NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: (L-R) Demetria Lucas, Interactive One SVP Content & Brands Kierna Mayo, "She's Gotta Have it" Writers Eisa Davis and Radha Blank, Lead Actor Dewanda Wise, Executive Producer Tonya Lewis Lee, Michaela Angela Davis, Tara Duncan, and Lane Eskridge speak onstage at the Netflix Original Series Shes Gotta Have It Special Screening and Panel Discussion at IFC Center on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Netflix) *** Local Caption *** Demetria Lucas;Kierna Mayo;Eisa Davis;Radha Blank;Dewanda Wise;Tonya Lewis Lee;Michaela Angela Davis;Tara Duncan;Lane Eskridge
Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It series is set to be released on Netflix Thanksgiving day. After watching the movie several times, and now screening the first episode of the show I’m reminded of how far black women and their sexuality have come, and have to go. In the 31 years since the movie was release (the same year I was born) we’ve gone from a woman like Nola being called a freak to now being a THOT. Even though a woman like Nola is little more acceptable in today’s society, now that respectability politics are becoming passe for many millennials, the show is still a necessity when it comes to black women dating, and their sexuality.
There have been plenty of times I’ve heard men say or imply a woman is single because:
she isn’t a pushover and call her mean
she refuses to compromise with men and their nonsense
she talks shit to men when they try to talk down to them
she isn’t impressed simply by gestures and empty promises
I can keep going, but I’ll stop there.
Let’s go back first to my thoughts and feelings about the movie. Throughout my 20’s when I watched the film I was always on edge about Nola Darling. What was the point of the movie? Is this even possible? I was very intrigued and admittedly wanted to date multiple men at the same time like her.
I’m reminded of the different phases in my life when I watched the film. Initially, when I saw it in my early 20, still in college, and trying desperately to be the best Christian (whatever that meant) and failing miserably at it, sex before marriage was something I frowned upon, even though I was partaking in it. It’s safe to say I hadn’t really enjoyed sex at that point in my life. I couldn’t help but wonder how Nola was so free.
The Thanksgiving dinner scene (you have to watch it) made me think she was a bad bitch, yet subtle, coy, and a regular woman like me. She wasn’t over the top unlike my sexual fave Lil’ Kim who I looked up to as a teenager. Even 20 years after the film’s release I had never seen anything like Nola before.
I grew up with Sex in the City and Girlfriends, even Living Single. Here I was in the age of booty models and weave, and here was Nola, a natural short hair, naturally modest black body with nothing extra pulling eligible black men.
The second time I watched the movie I was fresh out of college and in a celibate phase of my life. I chose not to date until I reached a certain place in my career, or at least moved out of my mother’s house. My beliefs about sex and sexuality had changed, and I no longer believed sex was something just for marriage. Although, I wasn’t participating in it due to my circumstances I no longer felt bad about “sinning” if I decided to do it. This made me less confused about Nola, but I was still very curious.
It was odd how quick men were to call a women a freak or hoe, but still willingly participated in a relationship with her. Jamie, Greer, and Mars begged her, in their own way, for her to change for them. They wanted her to be who they wanted her to be for them instead of the woman they had fallen in like or love with already. I felt it confirmed all my preconceived notions about men, and gave me even more reason to be focused so I could be an independent woman. Even years later I still feel like men love your independence until they need you to be dependent on them.
The last time I watched the movie in my late 20’s I was in a complicated relationship filled with lies. I dated several men during this time too, but always went back to this one guy time after time. I was jealous of Nola and wanted to be her foreal.
I hated that everyone around her (including Opal, her dad, ex roommate, even therapist) made her question herself. By the end of the movie she seemed confused or wanted something that wasn’t really for her at the time- to be normal. I felt the men were not sincere in wanting to be with her. She didn’t need to be fixed, nor was she broken. She just didn’t fit into a box like everyone would prefer her to. It no longer was about her and her wants by the end of the film, but what everyone wanted from her.
With the Netflix series being released in a couple of weeks I was invited to a screening of the first episode. During the screening I see Nola in a 2017 version of herself, and I’m intrigued again as it related to her sexuality and who she is as a whole woman. The dynamic of Nola with other women- her friends- is explored in the show which we needed to see more of to understand her better. The movie made it more about a woman with three boyfriends. Her relationship with women in the film was a lesbian, Opal, who was trying to sleep with her, and her ex-roommate, Clorinda, who had an issue with her sexuality.
The show and the movie shines a light on the insecurities and inadequacies of men using Nola’s sexuality, and shows how women are chastised by men for their audacity to be free.
I can recall numerous times in my own dating adventures or discussions with men about being single. Their presumption that I was a hoe at one point in my life simply because I went to college. The audacity to think I don’t enjoy being single and alone (not to be confused with lonely), and therefore should put up with their bull shit. Even men feeling that their mere presence is enough for me to want to sleep with them let alone fall at their knees and praise them for their non-existent attempts to be with me. How lame is that?
I don’t think all men are terrible, but this show shines a light on black men who feel entitled to a woman who will shut up and fuck them, and the way they go about getting it by any means necessary- manipulation, sexual harassment, sex, gifts, etc. Nola is simply rebelling against it, not for the sake of rebelling, but because it’s just not what she wants. At least that’s what I took away from the first episode.
After the screening there was a panel discussion with actress and star of the show DeWanda Wise, Series EP Tonya Lewis Lee, Series Writer/Co-Producer Radha Blank, Series Writer Eisa Davis, Award-winning author and journalist, Demetria Lucas D’Oyley, and Media Maven, Kierna Mayo moderated by “Image Activist” Michaela Angela Davis.
Demetria Lucas, Kierna Mayo, Eisa Davis, Radha Blank, Dewanda Wise, Tonya Lewis Lee, Michaela Angela Davis (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Netflix)
There were a lot of great things said about the show, character, and black women in general throughout the discussion. Lucas D’Oyley brought up a great point about Nola having three men to make one great man. Nola struggled with keeping and leaving all of the men because they all brought qualities to the table that she couldn’t find in just one of them. No one wants to talk about men being inadequate partners though.
Besides sexuality, I do believe the show is about Nola’s relationships with her art, the men, her friends, (a gentrifying) Brooklyn, and herself. I’m interested to see where the series takes us on her journey. I have a feeling its going to go there.