From the Melanin Man:
Note: This post is not a review of the show entirely, but more of a dialogue on one of the show’s major themes of Black sexuality.
Recently I watched the entire Season 1 of Spike Lee’s modern reboot of She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix. Rarely do I even watch TV let alone binge watch an entire season on anything, yet I was intrigued by Spike Lee’s update of his first-ever feature film, especially since I did watch and enjoyed the original.
For anyone not familiar with the film, the story centers around a beautiful, intelligent young Black Melanin-Dominant woman and budding artist Nola Darling (played by Tracy Camilla Johns in film, DeWanda Wise in the Netflix series) from Brooklyn, NY and the sexual relationships she has with three Black Melanin-Dominant men: the kind-hearted and well-meaning Jamie Overstreet (played by Tommy Redmond Hicks in the film, Lyriq Bent in the Netflix version), the self-absorbed Greer Childs (played by John Canada Terrell in the film, Cleo Anthony in the Netflix version) , and the geeky and callow Mars Blackmon (played by Spike Lee in the film, Anthony Ramos in the Netflix series.) Unlike the film, which came out the same year that I was born in 1986, the Netflix series version expanded upon the world of Nola, all of her quirks and idiosyncrasies, what really makes her tick and tock in her life. Of course, we get to explore more on the backgrounds of her male counterparts as well as her family, friends, and the neighborhood she lives in (Fort Greene, Brooklyn).
As a young man with a gift of the pencil and sketch pad, it was a delightful treat to see Nola’s artistic talents on display, where her art primarily illustrates her perspective on the beauty of Blackness. I admire and respect Black artists (no matter the medium i.e. music, painting, poetry, writing) who are able to freely express themselves without compromising their African-centered perspective. I was glad that Spike Lee (even though he may be an agent) was able to insinuate that in detail in the Netflix series versus the film version. Also, considering that I’m a huge fan of the old-school, I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack of timeless R&B melodies that were used in the series.
In regards to the main character Nola Darling, there is very little difference between the film version and Netflix series. Nola was a young and vibrant woman who has no qualms in expressing herself with no holds barred. Whether it’s through her honest transparency with those in her circle, her art, her political and social viewpoints, and especially her sexual exploits, which is the main focus of this post. Nola enjoys the fact that she is able to express herself sexually with multiple men. In the Netflix series, Nola even goes as far as expressing herself sexually with a woman, the understanding and straight-forward Opal Gilstrap (played by Raye Dowell in the film, Ilfenesh Hadera in the Netflix series) whereas in the film she did not even entertain the idea whatsoever.
You can say that in essence Nola fits the definition of a free spirit.
But is she really free?
Does sexual freedom really signify that an individual is free?
What does sexuality look like for Black people in today’s society?
What does sexuality suppose to look like for the Black community when not subjected to the ideals of the Western European philosophy?
I understand how sex is viewed from the Church’s perspective. Sacred. An embarrassing topic to discuss in public. I also understand how sex is portrayed in the media. A guilty pleasure. Simple recreational fun. The truth is in the middle, I think.
A little personal history:
I honestly never had an interest in casual sex irrespective of the fact that I was raised with a Christian background. To get a little more personal, I never had an interest in masturbation either (knowing what I know now, I’m glad I didn’t.) At the end of the day I could not see myself having sex just for kicks and giggles. Even though the Church (and religion as whole) may be flawed in many, many ways, especially when it comes to the reluctance to discuss and be open-minded regarding sex, I did agree that sex has a sacredness to it that is not fully understood by nor promoted to the masses. I had that cliché, yet noble, idea: waiting for the right one.
There were young women who had eyes for, yet the feeling was not mutual. Nevertheless I stayed steadfast and unmovable to hold out for that right one. And eventually it happened within my mid-20s. And unsurprisingly I married the same woman I first gave myself to, with two daughters in tow.
Life is interesting, ain’t it?
I appreciate and admire that a women, especially a Black woman, such as Nola is able to be open with her sexuality. Trust me, I do not adhere to the tired axiom that a woman who sleeps with multiple men (in Nola’s case, and woman) is “freak” or a “hoe.” Nor do I think men who have multiple partners, WOMEN PARTNERS, are necessarily “players.” The situation is more complex than it seems.
And I’m of the stance that if you lack a knowledge of self and inner love for self, the pursuit of sexual gratification will only lead you even more lost in this civilized wilderness.
In Nola’s case, specifically in the Netflix series, I noticed a insecurity within her spirit that permeated, for instance, through her interactions with her male companions. To protect and keep herself from developing feelings any one of three men, she maintained control by feigning the customary acts of courting and engaging in sex only in her bed. Acts if perpetrated by a man would be frowned upon by the majority of women. Although she show a vulnerability with her female peers, she refuses to do so with the men i.e. her initial refusal to inform them of her sexual assault that occurred in the second episode of the series. Even in the film version, Jamie forcing himself sexually (rape) on Nola was a feeble and ill-advised attempt gain control and submission from Nola that she had been reluctant to relinquish to the men individually.
In my opinion, it illustrates that Nola fears losing her freedom by being in the possession of a man. She mentions her disdain for “being the possession of a man” in both iterations of “She’s Gotta Have It.” Obviously, Nola believes that Black men are of the same ilk as her white males which we know is not the case. Unbeknownst to Nola and those women of her ilk and color who hold that same opinion, Black Melanin-dominant men, in essence, do not have the power to oppress nor possess women of any hue in this society. Black men in this society who attempt to operate in such a manner unknowingly are practicing a doctrine that is against their true nature. Both our men and women are living under a acidic Western, European philosophy that holds ownership and possession sacred, or as its said by the powers-that-be, “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” And whether we realize it or not, that way of thinking affects every facet of our lives: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It appears that Nola is unaware of this, thus demonstrating a lack of knowledge regarding the real social status of her people.
Nola’s behavior reeks of a typical contemporary feminist. She thinks her sexual freedom is proof of an elusive independence that is not available to the Black female today. A woman who is one with the Creator knows that real freedom is rooted in understanding and living out her true feminine nature, which is EVERYTHING that goes against the feminist agenda.
In short, Nola is NOT free as she THINKS she is.
The portrayal of sex in the series, not unlike many other shows that broadcast in this day and age, is counterproductive and spiritually dangerous. The concept of casual sex is stealthy encouraged, as long as precautions are taken i.e. Nola confides with her therapist that she practices safe sex, as well as the “rules” she sets in place for her male lovers. Although sex is natural to our being, to this day the majority of the masses are still lost on what sex is about.
I have had numerous conversations with friends and loved ones who’ve had their share of casual sex experiences. Regarding the physical aspect of the sex, I’ve heard the good, the bad, and the ugly. When it came to the emotional/ spiritual aspect of all those experiences, I noticed a common thread: there wasn’t any. It was purely physical. That’s what I picked up with Nola in her trysts with her male lovers. I could sense a lack of intimacy, a lack of an authentic emotional/spiritual connection. To be frank, Nola had more of a connection with lesbian lover Opal. Due to Nola’s willingness to be more forthcoming and open with female comrades, it makes sense.
If we are to adhere to the rules of Nature, we should know that coitus (sexual intercourse) cannot exist between two individuals of the same sex, even if the encounter between Nola and Opal seemed genuine and loving. It’s veiled masturbation at its finest. Due to the emotional/spiritual connection Nola lacks with either Jamie, Greer, or Mars, you can classify these relationships with Jamie as such as well. In a nutshell, that is what causal sex is.
From a metaphysical standpoint, sex is not only an physical expression, but also a spiritual act, where the male and feminine principle entities intertwine for an energy exchange. The energy an individual can receive can be positive or negative. None of this information is taken to account when sex is casual.
Sidenote: I highly recommend getting the book The Science of Love by John Baines. Although the book is over twenty years old, it does a great job of explaining this information in detail.
Yet casual sex has been widely accepted as the norm.
When sex is only based on the physical realm, it can be animalistic, impulsive, detached, and self-serving. That is how Nola unintentionally (or intentionally) is depicted, hence the term “She’s Gotta Have It.” Her male partners are not exempt from scrutiny, but since the show is based off the female perspective, the focus is on her.
Blacks have adopted a perverted concept of sexuality from the Western, European doctrine that has aided in the destruction and degradation of our community. We all know the story: the increase of single parent homes, sexual transmitted diseases (STDS), contentious relations between Black men woman in general, etc., etc., etc. And I believe all these calamities have their origin on the spiritual realm. Blacks are by nature spiritual whereas the Western, European idea of sex lacks that element. When Blacks engage in sexual activities minus that spiritual component, we get the previously stated results.
Simple cause and effect, which is a important principle of Nature.
Another Sidenote: Also read The Kybalion. It discusses the seven main principles of Nature, also called the Hermetic Principles, which is what the book The Science of Love is based off of. (FYI, the great heralded philosopher Hermes, which is who the principles are named after, studied in Egypt for many years. So of course this information was first discovered by our fellow Black Melanin-Dominant ancestors.)
By and large, the white, European, Caucasian is an individualist by nature. Blacks operate as a collective by nature, although we are encouraged against that by seen and unseen forces. When Blacks can live in a situation where we can truly walk and operate in our nature, sexuality can be very beneficial and life-giving (not life-taking) for both male and female, especially when spirituality is involved. They will not feel the need to possess one another nor feel threatened whatsoever of the possibility that a mate/lover has a genuine connection with another. All forms of relationships that adheres to principles of nature (i.e. monogamy, polygamy) will be celebrated, respected, and accepted. But this is only possible when Black men and women understand their truth and THE TRUTH, thus loving their culture and ultimately themselves.
Sounds like illusions of grandeur, huh?!
Then you underestimate the power we truly have if and when we decide to get our act together.
To sum it all up, neither the film or Netflix version of “She’s Gotta Have It” is revolutionary to Blacks (Duh, right?!) Although it may be odd and refreshing to see a Black woman so “open-minded” about her sexuality, it is the same attempt, in 1986 and 2017, for women think that they can what act as a man and even do it better. Feminism has been on the forefront longer that I’ve been on this earth, yet I understand the game that is being played on our women. As a Black man I don’t condone a lifestyle of Western-influenced casual sex, no matter the gender, that is basically fruitless and devastating to the physical and spiritual realms our people. We as a whole do not have a self-identity, so it is useless to portray a reality (on the TE-LIES-VISION for that matter!) that we can’t fully practice in the mindset of Eurocentricism.
So, thank you Spike Lee for continuing the narrative of Black feminism (that’s an oxymoron!), veiled as “Black female empowerment.”
Stay on your Ps and Qs fam. Deception is at a ALL-TIME HIGH!
Peace and Love to my melanated family,
The Melanin Man
One final note: At one time I thought Spike Lee was a revolutionary director. I loved his work because it caused me to think and it appeared unapologetically Black. His work still causes me to think, which is what sparked me to write this LONG ASS POST. But I’ve gotten wiser over the years as well, and my opinions have obviously changed. I still have mad respect for my brother and his accomplishments, but as we know for those of us who are in the spotlight, he and his work have been COMPROMISED!
Such as life, such as life.