There is a thin line between humor and satire that has often been blurred in the snapshot lens of social media. The trailer for Spike Lee’s film Chi-Raq inspired heated responses from movie-goers and artists from Chicago who felt the iconic director was making light of the violence in their city. MC and activist Rhymefest told The Chicago Sun Times that Lee “exploited poor people” and owed Chicago an apology.
“I saw the trailer. It looks just like the script I read, and it verified everything I thought. I was more shocked when I saw the trailer than when I was reading the script. I grieved for the 9-year-old little boy who was shot [Tyshawn Lee], and now a comedy [“Chi-Raq”] is being made about death in Chicago.”
In the trailer–which describes a movement by the women of Chicago to deny sex to their men until they stop killing each other–comedian Dave Chappelle can he seen rhyming about there being “no strippers on the pole” and other quips.
Hearing and seeing the strong resistance to the trailer, Lee recorded a response explaining his position.
“Some people are getting it twisted and thinking that this is a comedy. Chi-Raq is not a comedy. Chi-Raq is a satire…in no way shape or form are we not respectful of the situation that is happening in Chi-Raq. In no way shape or form are we making light of the lives that have been murdered with this senseless violence.”
Lee goes on to point out that many films in the history of cinema use humor when addressing serious situations (ie Klansmen not being able to see through the eyeholes in their hoods in Django Unchained).
It’s also noteworthy that Jennifer Hudson stars in the film. The Oscar-winning Chicago native lost her mother, brother and nephew at the hands of gunman William Balfour in 2008. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Watch Lee’s full statement below.