Spike Lee and the city of Chicago have opposing views of how the city should be viewed. First, from Lee:
No sooner did the Wrap report that notable director Spike Lee has been tapped by Amazon Studios to make a movie titled Chiraq did the controversy and backlash begin to grow online because of the movie’s title. It wasn’t Lee who coined “Chiraq,” however. Chicago residents who have experienced the deadly shootings in “The Chi” gave it the moniker of Chiraq. The term combines Chicago with Iraq to compare the violence of the two places, as witnessed in the below documentary video previously released about “Chiraq,” but unrelated to Spike’s forthcoming movie…
Alderman Anthony Beale says Chiraq should have a new title, reports CBS Local. Beale adds that he doesn’t care what other name Lee uses for his new movie, but that it shouldn’t be Chiraq due to the violent images it brings forth. The alderman from the 9th ward didn’t make mention of the nickname coming from other sources than Lee.
Another politician was more forgiving of the Chiraq title. Senator Dick Durbin said he’d first like to give Spike a chance to explain what the Chiraq movie is all about before passing judgment. Although he says the Chiraq title is worrisome, he admitted he doesn’t know much more about the movie than the title.
Other politicians weighed in on Spike’s Chiraq, reported the Chicago Sun-Times?. Although Alderman Beale continued to point out criticisms, claiming Lee was stigmatizing Chicago with the Chiraq nickname, Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to go that far. The mayor would only say that he’s focusing on the safety of the city.
Second, this news comes as the city is launching a national ad campaign to bring more tourists to Chicago:
The campaign, dubbed “Chicago Epic,” features a visually diverse 30-second TV commercial and far-flung ambitions. Target markets include San Francisco and Denver, but viewers throughout the country will likely see the spot over the next six weeks. Whether it changes minds about Chicago, or travel plans, remains to be seen…
Choose Chicago is funding the summer campaign with $2.2 million, up slightly from last year. About half of that budget will go to TV and online video. The rest will go to digital advertising, social media and paid search, hoping to sway online travel bookers as they plan their getaways…
Created by ad agency FCB Chicago, an 80-second long-form video was whittled down to a 30-second spot for the TV campaign. The spot features a distinctively Chicago voice urging visitors to be “part of something epic,” incorporating scenes of Divvy bikes, Lollapalooza, North Avenue Beach, Wicker Park and Alinea, recently named the best restaurant in the world by Elite Traveler. The forearms of renowned mixologist Charles Joly, which feature a tattoo of the Chicago flag, also have a starring role. Michael Jordan, the Chicago Theatre marquee and even the Chicago skyline ended up on the cutting-room floor for the edited TV spot…
“I think we’ll make ‘Chicago Epic’ as famous as ‘I Love New York,'” Fassnacht said. “That’s one of our goals — we have to make this iconic.”
There are several ways to view these competing narratives that could go a long way to influence the branding of the city:
1. Both contain elements of truth. Both don’t tell the full story. Chicago has experienced a lot of violence, even with murder rates that are significantly lower than in the past. Chicago has numerous interesting sites, even if many of its neighborhoods don’t match the glittering tourist locations.
2. The city of Chicago has said they want to boost tourism. This would help bring in more money and boost the city’s profile. Tourism is the sort of industry that can take advantage of existing locations and infrastructure (like the world’s busiest passenger airport) without requiring many big changes.
3. Chicago is clearly a global city and yet there is ongoing anxiety about whether Chicago can hold to its spot or whether it can truly compete with the cities at the top of the list.
4. It is unclear which narrative will win out.