She's Gotta Have It
By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Spike Lee's breakout comedy has lots of nudity and sex.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Don't listen to people who tell you who you should be, or what you should be like. Accept yourself for who you are and don't apologize for it; you don't owe anything to anyone who's trying to change you.
Positive Role Models
Nola's a good role model for wanting to be in control of her own life and body, and for eventually learning to accept herself as she is and not letting others tell her what she should be like. None of the men are good role models. They're all needy and demanding, and they want Nola to change to suit their own needs and ideas about women and relationships.
Violence & Scariness
Nola asks a man to make love to her; he throws her angrily on the bed on all fours and has aggressive sex that she says is hurting her. Later they talk about his "near rape" of her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex and sexuality are major themes. Extended sex scenes that show a woman's bare breasts, including an extended close-up of a woman's breast being kissed while moaning is heard. In one scene, a man is very aggressive and the woman says he's hurting her. Female nudity from the waist up, and male nudity from behind. Lots of kissing and caressing, once with a same-sex couple. Close-ups of faces while receiving oral sex. A woman caresses her own bare breast and masturbates under covers. Characters briefly talk about sex between two women without specifics. A man strips down to his underwear and has a prominent bulge. STD prevention and birth control are never shown or discussed, except one mention of something being like a ripped diaphragm.
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"Ass," "bitch," "skank," "damned," "d--k" (body part), "s--t," "f--k" and variations, "slut," "boning," "whore," "pissed," "p---y." Some sexual innuendo demonstrating how men approach women.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A dance performance shows adults having wine on a picnic. The ending credits proudly proclaim that the movie has no drugs.
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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.
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She's Gotta Have It
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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?
- In theaters: August 8, 1986
- On DVD or streaming: January 15, 2008
- Cast: Tracy Camilla Johns, Spike Lee, Tommy Redmond Hicks
- Director: Spike Lee
- Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
- Studio: Island Pictures
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Last updated: June 3, 2023
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