She’s Gotta Have It is a new Netflix Original series and an adaptation of Spike Lee’s 1986 film of the same name. Spike Lee has resurrected this very relevant piece and sprinkled it with today’s #blacklivesmatter and #blackgirlmagic glitter. I think this artistic satire is just what millennials need (both male and female). Since its recent premiere, the show has received major attention in the media, sparking controversial debates – with many viewers loving Lee’s work and some not really feeling the vibe. The mixed reviews caught my attention and I must say I am still undecided.
She’s Gotta Have It follows Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), an aspiring Brooklyn artist. We are introduced to Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), Jamie Overstreet (Lyriq Bent) and Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony) in a seriously steamy 5-minute introduction sequence where we find out that Miss Nola Darling has sexual relations with all three men and doesn’t keep it a secret. At first, I thought this show was about some call girl if I must be honest, but quickly learnt it is about a young, independent and sexually liberal feminist – which if I’m completely honest doesn’t resonate with me. What did, is the underlying message of freedom that this show carries – freedom of self, freedom of speech, and freedom of people. The show teaches us how we can begin to be truly free – first by accepting ourselves and then by accepting others.
Lee’s satire also delves into the struggles of many women, not only in the Americas but across the globe. The media has again (and this time its social media) polluted the minds of men and women and set unrealistic body image goals for women. The idea that every woman should have a 24-inch waist and two basketballs for a behind (many of us know is just ridiculous) has pushed millions to put their lives at risk trying to achieve this improbable goal. Lee shows this through the story of Shemekka Epps (Chyna Layne), a struggling, young, single mother. Shemekka is influenced by her fellow exotic dancers in the club she dances in owned by Winny Winford (Fat Joe). They constantly make more money than her and she feels the only way out of her struggle is to join them.
The main thing I love about this show is that it focuses on African-American culture – the good and the bad, without concentrating on gangbangers, drugs and the degradation of women. For once, we actually get to see another side to African-American culture and the struggles of everyday people. The story and message get full marks from me, however where the show begins to slip is in the acting, script and directing. Now, although I have criticised the acting, I do not think this show suffered a miscasting problem – the actors themselves were strong and portrayed their characters well with what they had to work with. I think the character development was non-existent and the characters when not complex at all – making each character one dimensional and predictable. The script was poorly written and too conversational and there were a few awkward scenes that tried to be too ‘ground-breaking’ but could have done with more help from the director. However, I did like that the characters often broke the 4th Wall – giving this show a “reality TV” vibe.
Spike Lee has been a director for many years and has brought us exceptional work such as Malcolm X, Chi-Raq and Inside Man. For someone with his experience, I think he executed this show poorly, given that the story and message were already there from original work. Lee should have paid far more attention to the directing and script, to push this one to the next level.
Having spoken to many viewers, my main frustration with this show is that it is being labelled as a “black show” – which in my opinion really hinders progression and holds back the overarching message of the show. Yes, the cast is predominantly black, and Spike Lee pushes agendas forward like #blacklivesmatter, but that doesn’t make this a show for black people. After all, we don’t label the majority of TV shows with predominantly white cast members as “white shows”. Overall I think this is one to watch and I would definitely give it a chance – I feel the underlying message in this show is too strong to ignore and many could benefit from the reassurance of self that comes with it.