Hollywood Rewind | She’s Gotta Have It: Of sexual liberation and expression

Anvita Singh
spike lee

She's Gotta Have It was helmed by Spike Lee.

She's Gotta Have It movie cast: Tracy Camilla Johns, Spike Lee, Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terell
She's Gotta Have It movie director: Spike Lee
She's Gotta Have It movie rating: 4.5 stars

Before Spike Lee became Spike Lee, the celebrated American filmmaker-writer was juggling multiple jobs at once. In his first full-length feature film — She’s Gotta Have It (1986) — Spike played the role of a director, writer, editor, location manager and even one of the supporting actors. She’s Gotta Have It has a decent rating of 77 per cent on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes and at only 86 minutes long, the Tracy Camilla Johns starrer is a concise, one-of-a-kind (considering its time of release) film which shines a strong, impactful light on feminism, sexual liberation and freedom of choice.

I have revisited over 45 Hollywood movies over the past 8-9 months, and only a few have made more influential and noteworthy statements via cinema than She’s Gotta Have It. The film revolves around one Brooklyn based woman Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) and the romantic relationships she shares with three men, one of which is played by Spike Lee. One man is obsessed with himself, the second one is a polite gentleman, and the third one is an immature motormouth. Nola thinks she is involved in a fulfilling relationship with all three. However, one fine day, the three men come to know of each other’s existence and compare notes. The rest of the plot takes off from there.

“It’s really about control, my body, my mind. Who was going to own it? Them? Or me? I’m not a one-man woman. Bottom line,” Nola says at one point in the movie. And isn’t she right? For centuries and across the globe, women have been told to sit a certain, walk a certain way, behave a certain way and how to use their bodies. Even as I write this article, women are fighting the legal system which decides whether they have a right to abort and when can they abort. To say that the Spike Lee directorial was way ahead of its time is not hyperbole at all. At one point, Nola is raped by the gentlemanly suitor Jamie, and she decides to give in to the idea of a monogamous relationship. But as we reach the latter half of the movie, it becomes clear that no kind of shackle can bind the free spirit of Nola and if she can get what she wants without the collateral damages, she would rather pursue it. Even when viewed in 2019, She’s Gotta Have It is bound to have divisive feedback and that is wonderful because ultimately a film of this nature is not only meant to entertain but also engage the audience and further dialogue on things that matter. Above all, She’s Gotta Have It is also about taking back power and space for women that is usually kept for men — of sexual liberation.

Hollywood Rewind: Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | TangledMeet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles

In 2017, She’s Gotta Have It was adapted into a web series of the same name. Both the film as well as the series is streaming on Netflix.