Opinion

‘She’s Gotta Have It’ remake paints one-dimensional picture of being a queer woman of color

Spike Lee’s film “She’s Gotta Have It” deviates from Hollywood’s depictions of heteronormative, white relationships, depicting a black woman totally in charge of her own sexuality. Or at least that’s the idea.

Lee doesn’t have the best track record for his portrayals of black female characters, especially one as complex as Nola Darling, the “sex-positive, polyamorous, pansexual” black artist at the center of the storyline. As much as Darling is presented as an independent, self-assured grown-ass woman, her character is stagnant as she strings along her various lovers in an outstandingly immature depiction of mature relationships.

While the original 1986 film was important because it ushered in a discussion of black culture and film, the new TV adaptation failed to do anything quite as powerful.

With society on the cusp of expansion of feminist theory and acceptance of different types of relationships, Darling’s character is crucial. Still, this rendition did a poor job of accurately representing queerness.

Throughout the series, the show centers on Nola’s inability to commit and communicate, which she blames on her sexuality. She even goes on a “man-cleanse” and falls into the arms – rather, the bed – of a woman, Opal. When she’s tired of men, she goes to Opal. When she needs to get bailed out of jail, she goes to Opal. Yet when Opal needs her to be present, she falls short. Darling is noncommittal with all her partners, has serious issues being honest with any of them, and jumps around with the dismissive attitude of a teen. It’s a far cry from this strong woman Lee wants to present, someone who seems at face-value like an iconic character for being an unapologetic rarity in TV and film: a powerful black woman who is in touch with her sexuality and takes ownership of it.

What are Darling’s actions telling the viewers, especially those who identify as queer? Is it telling us that queerness is inherently linked to negative traits and behaviors within relationships? Is queer expression only acceptable when heteronormativity fails, like in the case of Darling’s man-cleanse? It is important not to invalidate queerness with stereotypical presentations in the mass media.

Portrayals of queer people as flaky and inconsiderate in media transcend the TV or laptop screen and can hurt queer people in real life. A 2011 study by researchers at Southwestern University discovered a direct correlation between queer identity and representations in the media, finding that media role models who are gay, lesbian and bisexual can have a positive influence on people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. Why not use the considerable platform Lee had to create a character who can be a role model, someone to dispel myths about non-heteronormative relationships?

On a show geared toward young people, queerness and the fluidity of sexuality must be presented properly and portrayed well. We should never make people feel like their emotions and sexuality aren’t being taken seriously, and portrayals such as the one in “She’s Gotta Have It” will encourage society to view non-monogamous and non-heterosexual relationships as invalid and noncommittal, and even possibly dissuade viewers from further exploring their sexuality. We must actively work to represent minority groups positively, and that starts with the TV shows and films so many of us come home to every night.

Kay-Ann Henry is a freshman majoring in journalism.

February 5, 2018

Reporters

Kay-Ann Henry


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

The Miami Hurricanes will have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball this season, and four play ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

University of Miami law and political science professors weigh in on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee. ...

Research bioclimatologists with the UM Synoptic Climatology Lab counsel cities on how to manage risi ...

A UM-led study is examining how children’s play behavior at beaches could impact their health. ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

The University of Miami's volleyball team earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association (A ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.