Spike Lee’s film She’s Gotta Have It hit theaters in August 1986, creating a new voice and type of black woman rarely seen onscreen before. While I was yet to be born for the theatrical release, I did see the film later on and was immediately taken aback by the carefree nature of the main character, artist Nola Darling. Following the journeys, sexual conquests, and relationships Nola has with three very different men, we witness her evolve and grow into womanhood through these complex relationships.
While the film may be considered, in a sense, revolutionary for its time period, it is not without flaws, one of which being that the film is largely driven by the male perspective, despite Nola’s presence as the main character. This time around, the 10-episode series makes sure to create a body of work that is not only positioned from Nola’s perspective, but fully rounds her out as an artist, friend, and partner.
I had the pleasure of attending a screening and panel event that centered on the women behind and inspired by the film, who also helped shape the future of this new series. The panel featured: Tonya Lewis Lee (Executive Producer), DeWanda Wise (Nola Darling), Kierna Mayo (SVP Content & Brands, Interactive One), Radha Blank (Writer), Eisa Davis (Writer), and Demetria Lucas D’Oyley (Award-winning author and journalist). Moderated by the ever so talented Michaela Angela Davis, each woman was asked about where they were when they first saw the film and what impact it had on them. While the “where” differed for each, the impact remained the same; every woman identified with Nola’s outward and natural beauty, while also aspiring to have the level of freedom she depicted as a Black woman able to be her authentic self.
The panelists mutually agree that, with the series, they have a chance to right a few of the film’s missteps and create a bolder version of Nola Darling. While only the first episode was screened, DeWanda Wise gives a fresh performance as the daring new version of Nola. One thing the series makes abundantly clear is that we still need Nola Darlings in 2017. We still need multilayered depictions of Black women that are not confined to societal standards, and live their lives on their own terms. We still need portrayals of Black women that are equally as vulnerable as they are strong. Black women who do not have it all figured out, who have sexual relationships at their own pace, and who lean into their girlfriends for hard truths. We need to show the true growth and evolution of the Black woman, and so far, Nola Darling is just that!
Check out She’s Gotta Have It, available to stream on Netflix this Thanksgiving Day!