She's Gotta Have it

A Feminist Review: You’ve Gotta Watch ‘She’s Gotta Have It’

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Rama

Young African girl trying to live her best life & have an impact on this unjust society that we currently live in.

This thanksgiving, Netflix released a 10-episode remake of Spike Lee’s 1986 film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’. The show, which carries the same name, was also directed by Spike Lee but was mostly written by a room full of women including playwright Eisa Davis and Joie Lee.

The plot is still very similar to the movie but the documentary like series has definitely been reimagined into this era. That is not to say that it does not have old school vibes. One of the things that I liked about this show was the music selection! From Frank Sinatra, to Maxwell, the Isley Brothers and the Notorious BIG, the classic tunes were just flowing throughout the show. The director actually paused in between scenes to show you the record that was just playing. Part of me believes that they did this so that the audience wouldn’t miss the fact that most of the artists are from New York. The set is 2016 Brooklyn, most of the characters are born and raised there and they are not afraid to represent. That includes main character Nola Darling who literally wears it (in the form of a gold chain) around her neck.

Ms. Darling is a twentysomething artist with natural hair, dark brown skin and an almost aimless freedom that is rarely afforded to women, especially those of color. She juggles different jobs to pay for her already discounted brownstone in Fort Greene, wears colorful African-print headwraps and has a long list of rules designed to keep the three men in her life from overlapping. She is the kind of TV show character that you either love or love to hate. Either way, there are a lot of topics (including the three below) that this protagonist addresses that make the show well worth a binge.

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Sexuality

She's Gotta Have It
From left to right: Anthony Ramos as Mars Blackmon, Cleo Anthony as Greer Childs, Lyriq Bent as Jamie Overstreet and Ilfenesh Hadera as Opal Gilstrap (Photo credit: David Lee/Netflix)

Nola is a sex positive polyamorous pansexual who doesn’t believe in one-word labels. She is caught in a love pentagon with Jamie Overstreet, a well-meaning, protective married man who ends up acting like a sugar daddy. Mars Blackmon, a hard-working dramatic young man with a big sense of humour but a very childish personality. Greer Childs, a handsome, cultivated lover who also happens to be the epitome of narcissism. Finally, there is the beautiful and mature Opal who does not want anyone who is not fully committed entering the life of her child. These four distinctly flawed partners all offer her something different. She actually considers having a serious relationship with Opal but is quickly reminded that she is not ready for that type of commitment. She creates a long list of rules to make sure that she can enjoy what they have to give her without having to deal with the ‘three headed monster’ as her therapist calls the men in her life.

All of the men seem to want more from Nola, but she is determined not to let them become a distraction. She puts her sexual desires and her needs first! Many have been criticizing the fact that her lack of commitment seems to come from a narcissistic place but I think that there is something very refreshing about a woman actually allowing herself to be selfish and make bold choices simply because she wants to. One of the choices that I admired most was made later in the show when she gave a large sum of money back to her older lover, Jamie. His almost paternal need to provide for her was starting to complicate their situation even more.  In a world where the Cardi B’s of the world encourage girls to take financial gifts from men, she knew when to say enough and reclaim her financial independence.

 

Assault

She's Gotta Have It
Street art by Nola Darling in She’s gotta have it (Photo credit: David Lee/Netflix)

Unfortunately, like most of us, she is no stranger to catcalling and sexual assault. On a short walk home in a neighborhood that she referred to as ‘safe’ a few minutes earlier, Nola is repeatedly catcalled by a man who has the audacity to put his hands on her when she refuses to let him have his way. Her response to this attack is strong! She takes her feelings and pours them into a street art campaign that would resonate with many of us. Spike Lee and his team of writers also used this opportunity to show the way that many people react to assault in women’s lives. The men in Nola’s life are very caring and concerned for her welfare but you can almost hear them say ‘your dress is too short’ when the young woman buys a revealing black dress and they are clearly uncomfortable with her choice to be sexy in a way that has nothing to do with them.

The very confusing twenties!

DeWanda Wise as Nola Darling in She’s Gotta Have It (Photo credit: David Lee/Netflix)

Nola is an unapologetically confident black girl and it is a beautiful thing to see. What makes her so amazing in my eyes is the fact that unlike most sex positive women on TV, she is not secretly lonely and she does not have every other aspect of her life together. She is a regular twenty-seven year old who is still figuring out what kind of woman she is and who she wants to be. Her Godmother even tells her point blank: “ Nola, you got to get your shit together”. In her monologues and her actions, we can see that she herself wants to figure out a way to move forward. She may be in denial about many things like her fear of commitment but she is also becoming more self-aware as the show progresses.

To conclude, Ms. Darling is a girl you could meet on the road tomorrow. She is a complex woman who represents many aspects of our everyday lives. Her reimagined story is worth watching simply because you or at least one woman you know can relate to what she stands for: A Young and free black woman trying to find her place.