“My name is Nola Darling. PEACE. Two Fingers…#BlackLivesMatter”
Granted I had never watched the original groundbreaking 1986 She’s Gotta Have It written and produced by the legendary Spike Lee until the Netflix version was released. I found the original to be unusual – clearly there was a lacking storyline but nevertheless it was relatively interesting to watch. It was evident why it would have been considered groundbreaking for its time. Now.. exploring sexuality of a contemporary black woman is never an easy task and by many accounts She’s Gotta Have It 2017 has received its fair share of criticism, yet this is not just an exploration of sex…
Control, Friendships, Self Acceptance, Relationships, Therapy, Sexual Harassment, Love, Sexual Liberation, Art, Objectification, Colourism, Gentrification, Patriarchy, Varied Identities of Black Women, White Supremacy are all features of She’s Gotta Have It 2017
Nola Darling is an artist. An artist characterised as floating effortlessly in an uncompromising rejection of monogamy. Yet in actual fact she is a 27 yr old young woman in 2016’s America struggling to navigate three open relationships (with another later emerging relationship), her uncompromising ambition and dedication to her art as well as her friendships against a back drop of gentrification, a changing political landscape and female strength. Nola wholeheartedly moves to the rhythm of her own drum and creates her own rules which she thinks she diligently adheres too. She refuses to take on the issues of others particularly when her lovers appear uncomfortable with the idea of sharing Nola with another. Some of Nola’s actions can and are to be deemed as irresponsibile. I think the majority of us would agree that spending $600 on a dress knowing you cant afford your rent is a bad choice. Clearly many of Nola’s choices were self indulgent but those were HER choices and ultimately show that Nola
similar to many 27 year olds I know didn’t have everything figured out yet but that she was also going to do things on her terms.
What I appreciate about Nola is her vulnerability in relation to her Art. This was one of the main issues I found I could personally relate to. “Nola Darling is the weakest link… it is not a question of talent or skill.. perhaps her artistic eyes are just bigger than her stomach“. Navigating disappointment or criticism especially in relation to your artistry or your working life is never an easy pill to swallow. To be told that it is not that your talent or your skills are lacking but that you simply want too much, you are simply aspiring too high are sentiments which many women and people of colour can testify to receiving in varied forms. For Nola the impact of this rejection was compounded by her struggle. The feeling that there is something in the world wishing for her downfall and hearing others downplay or devalue your efforts for her and for many others is mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting.
What I also found interesting or puzzling to some extent was this new additional layer presented in the Netflix series which is not included in the original; a black lesbian relationship. I’m intrigued to hear from the LBGT community and their views on representation in She’s Gotta Have It 2017. Granted Opal is what Nola aspires to be; settled, grown, clear on what she wants and what her boundaries are. Yet, I’m still unsure about what this relationship was supposed to add to the narrative other than making Nola seem very greedy…
Nevertheless, She’s Gotta Have It 2017 gives us a more in depth understanding into the layers of men. All the men within the series, including Winnie Win and Papo offer some kind of insight into the intricacies that come with the male form. Personally I enjoyed the portrayal of Jamie Overstreet and Papo in particular. Viewers were finally given some depth of character we simply didn’t see in the original. It is crystal clear that Mr Overstreet is battling internal identity struggles; love vs duty, passion over security, a feeling of being “stuck” and unwillingness to remove himself from his obligation to his wife and child but yet a longing to remain connected to Nola. Nola represents the person Jamie used to be – sponteneous, fun, free. She unlocks such energy which Jamie craves. Whilst his prim and proper A.K.A wife represents a world of black privilege which he sought fearlessly to penetrate but with this comes uninteresting routine, feeling trite. Although I definitely do not condone cheating on any level in any circumstance, I enjoyed how Jamie enjoyed Nola. How he genuinely cared for her, how he took responsibility for actions that weren’t his own.
I rejoice in seeing black females in leading roles and characters like Clorinda Bradford, Raqueletta Moss and Vicky Overstreet who were able to manifest the diversity of black women. Shemekka in particular exposes the narrative drilled into black women and driven by european ideals of standards of beauty with a sub culture of those non blacks who enjoy idolising black features but who do not want to be black. As Nola provokatively states “White people are the gatekeepers …they get to decide whats hot and whats not“. Shemekka’s experience with butt injections highlights a growing trend of women around the world searching for the beauty which others will applaud. Overall, I enjoyed She’s Gotta Have It. The music was BOMB and it tried to show its viewers a variety of issues relating heavily to the year of its rebirth. But lets have a critical dialogue! What did you think of the Neflix series?