I’ve been thinking of the images of black beauty and picturesque scenes in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It the 1986 film. There’s warmth and perplexity in the movie, as the viewer tries to figure Nola out. The film made me question my role as a woman in society. I considered what my life would be like if I stopped following societal pressures and followed Nola’s Promiscuous pursuits. “Promiscuous” societies standard definition for a woman who sleeps with more than one man at a time. Nola is a woman who juggles three men, Jamie, Greer and Mars. She is portrayed as a confident artist who is full of strong sexual energy. Watching this movie, I ended up judging Nola for her lack of conformity. Now that I’ve had time to reflect I wish I hadn’t. My discomfort came from the shame that we put on sex.
I am a woman. I am proud to be a black woman. As I mature I become more aware of my position and strength. Despite the backlash my voice is needed. My silence has been broken. I care about women, but I still criticized Nola internally. I was impressed and disgusted with her indecisiveness. I thought about how she was losing Jamie. A man who wanted to settle down, marry her and have children. I thought if she continued to have multiple male partners she’d end up alone and miserable. That she’d never have a stability with men walking in and out of her life. I feared for her loneliness. Baffled by her atypical behavior, envious of a woman who didn’t need to be approved by the group. I was jealous of her because I always follow the rules. I always immediately reflect on all of my sinful thoughts. Avoiding a deep desire to be reckless- spontaneously take the wheel, crash course wake up drunk for once. I am living such a quiet life. My head trapped in a small bottle that won’t fit my hips. I am depressed with the rehearsals and want to witness the show I didn’t expect to see.
Nola was living for her own pleasure. She had a dirty freedom. She paid her own rent with the art she made. Invited all three men to thanksgiving and they came to break bread. I want to be a fiery woman, take no shit kind of woman. Talk until the lights go out. I want to truly accept out of the box women; learn the craft that they create. Take a beat from that bomb ass drum. Run away from being a “yes” woman.
Greer the uppity boyfriend constantly gaslights her. He tells her she’s lucky to be with him because he only dates fine women. Repeatedly reminding her that if she gets fat he’s leaving her. He ends up convincing her that she is sick. Actively claiming that he thought she was a slut until he realized she’s is mentally ill. He points out that sleeping with multiple men is not normal behavior and that she should see a therapist. His response proof of what we are taught about women. That women are supposed to suppress all sexual urges and be a direct response to their significant other. We are designed by the norms to fit into a tight box. We are poisoned with the messages of virtue.
Spike Lee does a great job expressing Nola’s vulnerability while keeping her true to her character. She craves intimacy without monogamy. The viewer can try to dig deeper and say she had daddy issues, but that just wasn’t the case. There are no correct answers or assumptions. Nola didn’t want to settle.
If there was less pressure to deal with I wouldn’t have the compulsion to defy what I was taught. I wouldn’t be stifled by this straight and narrow path. If I hadn’t been afraid to be what is labeled “a bad woman” I would have reached nirvana. I would have embraced sex earlier, run off and become a hippie and write. But I listened to society and my mother who told me she would dream about it when I had sex for the first time. That my legs were too thick to wear short skirts, that I’d be asking for attention I didn’t need to receive. Society said that I was “asking for it.”
There is a scene where it shows Nola getting raped by Jamie after she asks him to make love to her, the section then displays the same horror with Mars and Greer. Spike Lee’s only mistake was that part because he failed to bring awareness or condemn the act at all. The next time the Nola see’s Jamie she’s tells him she wants to be exclusive with him but celibate. He then tells her she’s backwards but that he’ll wait for her. There are no repercussions. Nola doesn’t hold it against him. Throughout the movie that was one of the stronger images. In an odd way it felt like the story was conveying Nola as an outlet from the men and their anger in that scene. When Jamie finishes hurting her, he said it felt good to dog her out. Other than the scene being offensive it does give the viewer a glimpse into Nola’s life. It showed that she was a victim of repeated abuse.
I want to continue to stand for women. I never want to settle with someone’s explanation of how life should be lived. I just want to be a good (bad)woman.