Why Lena Waithe’s ‘The Chi’ is the must-watch show of 2018
On December 19th, Lena Waithe released the first episode of her upcoming TV show The Chi, as a teaser for the full debut set for Jan 7, 2018.
Waithe, who you may recognize from Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None, is the creator and serves as one of the executive producers of the show, alongside Common and Aaron Kaplan from Kaplan entertainment.
Normally I cringe when I see a title referring to the Windy City. Despite the citizens’ fortitude against the abundance of odds the youth and people face in Chicago, most pop culture depictions are most concerned with the city’s negatives.
Even Spike Lee, who is regarded as a legendary influencer of the culture, has used his illustrious platform to perpetuate the stigma.
In 2015, the Do The Right Thing director decided to title his Lysistrata-in-Chicago film Chi-Raq — a term used to equate the murder rate in Chicago to the death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq — as the movie title for his musical about the city. Not only was the movie just bad, but that name normalizes a toxic state of life for people who live it everyday.
And as recent as January of this year, Trump threatened that he’d send in feds if Chicago doesn’t fix the ‘horrible carnage going on.’ The President of the free world saying that ‘carnage’ in going on in an American city is the very reason Chicago is the scapegoat when there is outcry in the African-American community.
Between Noisey documentaries, drill music, and the influence of media, the perspective of the disenfranchised has been blurred. Chicago rappers like Lupe Fiasco, Chance The Rapper, and Vic Mensa have done tremendous work to bring awareness to what needs to be done but they need help.
Luckily The Chi isn’t cringeworthy.
The Chi is a coming-of-age story of a group of Black students that, through shared circumstance, forges a bond of a lifetime. It’s a new lens into a city that for too long has had too many negative ones.
In January of this year, the project began to fast track when Showtime picked the drama up from Fox 21 TV Studios. A team consisting of Dope writer-director Rick Famuyiwa as director, Straight Outta Compton‘s Jason Mitchell as a lead, and Waithe — who is a native of the city — behind the series, it’s safe to say the stories from the South Side will be in good hands.
If Lena Waithe can do with The Chi what Donald Glover did with Atlanta and Issa Rae with Insecure (shot in L.A.) then there’s hope for how the world sees Chicago. By simply telling an authentic human story, the audience is forced into a new narrative as it pertains to the Windy City.
Beyond the opportunity of putting more African-American actors in a premier spotlight, The Chi should be on everyone’s watch list because Chicago’s story is still untold, and with the cultural influence the city brings, it’s time we hear it.
Watch the first episode of The Chi below.