SON Review: ON SPIKE LEE’S ‘SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT’ – No Spoilers


I felt a bit embarrassed when I first heard about Spike lee’s Netflix ‘She’s gotta have it’, that I hadn’t even seen or heard of the 1986 film. I decided to watch the original film first, before watching the series. I like doing stuff in order, I’m a bit finicky like that.

Especially, if I find out the book came first then the movie! I refuse to watch the movie before I have read the book. Ok, maybe it depends on the genre.. I didn’t read the Twilight books, so that’s different. I watched the first two and decided that was enough, I’m good. Maybe the books are better? But I had better things to read, no shade intended, just not my thing.

I watched the original movie, loved the black and white cinematography, the dialogue, the frames, but I couldn’t help but feel a certain way about how Nola was portrayed (from the male gaze). I found myself waiting to see her or hear from her most intimate moments, instances that would resonate with me somehow. Nola Darling was ultimately living the dream life I desire for myself. She had her own place, made her work at home, was creating daily, living her life just how she chose with whomever she chose, free from everyone, committed to no one other than herself. It’s not for everyone, and right now in the current socio-political and economical climate I find myself in, it’s damn near impossible to live that way in London alone. Who knows, maybe someday, but for now let me dream..

The controversial rape scene was difficult to watch, but important to have yet disappointedly dealt with in the movie. It wasn’t addressed at all from the perspective of the victim. It was painful, the ending also seemed sad, as if Nola was tragic to be who she was and would always be alone. I felt weird, unsure what I had learnt from watching this but understanding how it could’ve been groundbreaking for it’s time.

Fastforwarding to the 2017 series just released – I hoped that perhaps the update would address what made me feel uncomfortable and disillusioned from the original, but approached it with a neutral mind, and not expecting too much, low key hyped because of comments I’d been reading and seeing.

The series delivered in many surprising ways, I’m going to start with the good. The portraits representing different WOC that I follow that are either educators, speakers, artists, social activists had their portraits represented in scenes in Nola’s apartment. I love this. The writing in terms of choice of topics to cover, such as gentrification, the struggle and the hustle to pay rent, street harassment, body image, etc are all important, difficult, nuanced and current topics we are discussing and are rarely covered or seen in the series we watch. The soundtrack is on point, the choice of actors is great and some of the scenes and visuals are amazing.

There’s something missing though, I can’t enjoy the series fully, a lot of things seemed off and were irritating to me, which I couldn’t ignore and prevented me from fully enjoying the episodes. The actual acting is quite bad in my opinion, and I don’t know if it’s intentionally meant to be slightly off, a bit like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, but the difference being the comedic side to Master of None is effective and intentional. I wasn’t laughing in the scenes intended for humour..it just seemed too forced. Nola’s character seems like a forced representation of today’s ‘black woke polyamorous pansexual broke artist living in gentrified Brooklyn’, and I just wasn’t  buying it..

#stopforcingit #tryingtocommunicatetoyoungpeople #byusinghashtags #blacklivesmatter?

No one ACTUALLY says #blacklivesmatter in conversation…or at least the people I surround myself with don’t. I feel like the writers of the series have this odd idea that the URL generation, speak in hashtags IRL (in real life) like how we tweet?

I’m also unimpressed by the narratives on Nola’s sexuality and relationships from Nola’s perspective. It’s not really believable, there’s no depth, as if she has no emotion or there are no moments of seeing her think, feel, cry, share intimate moments with the people she is with that are meaningful in any way. Six episodes in I’ve seen only one moment! (Because I kept on pushing to see if it would get better). Most disturbing were the explicit scenes involving needles that perhaps could’ve been filmed differently and not so explicitly. I found it distressing and wondered why it had to be shown more than once.  

Ultimately, I had quite a few issues with the series, but will watch until the end. I feel like being six episodes in I can’t turn back now.

Cue image of Nola’s fake orgasimc tears upside down

 

References and further reading:

http://afropunk.com/2017/11/spike-lees-shes-gotta-reboot-black-women-sexuality/

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/j5dx7d/whatever-shes-gotta-have-i-dont-want