She’s Gotta Have It

Sorry for the late post. I fell asleep after an eventful Monday and clean forgot to finish writing it.

But better late than never, right? And here we are this week chilling with sexually liberated Nola Darling as she juggles three demanding men and a divine Brooklyn apartment. I know which one I’d keep around.

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Story of a woman and her three lovers.

Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: Tracy Camilla JohnsTommy Redmond HicksJohn Canada Terrell

*Spoilers*

TW: Rape

“Baby, you’re so fine, I’d drink a tub of your bath water.”

Nola Darling (Johns) is a beautiful, talented Brooklynite, enjoying the company of three male sex-friends: Jamie Overstreet, Greer Childs and Mars Blackmon. While she’s content with the life she leads, each of the men is demanding more of her time.

They know about one another so there’s no double-crossing but as you can imagine, male pride dominates a lot of Nola’s conversations with her lovers. They all want her to ditch the others and commit to them alone, though Nola knows she’s not a monogamous woman and makes no promises.

The film is comprised of interviews (and compared notes) with some of the people who know and love Nola the best, including all three men, a former flat mate and Opal Gilstrap (Raye Dowell), Nola’s friend who’s also romantically interested in her.

Jamie (Hicks) is well-meaning and perhaps the most determined of Nola’s suitors. He’s bitter about his lovers need for anybody but him (naturally), feels she doesn’t care about any of them – and he wants her to make a choice, STAT.

Meanwhile, self-obsessed male model Greer (Terrell) calls Nola up on her shit, claiming she’s created the perfect man out of all three of them (three-penised monster, anyone?). He wants her to ditch the zeros and be with the hero (him) but also tells Nola he wouldn’t bother with her if she was fat/not fit. So you can imagine how I felt about him.

And last but not least, unemployed man-child Mars (Spike Lee himself) really makes Nola laugh by goofing around and would never make her choose between the three for fear of losing her.

So you can safely say Nola loves elements of all of them but isn’t interested in committing x 3. She’s also not interested in pursuing a lesbian experience with Opal, who maintains that Nola won’t know what she likes until she tries it.

Honestly, I can’t deny I wanted Nola to quit the men and run off with Opal but alas our girl is strictly dickly.

And that’s about it. Nola attempts to smooth things over by inviting Mars, Jamie and Greer for Thanksgiving dinner but it goes exactly as well as you’d think.

Jamie eventually tells Nola he’s moving on with a dancer if she won’t commit to him – which she won’t – but when she calls him late one night for casual sex he rapes her while asking her who her pussy belongs to. Thoughts on this scene to follow.

Nola actually calls Jamie’s bluff in the end, which eventually concludes their relationship as you might expect when you one person is tasked with changing everything about who they inherently are.

And Nola herself concludes this casestudy on her colourful sex life – she compares monogamy to slavery and claims her lifestyle is freedom in its purest form. Girl’s got a good point.

Nola Darling: “It’s really about control, my body, my mind. Who was going to own it? Them? Or me? I’m not a one-man woman. Bottom line.”

Thoughts

This is such a Spike Lee movie and probably the one I think of first when I think of him. It’s also his feature debut and when you realise that, it’s pretty impressive he’s already got such a distinct style at this point.

But SGHI isn’t all style with no substance: it has a lot to say about the struggle of African-American women during this era, sexual liberation, feminism, male pride, independence and a women’s right to body autonomy. Nola seems like a revolutionary in her attitudes and frankly, it’s so pleasing her character is the centre of this story, something Hollywood doesn’t often allow.

I really love this movie and thoroughly enjoyed my rewatch.

It has to be said that the rape scene is very distressing and made me spit blood at Jamie but I found it disturbing mostly by how throwaway it is. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen sexual assault presented this way on film, and for some reason that makes me few worse. It somehow seems more insidious in how ordinary and casually it is done.

Oh, and fuck all of these guys.

4/5

What does my number 1 think of She’s Gotta Have It? Would she add it to her sex rota or leave it out on the sidewalk? Find out here.

PS. The TV series adaptation of this movie is fantastic, and also directed by Lee.

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