So, I recently finished binge-watching Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" on Netflix and, honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. At one point, I took a break from the show (albeit brief) because I didn't really like the direction it was travelling. Yet, something pulled me back and inspired me to finish watching it. Was it Lee's creative genius? Was it DeWanda Wise’s powerful acting? Was it the theme? I'm not sure. In general, I'm undecided about how to feel.
I'll start off with the pros, though. First and foremost, I enjoyed that Lee foregrounded an artistic Black woman. I feel like throughout the season, viewers were able to see Nola essentially categorize her body as a work of art. As an artist myself, this was something I really delighted in seeing. Then, Lee set it in Manhattan, which is no surprise since that borough encompasses Harlem - the mecca for Black art. This ties into the second thing that I enjoyed about the series.
Lee payed homage to a slew of talented artists. From the continual recesses to showcase Black musicians to dedicating an opening segment where Nola went down a long list of Harlem's artistic forefathers (and mothers), the director did not shy away from acknowledging the role art has played in the Black community.
Then, Nola's bestie Clorinda opens an African diasporic gallery and the aesthetics from this scene are amazing. Really, the art was a major reason I tuned back into She's Gotta Have It, but anyone who's seen the show knows that was an accessory to the central theme: sex politics (in terms of both gender and the actual act of sex). I just read Lysistrata for a class and I'm realizing that Lee has addressed this theme before in his work.
Although I did not see Chi-raq (and don't plan to), I know that Lee based the movie on the Greek drama "Lysistrata," where women go on a sex strike to convince their husbands to call off a war. However, She's Gotta Have It is not about a sex strike (though Nola does try to go on one briefly). What's more important, it seems, is to express women's sexual liberation, especially in Black women.
Nola could be interpreted as a sexually liberated woman. She does not adhere to social constructs for women, which is a good thing. I support women being sexually liberated all the way because I know there's a double standard when it comes to judging sexual behavior in men and women. For example, boys lose their virginity and it's almost like a rite of passage whereas girls lose their virginity and they're considered deflowered and shameful.
It's wrong and it's harmful to progress these mentalities. Yet, I don't fully see myself in Nola. It's not because she has multiple sex partners. I believe you should have sex with who you want and on your terms. However, some of Nola's behavior is, for lack of a better term, trifling. I ship her and Mars heavily, but I just don't believe in dating friends' exes (and Clorinda doesn't seem to think so either). Her and Jamie are cute, but he's married. Greer does not have any outright limitations, but he's so self-absorbed it's no surprise that he and Nola are drawn to each other.
I love that Nola's an artist and she's doing what she wants with her body, but the characterization of her is kind of tone-deaf. The show runners characterize her as sexually liberated but also selfish. To me, we don't get Nola's full character development. For example, after her assault, she reacts to it and she grapples with it slightly, but it seems to just go away at a certain point. In real life, this does happen but not at the rate that is suggested by the show. The span of the series is not long and I just think it would take more time. That could just be me, though.
Then, the whole montage with inviting Greer, Jamie, and Mars over for Thanksgiving dinner was a little foreign to me. Maybe it was supposed to start a conversation about brother husbands (like sister wives), but I don't agree with it. I might be old school, but I still believe in monogamy. Polygamy, to me, is kind of selfish and that goes for men and women. Yes, you get to test your options, but you're leaving multiple doors open and thus closing yourself off to finding stability with just one person.
Then again, who decided that we should only be with one person? Could it have been the same person who decided that only men and women should be together? I think it's interesting that Nola doesn't end up with any of the three men she's juggled throughout the series. Instead, she calls up Opal. I like that the series addressed sexual fluidity and ended on an ambiguous tone. I also like the "My Name Isn't" campaign. With the wave of sexual assault allegations coupled with the shared experiences women have of being cat-called and dehumanized, that's important to highlight.
I also like that we get different types of women, which speaks to women’s complexity. Clorinda is more convservative than Nola, but they still find sisterhood in each other. Nola and Shameka express themselves in different. Although Nola embodies sexual liberation, she does not agree with Shameka in all aspects, especially when Shameka gets injections that lead to an infection. Opal embraces being a lesbian while Nola avoids labels in her quest for personal freedom. So, really, we get to see all iterations of womanhood and that is something I can appreciate about the series.
Finally, the music was always on time. Each song, which included a works cited entry after it, speaks to the preceding scene. The song selection was great, the theme was very timely, and the message was impactful. Although I did not agree with everything that happened on She’s Gotta Have It, I enjoyed some aspects of the show.
I'm not sure if She's Gotta Have It will return for a season 2, but for some reason I'm hopeful that it will. Despite my misgivings, there's something I like about the show. It keeps pulling me back for more. Perhaps it's the depiction of this flawed main character who we can still empathize with.
The "Rebellious Woman" blog is a periodic scoop on hair, love, race, politics, and everything in between. Stay tuned for reflections the life of a rebel with a cause!