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Spike Lee made quite a comeback this past November when he teamed up with Netflix to release She’s Gotta Have It, a 10-episode romantic-comedy drama based on his 1986 film of the same name. While it has its flaws, this series depicting the life of a Brooklyn artist presents sexuality and intersectional feminism in a poignant, unique way. Now that filming for season two is underway, I figured now is as good a time as any to highlight a few of the show’s merits. If you haven’t already, here are five reasons you’ve gotta watch She’s Gotta Have It.
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Unlike the predictable ‘two-pining-guys vs. one-helpless-girl’ dynamic, the love plot in She’s Gotta Have It takes on a much more refreshing angle. Think of it more as a “love-pentagon”, if you will: with Nola at the center, three male lovers and one female lover vie for the artist’s affection in drastically different ways. Meanwhile, Nola also learns how to be fulfilled by self-love (both figuratively and literally), making Nola herself the fifth corner on this perplexing love polygon.
2. The women are #WokeAF (but flawed, like the rest of us).
Between Nola and her two best friends, Clorinda and Shemekka, womanly strength, ambition, and intellect exude throughout the show’s scripts and scenes. She’s Gotta Have It consists of much more than romantic comedy. Shemekka’s struggle to gain body-positivity and autonomy, Clorinda’s passion for representing the “African diaspora” through art curation, and Nola’s feminist activism through portraits and protest art introduce a variety of #woke themes and dialogue throughout the show. Despite their social conscientiousness, these women are far from perfect. With their knowledge comes conflict and the constant endeavor to remain understanding, sympathetic, and open-minded.
The media typically sticks to a handful of archetypes when depicting black people: the unsuccessful ghetto black male, the loud ratchet black female, etc. With an all-black cast of characters coming from broadly different backgrounds, She’s Gotta Have It does an excellent job of avoiding black stereotypes and monolithism. As a biracial man born to a black, civil rights activist father and white, French mother, Greer resists the world’s attempt to quantify his blackness. By justifying their indignance with civilized literacy and poise, Nola and Clorinda resist the stereotype of the “angry black women”. By being an active, positive presence in his son’s life despite an estranged marriage and complicated affair, Jamie resists the irresponsibility and negligence associated with black fatherhood. Every character has their own story in which their blackness is valued and portrayed in diverse ways.
Speaking of black stereotypes, it would’ve been easy for Nola’s sexual agency to be depicted as promiscuity (another paradigm we often see in the media’s depiction of black women). Instead, Nola Darling is a self-assured, bold, “polyamorous” young woman engaging in a process of self-discovery. The series makes a point to focus on Nola’s multiple relationships not as a product of fickle indecisiveness, but as a refusal of heteronormativity and male ownership. Talk about progressive feminism.
I’m sure by now you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of the kind of woman Nola Darling embodies. Her independence, sexual agency, black pride, artistic ambition, and activism paint Nola as a woman who “has it all”. Not to mention she actively articulates that throughout the series- letting her friends and family know that just because she has three boyfriends, a girlfriend, and a job (or two?) doesn’t mean she can’t chase her dreams. That being said, Nola has her issues and sometimes goes back on her vow to be completely self-reliant. But this isn’t an utter downfall.
Nola’s flaws exemplify the difficult terrain we navigate as women. We’re told what we can and cannot have, and therefore instinctively resist those presumptions every day. While we’re bound to make mistakes, there’s no reason why we should have to forfeit our aspirations or succumb to society’s expectations. Just like Nola and her friends, we’ve gotta have it all, and we CAN have it all!
P.S.- Men, that goes for you as well! Just because this is a show aimed at women doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of it, too. We endorse male feminists in this house, and so would Nola!
My name is Ina and I'm an avid lover of fashion, food, friends, dance, music, and herb puns. I want to be as cool as Millie Bobby Brown when I grow up. Boston University Class of 2020.