Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



The ancient Greek Aristophanes wrote a play titled Lysistrata, about women who denied sex to their men until they stopped the endless Peloponnesian War. Spike Lee used this story and transported it to Chicago’s South Side, with rival gangs subbing for the Greek armies. Not only that, but he preserved the idea of having most of it performed in verse, though it is way more profane, obscene, and scatological than Aristophanes probably wrote it. Remember the old chant, “Make love, not war”? This is more like “Make war? No sex!” Or how about “Make war? No piece!” The way these women put it is “No peace, no pussy!” They have a clever symbol, too. Take a peace sign and turn it upside-down. Now erase the top half of the middle line, from the circle to the center. What you end up with is a depiction of female genitals, minus the hair.

Spike Lee is a very uneven director. He has made some movies that were groundbreaking, and some that just flat-out didn’t work. This one is not a masterpiece, but it’s pretty interesting. It addresses something that a lot of people in the black community would prefer to ignore. That is the fact that, though it is certainly true that black people have something to fear when it comes to being shot and killed by a white cop, young black men are far, far more likely to be killed by other young black men. And these crimes are very seldom solved, because although everyone knows who did the shooting, “nobody saw nothing.” This is partly from fear of retaliation, and partly from distrust of the police, but also partly because you just don’t tell on a “brother.” White people have this same tendency, of course. Being a “rat” is about the worst thing you can be, to some people. But goddam it, you don’t get to feel that way and then come right back and complain about violence in your community. If you won’t step up, shut your fucking mouth!

I enjoyed this one, but probably won’t need to see it again.