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

Though it’s early, UM already has assembled an outstanding nine-member 2020 recruiting class, a grou ...

Three days before they open their season against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the Miami Hurricanes h ...

The first half of Wednesday night’s game was as lousy as the weather outside the Watsco Center, as t ...

UM coach Manny Diaz took his staff to the Florida Keys on Tuesday evening to visit with famous Keys ...

Dominic Mammarelli didn’t only commit to the Miami Hurricanes because of Mark Richt and his old staf ...

The University of Miami will host the first symposium to explore LGBTQ human rights across the Ameri ...

UM experts react to a new ban that prohibits people in Key West from using certain types of sunscree ...

A matchmaker extraordinaire, Ricardo Cepeda, the manager of the UM Zebrafish Facility, is passionate ...

The Shelley family shares their story of four generations at the University of Miami. ...

Mark Rowlands, a University of Miami professor who adopted and raised a wolf-dog cub, observed the s ...

The Canes open the 75th season in program history and first under the direction of head coach Gino D ...

The No. 15 Miami women's tennis team is set to open league competition Saturday afternoon with ...

ACC unveils opponents for 20-game conference schedules for next three seasons. ...

Miami tops Clemson 65-64, as Johnson hits game-winner with 0.4 seconds remaining. ...

The Miami women's tennis team ascended two spots in this week's Oracle/ITA team rankings 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.