If Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It makes it past the pilot and onto Showtime’s series roster, it could be the Sex and the City-esque show black women have been asking for ever since Carrie Bradshaw landed on HBO.
Deadline reports that Lee’s 1986 film debut is being turned into a half-hour comedy, written and directed by Lee, that will explore “race, gender, sexuality, relationships, and gentrification in Brooklyn.” Lee has plenty of opinions about gentrification, and as far as the other topics, that is where She’s Gotta Have It can truly shine.
Better than Sex and the City
Sex and the City was a cable series (and two delightful fashion shows masquerading as awful, horribly written movies) that followed the love lives of four women in New York City. The show has gone on to cult status, and a diverse array of women own that crushed pink velvet DVD set. One of the biggest criticisms of the show is that the diversity of the fanbase was not at all reflected on-screen. The four friends were white, the vast majority of the secondary characters were as well, and Carrie Bradshaw somehow earned medical doctor type money as a freelance writer who wrote one newspaper column.
Enter Nola Darling.
Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) is the lead character in She’s Gotta Have It, and she is a gorgeous, single, sexually liberated black woman living in Brooklyn. She is a “layout artist” for magazines. Perhaps in the updated version, she will be a graphics designer or web developer. The most wonderful attribute of Nola’s character is her bold honesty with herself and others. She is dating (and sleeping with) three men, and she is completely up front and honest with all of them, as she gives them full disclosure on her dating life.
There is Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks) who is something of the main guy and who has a heap of southern gentleman charm to offer Nola. There’s Mars (Spike Lee) who is 100% Brooklyn and keeps Nola laughing. And finally there’s Greer (John Canada Terrell) who is the quintessential pretty boy social climber who feels he’s doing any woman a favor by gracing her with his presence. The scene where Greer meticulously folds his clothes before sex is ripe for GiFs and memes for the 21st century. I could also see a #GreerFold hashtag spark on Twitter.
Nola would be a welcome addition to black women on television because she owns her sexuality and is not the least bit apologetic about it.
Right now, the two black women leads on popular television shows leave something to be desired in the romantic choices department. Olivia Pope on Scandal feels guilty because she’s having sex with the married leader of the free world. She also feels guilty when she’s having sex with the handsome, available man who loves her because she’s in love the married leader of the free world.
Mary Jane on Being Mary Jane feels guilt because she’s having sex with a married man. She felt guilty about sleeping with the handsome, available man who treated her well because she secretly froze his sperm with the intent of conceiving a baby turkey baster style without his knowledge. Nola would shake her head at Olivia and Mary Jane.
A 21st Century Take on She’s Gotta Have It
Of course She’s Gotta Have It is not without flaws, and hopefully Spike Lee will have smart, black women writers on this project. If She’s Gotta Have It came out today, LGBT groups would have Lee’s head for Nola’s friend Opal. Opal is a lesbian and is constantly trying to seduce Nola even though Opal herself notes that Nola is “straight as an arrow.” Having the only openly gay character be a relentless seductress bent on having sex with her straight friend would probably not go over too well.
The biggest controversy about She’s Gotta Have It is a scene towards the end that Nola describes as “near rape.” Approximately 10,543 think pieces would be launched today over that scene, and the term “near rape” would be eviscerated. Having women in the writers’ room could help Lee appropriately touch on topics like that and flesh out realistic or at least relateable women friends for Nola.
She’s Gotta Have It has the potential to bring a black woman character to life that we have never seen on a cable series. Girlfriends and Living Single were both great shows, but cable provides the opportunity to go farther than any network television series could go. She’s Gotta Have it had plenty of tasteful female nudity as well as some full frontal male nudity. Seeing naked black bodies in a positive way on a cable series is a welcomed notion.
On a side note, Tracy Camilla Johns also played Uniqua in New Jack City, and she reprised her Nola Darling role in Spike Lee’s 2012 film Red Hook Summer. Audiences got to see that 25 years later, Nola Darling became Mother Darling, a devout Jehovah’s Witness.
Who would you cast in this updated cable television version of She’s Gotta Have It?