Spike Lee’s modernized She’s Gotta Have It finds the middle ground between shows like Insecure and the TV programming of Lee Daniels and Mara Brock Akil.
27-year-old Nola Darling, a through and through citizen of the Republic of Brooklyn, is an artist. A semi-struggling one who, thanks to her parents, has a deeply discounted rent, but can still barely keep up. Luckily though, like many cunning young women, she has many ways to keep her rent paid, not sacrifice her social life in the process, and even keep her therapy appointments.
Her rent? Well, she borrows money, takes a teaching job, sells mousepad sized artwork, and other side gigs. That is, alongside using Jamie’s infatuation with her, and perhaps her work in extension, to get hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of him.
As for keeping her social life? Well, that is what Greer is for. They may not go out much, but when they do? Psh, it is in style and of course he pays, as does Jamie when he takes Nola out. Then, even if it is something basic, like your mom and pop shop, like Nola does with Mars, what the place lacks in fanciness Mars makes up for with jokes. Heck, even if you want to talk domestic stuff like Opal offers, alongside her daughter Skye, Nola isn’t hurting for inexpensive things to do, usually on someone else’s dime.
But all of this, her method of surviving life and Brooklyn, it pushes her to therapy with Dr. Jamison. An environment where she can unpack, have her way of life gently challenged, while also figuring out what she really wants. Which isn’t answered by the end of the season, but Nola’s growth is a process.
Changes From Movie: Mars, Opal, Nola Has Friends, Therapy
Before we dive in, let me note there will often be comparisons to the original She’s Gotta Have It. Which I note since it so strongly affects my opinion of this season. So, to begin, I absolutely loved quite a few of the changes put into effect with the TV series. Most of which seemingly was done to fill up the expanded time Spike Lee and his handful of writers were given [note] Shout out to Barry Michael Cooper who retweeted episode 8.[/note].
One of the first major things changed was Nola has conversations and friends outside of her lovers. Clo, for example, gets expanded and while her relationship with Nola is complicated, due to Nola messing around with Mars, it was nice that Nola wasn’t as isolated as in the movie. Also, there is a new character Shemekka, who gets the short end of the stick with her own story, but adds to this idea that Nola can get along with women. There was also this white girl but she ends up just being the token “Good One” you often see in Black predominate productions. I mean, I don’t even know if I took note of her name or appearance, outside of her sitting at the table of Nola’s birthday celebration.
But, jumping back to the Mars comment, another thing very different from the movie version is that Mars becomes a worthy contender for Nola’s affections in the show. Anthony Ramos plays him with the kind of humor, loyalty, and dirty talk, which turns him from the weirdo Spike Lee made him seem, who you couldn’t imagine Nola giving play to, no matter how funny, to perhaps your favorite. Especially since, as Greer and Jamie consistently mess up, Mars remains without a whole lot of blemishes on his record. Plus, with Mars, he seems more on Nola’s level, life wise.
What I mean by that is, Greer and Jamie are clearly older – Jamie is 40 to be specific. And while age is nothing but a number, within legal reason, what stage a person is in their life matters. Nola, like Mars, is still trying to figure out how to be firmly independent and both are working a multitude of things trying to stay afloat. That is in comparison to Greer who is doing very well and Jamie who might have once been in Mars’ position but thanks to his work ethic, and wife Cheryl, is beyond Mars, Greer, Nola, and maybe even Opal.
Speaking of Opal, with Nola being adapted to fit the multitude of titles which have become part of the Gen X/ Millennial generations, her role is also expanded. Especially in terms of Nola being someone open to dating, and having sex, with women and, in terms of Opal, there isn’t much to not like. Opal is perhaps around Greer’s age, so there isn’t a huge age leap; she relates to Nola, since she was similar when younger; she comes with an adorable kid, Skye; with her, Nola doesn’t have to worry about policing herself, like she deals with when it comes to the men; and, best of all, with Opal she just has peace.
Yet, as noted in her therapy sessions with Dr. Jamison, which don’t end once Nola gets uncomfortable or feels a little judged, things are complicated. They are complicated to the point Nola accepts she needs a third party, someone uninvolved, to advise her because juggling all these people is getting difficult. And while, altogether, they make the perfect person, she can’t keep and handle them all. Each one is coming to a point where they want exclusivity and, as one of her friends say, there is nothing more terrifying to Nola Darling than commitment – despite there not being any of the usual reasons to understand why the fear exists.
This Is Gentrification
Gentrification is a consistent thing we’re reminded about in the show. Especially by Nola’s landlord Miss Ella and definitely by Nola’s neighbor Bianca. Someone new to the neighborhood and is the epitome of a gentrifier. Someone who takes no account of the established culture of a neighborhood and tries to force it to change to their desires. As in, there is no mixing or assimilation. You, the people who have lived here for generations, are going to adapt to me. I paid money to have this brownstone and seem hip, so I deserve what I want!
Thus leading to a lot of clashes, especially during a preservation society meeting. One in which she has the audacity to say, “White Lives Matter” while at a podium. Though, what sets that all off is Papo. Someone who is more affected by gentrification than the rest since the culture shields and protects him – especially as a homeless veteran. For while we may not see anyone bring him food or anything like that, we see that despite him being homeless, he isn’t ostracized. He isn’t some dude who has to beg for money or nothing like that. The way most treat him, as “Da Mayor,” it leads you to believe that if he needed anything, he’d just have to ask.
Leading to the main factors pushing people out: The first of which is the rent rising. As Miss Ella notes repeatedly, she could get 3x as much money out of these white folk who want to move into the area vs. what she charges Nola. A temptation you understand for, at the end of the day, Miss Ella got taxes and perhaps utilities to pay. Much less, she got a life to live that requires that rent to be on time.
Setting aside the rent being too damn high, you also got to address what Stokley, Nola’s father, notes: the issue of food, and other services, rising since now there are people who can afford it. Thus making life a bit more expensive for those who may have paid for their homes, maybe live in rent-controlled housing, but now gotta worry about the basics like food going up dollar after dollar.
Making it so, on multiple fronts, your culture, your rent, certain services, food, and just what makes life pleasant, get pushed into becoming luxuries. So you are forced to move to a new area, a ghetto (in the Jewish Holocaust sense of the word) until you get pushed out of there as well.
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