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A Non-Exhaustive List Of What Works & What Didn’t In Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It” Series
A Non-Exhaustive List Of What Works & What Didn’t In Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It” Series
Source: Netflix

A Non-Exhaustive List Of What Works & What Didn’t In Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It” Series

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Netflix

Beware of spoilers before reading, as the incredible Danielle A. Scruggs breaks down Spike Lee’s latest achievement with Netflix.

Nola Darling. Greer Childs. Jamie Overstreet. Mars Blackmon.

These names are forever marked in our consciousness as the stellar characters from Spike Lee’s first joint, 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It. The film, which was rebooted and reimagined for a 2017 binge-watching audience, was a marvel to behold. Beautiful, black, risqué characters who challenged the notions of dating, monogamy and other still-taboo topics.

Fast forward almost three decades, and our favorites are back as part of a 10-part series for Netflix. DeWanda Wise stars as the insatiable artist at the heart of the series, Nola Darling. Performances aside, there has been a lot of chatter and mixed reviews about the series, so @Okayplayer decided to break down what worked and what didn’t work for the series so it can forever and consistently be broke.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Netflix

Here’s What Worked In She’s Gotta Have It:

  • Showing a black woman therapist treating a black woman artist.
  • Singer Heather Headley as Nola Darling’s therapist, Dr. Jamison.
  • The Carrie Mae Weems and Charles “Teenie” Harris prints in the therapist’s office.
  • Did I mention those therapy scenes?
  • Lyric Bent’s jawline.
  • The relationship between Nola Darling and Opal Gilstrap being the most mature and healthy one of all of Nola’s suitors. (Well, Nola’s flakiness notwithstanding.)
  • The black-and-white photos of a pre-gentrified Brooklyn in the opening credits, taken by Spike Lee’s brother, Cinqué.
  • The original score being used throughout the program, which was created by Spike Lee’s dad, Bill Lee.
  • Joie Lee (who played Clorinda Bradford in the original movie) returns as Nola’s mom, Septima, and long-time Spike Lee ensemble cast member Thomas Jefferson Byrd shines as Nola’s dad Stokely.
  • A cameo by Tracy Camilla Johns, the original Nola Darling.
  • De’Adre Aziza’s small but brilliant part as Ms. Raqueletta Moss.

  • Anthony Ramo’s brash charm as Mars Blackmon.

  • Brooklyn-based artistTatyana Fazlalizadeh serving life as She’s Gotta Have It’s art consultant. Not only was she behind every painting done by Nola, she also inspired the “My Name Is Not” series with her own “Stop Telling Women To Smile” global street art campaign.
  • A few easter eggs from the SLCU (“Spike Lee Cinematic Universe”): In one scene, Papo, a former classmate of Nola’s who is homeless, drinks Bomb malt liquor—a made up brand that has appeared in Spike Lee’s movies since Clockers in 1995.
  • Depicting the consequences of gentrification, Spike showcases “Cash 4 Homes” flyers being pushed under black people’s doors. Papo is being targeted by a white neighbor who doesn’t know or cares that Papo has been part of the neighborhood for longer than she has been a homeowner there.
  • The critique of white gatekeepers determining what makes black art “black” enough and how a great deal of black artists buy into this notion to attain wealth and fame. (Granted, this critique was about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the foot, but I appreciate that the conversation was even broached.)
  • The classic Spike Lee dolly shot. I will always love those touches of surrealism in his work.
  • A sequence paying homage to the black artistic, cultural, musical, and political figures who are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. It was a genuinely touching tribute to the ancestors who laid the groundwork for us. It is upon their shoulders we all stand on. In fact, the whole series, much like most of Spike Lee’s work, serves as a love letter to the people of color that he obviously holds close to his heart.
  • DeWanda Wise, who had remarkable turns in Shots Fired and Underground this year, gives a wholly believable performance as our 2017 Nola Darling in spite of some of the writing.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Netflix

Here’s What Didn’t Work In She’s Gotta Have It:

  • The dialogue. While there are some stand-out moments throughout the series, too much of it felt a little too on-the-nose and inauthentic. At one point, a character literally says out loud, “Hashtag Black Lives Matter,” and that was really disappointing since the writing staff is filled to the brim with award-winning, renown black women writers. With names such as Lynn Nottage, Radha Blank, and Joie Lee — it was kind of confounding that the words coming from the character’s mouths would be so bogus.
  • In one episode, Nola Darling is in a cab and the unseen cab driver has what sounds like a fake Indian accent. It was so off-putting and the fact that the joke in the scene was seemingly the man’s accent felt like punching down and not punching up. It made me very uncomfortable.
  • Shamekka’s storyline. The (literal) fake ass plot felt like a shallow and on-the-nose critique as to why women alter their bodies through chemical and surgical means to fit a certain standard of beauty. The actress, Chyna Layne, did a good job with the thin material she was given, but she deserved better.
  • Fat Joe’s “performance”. I do not know what he was trying to accomplish with his character, Winny Win, but it was uncomfortable to watch him strain.

    Nola Darling’s token white friend, Rachel. She didn’t add anything to the show so why was she there at all?

  • Most of the satire aspects of the show didn’t work for me. Jamie’s kid making the blackface video, the “She Ass’d For It” reality show clips fell flat for me. I didn’t quite ever know if they were punching down or punching up. Who is the joke supposed to be on, exactly?
  • Like many Netflix series, this show stretched out longer than it was supposed to. It should’ve been probably five or six episodes worth of material, and certainly didn’t need to be a 10-episode order.
  • Punctuating the end of nearly every scene with a photo of the album cover of the song that was playing. It felt too precious and often brought things to a grinding halt.
  • Speaking of which, let’s talk about that soundtrack. Spike does have impeccable taste in music, but it also felt like Spike didn’t always trust the actors or the audience to pick up on the emotions of a scene. DeWanda Wise and the men who depict her lovers are talented enough to convey longing, jealousy, or lust without a soundtrack of “Anytime” or “Between the Sheets” doing the heavy lifting.

And one more thing…

  • A sex scene set to “Pretty Wings” in this economy…? C’mon son!

Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It is currently streaming exclusively on Netflix. Watch now and share your thoughts with us @Okayplayer.

Danielle A. Scruggs is a photographer, photo editor and writer from Chicago and based in Washington, D.C. Her work can be found at