In Three Words: Millennial, Jarring, Feminist(?)
On Thanksgiving, The Netflix community were treated to a modern day remake of a classic. (Not that I care it dropped on Thanksgiving, just stating a fact)
Spike Lee's 1986 film "She's Gotta Have It" was a film like no other in it's time. To have a protagonist like Nola Darling. A black woman who took control of her own life. Juggled relationships "like a man". Embracing her Polyamorous sexual preference. I wonder if the term "Polyamory" was even popular in the 80's! Is it even known now? Without hitting up Google, take a guess at the definition.
Unknown words aside, the film was groundbreaking and Spike Lee sought out to rejuvenate the idea that kick-started his career all those years ago. A Millennial edition of "She's Gotta Have It". So, how would Lee switch it up? New format, new platform, a new age!
Let's start with the positives. This was beautifully filmed. The environment, the characters. Everything looked great. Apart from Shemekka's huge ass when she gets them injections but everything else. Great.
The cast was also perfect. DeWanda Wise is beautiful and she emotes great. When you constantly do monologues and your face is the subject most of the time, your expressions need to be on point and she embodied Nola perfectly. The rest of the cast played their characters as best as they could.
And that's where I get to my negatives. The cast played their characters "As best as they could". The writing for this show is frankly frustrating. The story construction from episode to episode is barely consistent. And the content in the episodes themselves. I mean... There were times in some episodes where I skipped just to get on with it. The episodes are 30-35 minutes long! Spike Lee did not have the time to do 5 minute long "Spike-isms".
"Charlie, what d'you mean by Spike-isms?" I mean those scenes that have nothing to do with the story progression that are masked as a dive into Nola's psyche. The 3-4 minutes of Nola slowly spinning while song lyrics passed her. Skipped. Or how about the 5-6 minutes of Nola planting flowers on famous people's tombstones? I wish I skipped but before I realised how long it went, it ended. And the Election montage?! What the hell was that doing there? I understand that it takes time to film things but that was a whole year too late. Scenes like that are time sensitive and it was just random. Had nothing to do with the episode.
Those are three examples of "Spike-isms". Where they were things that Spike Lee would do if he was doing a biopic of himself. But this is not a biopic. You have half an hour to dive into this labyrinth level of complexity that your protagonist holds and you have her spinning and pulling soft facial expressions.
Now I bet if I did some research I'd realise the "Spike-isms" are a reference to something but I'm just going to stay ignorant for now. On the face, it stopped the respective episodes dead.
And with the lazy story construction, came average character development. This is really evident in two of the three men in the show. Jamie and Greer. Mars was the only character that aged well in this remake. Still funny, geeky, Michael Jordan worshipping while not being too much of a stereotype. Mars was authentic. Jamie and Greer on the other hand. Were just really lazily constructed as characters. They both seemed terribly 90's. I get that there are people like Greer that are artistic, hipster-like and drink coffee in gentrified neighbourhoods. Very millennial right? Yes but that's a very, VERY small minority. Past that. I found him really outdated.
And I have a question. Why did Jamie suddenly turn into another Jamie halfway through the season? I'm talking about Jamie (James) St Patrick from "Power"? When he needed money, he went to Fat Joe (Bloody hell. Joe's accent pisses me off) for it. I get that he needed to go elsewhere so his wife couldn't clock onto it, but that was incredibly random. Shoving years of backstory between these characters and into 5 minutes. It just seemed unbelievable.
Which gets me to Nola.
I. really don't like Nola.
If I met Nola in real life and she told me her life story. I'd have so many questions. I'll give Nola this. That level of selfishness is great in terms of life goals. Committed to her art, wanting the kids in school to explore art and discover themselves. Being selfish is great in that lens. But the way she treats the people around her is just jarring. I don't feel too sorry for the men because that is the point of the concept. Where a woman is doing something that men are usually hailed for. But the way she treats Opal is terrible. I felt for Opal. She likes Nola but constantly gets crapped on because of Nola's immaturity. Because of Opal's mistreatment, the show inadvertently puts bisexuality in a dim light. As if bisexuals do it for the sport and not as a form of liberation.
And what about her dating Mars even though her best friend who previously dated him was clearly not a fan of it? That's just a bad friend. Where's the sisterhood code Nola?!
Nola's view towards relationships is portrayed as her saying it's about "taking control" but I see it more as a sport for her. "Oh, I have finished a painting, think I'll call one of my boys." It's just distasteful. No matter what gender you are.
I could honestly go on with the negatives of this show. But I'll stop there. I honestly don't like writing negatively about shows but this show had so much potential to be on "Insecure", "Dear White People" level. I guess Spike's successors are doing it better than he can now...
When Lee made the film in 86. It was at a time where Hip-Hop was uber misogynistic and misogyny was the calling card of many 80's Hip-Hop artists. Then this film flipped that completely. I give props to Lee for attempting this but I think he bit off more than he could chew. 35 valuable minutes per episode and a great chunk of it telling us nothing. I wanted to like this show and after watching the first episode I was hooked. But the more it went on, the more questions I had.
It was visually pleasing, the music was great, the supporting characters that aren't on the shows poster were great, but past that. I suggest that you just watch the original film. You'll get the revolutionary protagonist without the frustration. Oh the frustration.