‘She’s Gotta Have It’ is Back and Diving Head First into the Life of Nola Darling

By Alexyss Panfile, Contributing Writer


Spike Lee’s highly anticipated Netflix remake of “She’s Gotta Have It” continues to inspire many black filmmakers and capture viewers’ interests. In 1986, the film revolutionized American movies because of how African-Americans were strongly portrayed.

The movie and show is about the hectic life of Nola Darling, a beautiful and charismatic young woman that is exploring her identity. While living the single life in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, she juggles sexual relationships with three men. The three men have completely different personalities that Nola finds attractive. Greer Childs is a self-absorbed male model, Jamie Overstreet is courteous and suave and Mars Blackmon is a die-hard Knicks fan with a serious shoe addiction.

“She’s Gotta Have It” promotional photo.
Photo courtesy of atrl.net

On Netflix, the film has been adapted to a 10-episode-long mini series where Nola also pursues a short-lived relationship with a lesbian mother and plant nursery owner. The series adds a new dialogue regarding Nola’s pansexuality.

What was different between the original film and the show was how the characters’ monologues broke the fourth wall. This was also a theme that continued in the colorful Netflix remake. The film and series included a lot of narration, which was something different and unfamiliar to me.

As the film progressed, I felt bored. It was unfortunate that the audience was unable to explore Nola Darling’s character, so she was not as interesting as I found her to be in the show. In the show, Nola Darling’s character, played by DeWanda Wise, had more depth and was more relatable due to it being set in present day. Viewers could see how her life was as a struggling young artist living in the now gentrified Brooklyn.

DeWanda Wise stars as Nola Darling in Spike Lee’s film-to-mini-series “She’s Gotta Have It.”
Photo credit: Netflix

Nola’s sexual adventures are deemed more socially acceptable in the series than it was in the film. She owned her sexuality and freedom as a black woman and it was definitely admired, but she still had to prove that women cannot express their sexuality as freely as men. In this show, Nola felt more like someone that would be a down-to-earth friend. In the movie, she seemed a bit more distant because viewers did not get to find out more about her.

Another big difference between the show and movie was the way issues were handled. Bodily insecurities, racism, gentrification, street and sexual harassment were some of the topics discussed in the show. I found that a lot of these topics are extremely relevant today and imperative to talk about.

In the movie, Lee made a huge mistake of including and normalizing a rape scene, which he later apologized for. He changed this in the series to Nola being harassed on the street and dealing with the repercussions of that. It shed light on the fact that any type of harassment is enough to send someone into a downward spiral, which is something that was not addressed in the ’80s when the film came out. I can only have respect for him for doing that.

Another component of the series I found to be interesting was the use of album covers after every scene to show what song was just playing. I loved the music selections from Mary J. Blige to Jill Scott. It was an all-around superb choice in having the covers as a modernized transition into another scene.

Although the series was engaging for a younger audience, I found that it often felt forced. It was quite obvious that the writers were not as young as they should have been for the sake of the script. The usage of hashtags was overexaggerated and some of the character dialogue seemed forced in the effort to reach millennials.

The series seemed to be a better choice for a modern-day watcher. This does not take away from the undeniable success of the movie, and it was great to have both perspectives.