Lysistrata takes on gang violence, the NRA, and income inequality

01 chiraqOne summer when I was in college, a very sweet, cute, aspiring actor asked me out on a date. Soon after that he invited me to a performance of Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata that he was in that took place in a park near my apartment. It was a beautiful Minnesota summer evening and it was a fun, no budget, production that took place right on the grass in front of us–in other words, a very far cry from Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s adaptation of Lysistrata.

For those that don’t know the original play, it is about how Lysistrata convinces her fellow women to withhold sex until their men stop making war. Spike Lee takes the story and plops it in the middle of violence-plagued, modern day Chicago. As far as I could see he spared no sacred cows in assigning blame and the experience is heartbreaking and angering–especially when you stop to think about the scale of the violence going on in the city. In the 6 weeks they were on location making the film, 65 people were shot dead in Chicago and another 331 were injured by gun fire.

Lee has a great cast including John Cusack as a priest and Jennifer Hudson as the mother of a slain child. Hudson's portrayal was especially moving, knowing that her mother, brother, and nephew were killed by gun violence in Chicago.
Lee has a great cast including John Cusack as a priest and Jennifer Hudson as the mother of a slain child. Hudson’s portrayal was especially moving, knowing that her mother, brother, and nephew were killed by gun violence in Chicago.

The satire and humor that Lee uses is just enough to let us into the deep pain and frustration that mark the lives of the people living in violence-torn neighborhoods. And he maintains all the theatricality and poetry of ancient Greek drama but makes it distinctly of our time. His message is direct, and powerful, and entertaining. Some have complained that this kind of tragedy shouldn’t be entertaining but if it gets even a few people thinking, that’s a good thing.

The film is available streaming on Amazon and is well worth it. I suggest using the subtitles when you do because it really helps you appreciate the cleverness of all rapid fire poetry. It’s like reading/seeing/studying an ancient Greek drama. You don’t want to miss any of the nuance.

Lysistrata tries to convince her fellow Spartan women (in purple) and the Trojan women (in orange) to join together to stop the violence.
Lysistrata tries to convince her fellow Spartan women (in purple) and the Trojan women (in orange) to join together to stop the violence.

3 thoughts on “Lysistrata takes on gang violence, the NRA, and income inequality

  1. quinn February 9, 2016 / 10:57 am

    Perfectly said…..Spike Lee always produces food for thought…this was most ambitious offering and pretty much nailed it. I always felt that whether its ‘leaders’ (Malcolm X ‘vs’ MLK) or movies/bks etc, different presentations grab a different segment of every population…and all those segments need to hear the message….so it’s a combo of attacks to get message across to widest segment. This movie will provoke thought in segments of the audience (though probably a segment who was already ‘in the choir’ ) Thanks for reviewing and putting it out there. quinn

    Like

  2. Nadia February 10, 2016 / 10:54 am

    I’ve seen this on Prime and was curious about it. I figured since it was Spike Lee it would be worth watching, but was still on the fence. I’m glad you posted about it – now I know I should watch it. Thanks!

    Like

  3. Geoff W February 11, 2016 / 8:24 am

    I hadn’t realized this was an adaptation of Lysistrata. I’d already considered watching it and now I think I definitely will. Now to actually find the time.

    Like

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