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She's Gotta Have It
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that She's Gotta Have It was Spike Lee's breakout comedy from 1986. It has a lot of strong sexual content, like nudity and graphic (but simulated) sex scenes. A man is very aggressive and a woman says he's hurting her. Later they talk about his "near rape" of her. Lots of kissing and caressing, once with a same-sex couple. Close-ups of the faces of people receiving oral sex. A woman caresses her own bare breast and masturbates under covers. Central themes and messages are about how a young woman wants to have control over her own life, body, and sexuality; how society views women who have more than one partner; and learning to accept yourself as you are. Lots of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," and "p---y." All but one scene are in black and white.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) is a young graphic artist living on her own in Brooklyn, New York. Three men and one woman each want to be the "it" that Nola's just gotta have. But all four of them, in their own way, want to change Nola by telling her who she ought to be and how she ought to live. Nola may not know exactly what she wants, but she knows it's not just one person, or one thing. And it's definitely not someone else controlling anything about herself or her life.
Is it any good?
The movie that launched Spike Lee's career takes a humorous and sometimes dark look at Nola Darling's struggle to keep control of her own life and body in 1986 Brooklyn. Filmed in black and white, and structured as a series of flashbacks from people being interviewed about their relationships with Nola, this "mockumentary" doesn't pass judgment on any of the characters, inviting viewers to draw their own conclusions.
Legend has it that She's Gotta Have It was filmed on a shoestring budget in 12 days, with absolutely no retakes of anything. That may explain why a lot of the actors sound more like they're reading out loud than speaking naturally. Still, it's a sometimes funny, always insightful, effective character study. It also asks questions as important today as they were in 1986, about female empowerment, African-American representation in the media, sex, and sexuality. The frequent sex scenes and nudity make it best for mature teens ready to tackle these and lots of other adult issues.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sexual content in She's Gotta Have It. How much is OK to show in movies? Why?
Have attitudes about having more than one partner changed since 1986? If so, how? If not, why not?
Why do you think the movie is in black and white? What other black-and-white movies have you seen? Do you like it, or do you wish it were in color?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.