in the military and too often among police officers, that can have fatal consequences for men as well as women.

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