She's Gotta Have It

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
She's Gotta Have It TV Poster Image
Lyrical Spike Lee series has language, lots of graphic sex.

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age 16+
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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Nola is confident and proud of her life, including her vivid and busy romantic life and sexual entanglements with multiple partners. She's a self-actualized woman with a burgeoning career and a satisfying personal life full of close relationships. There are some iffy messages about women and sexuality, though, as when one character asserts that Nola is not a "ho," but another woman he's about to call for a date is, and she's going to "get it." In other, more inspirational scenes, Nola finds a way to turn criticism and harassment into art that makes her feel powerful. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nola is a fascinating character who doesn't define herself through her romantic life or relationships with men. All of her lovers see her differently, she tells us, but she "will not allow them to paint my life, paint who I am ... I gotta look within to find what makes me happy." Nola is the most fully realized character on this show, but others are painted affectionately, despite their foibles and failings. 

Violence

Violence is rare but can be upsettingly realistic: When walking home at night, Nola is accosted by a man who grabs her arm and shoulder; Nola punches and slaps at him to get him away. He calls her a "bitch" and when she gets away says that he didn't want that "stank p---y" anyway. In a reference to suicide, Nola puts a finger "gun" to her head and pretends to shoot when she's disgusted.

Sex

In the first few minutes of the first show, a score of men and women make obscene propositions to Nola including an offer for oral sex (in very graphic terms including the word "p---y") and one to "sit on" a man's penis. Many scenes feature characters having sex. No genitals are shown but we hear moaning and see graphic thrusting, men and women taking different sexual positions, passionate kissing, hands gripping bare skin, sweaty backs, bare buttocks (male and female), satisfied expressions, a man wearing a woman's underwear on his head, and more. A man strips to his underwear and then crawls to the bed where Nola is lying nude (we can see her bare backside from one side); another man lifts Nola in the air and spins her around while thrusting. A woman is unashamed of regularly having sex with different partners. 

Language

Cursing and language includes "bulls--t," "s--t," "ass," "f--k," "motherf----r," "bitch," "damn," "p---y," "balls," "d--k," "caca," "ho."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Nola keeps a box of rolled joints in her apartment and frequently shares them with friends. Adults drink cocktails at social occasions; no one acts drunk. Nola asks a friend if he's "smoking K2" when he's being whimsical. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that She's Gotta Have It is a series about a young Brooklyn artist who is enjoying multiple sexual relationships. Based on the 1986 movie of the same name, the show presents a strong woman who is confident about her life and choices and finds ways to turn her problems into powerful art. There's also graphic sexual content, with frequent scenes where nude characters have graphic sex in various positions. We don't see breasts or genitals, but we do see intense thrusting, bare backsides, lots of body parts, sweat, characters in their underwear, and more. Sexual language is also plentiful, with references to oral sex and body parts. One character calls a woman a "ho." Other language includes "s--t," "f--k," and "motherf----r." Violence is rare but can be upsetting: A man chases after Nola and tries to grab her; she fights him off but he calls her a "bitch" and says he didn't want her "stank p---y." Nola and her friends frequently pass around joints and drink at social occasions; there are other references to drugs like K2. 

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Teen, 15 years old Written byGjgfdhjhddjj March 17, 2018

Great Show

For people who are "of age"

What's the story?

Based on the 1986 Spike Lee film of the same name, SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT picks up in modern-day Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where gentrified businesses and towering rents have replaced the gritty milieu of the earlier movie. Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) is a 20-something artist who's struggling to move forward in her life and her career, and dividing her time between her work, her friends, and three lovers: conceited "biracial Adonis" Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony), lovable B-boy and hustler Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), and adoring investment banker Jamie Overstreet (Lyriq Bent). Each of Nola's lovers claims a piece of her life but none have a hold on her -- she's got her own life, her own mind, and her own places to be. 

Is it any good?

Lyrical, lovely, and oozing charm, Lee's beautifully written and shot drama would be a welcome diversion even if it didn't focus on a rare narrative subject: a self-actualized black woman. Despite the capsule descriptions of She's Gotta Have It that insist on boiling down Nola's story to the fact that she's keeping company with more than one man at a time, Nola's relationships with her multiple men isn't the focus of the show. Though there are plenty of scenes of her with her lovers flirting, canoodling, bickering, or just having fun together, we also see Nola working (she paints beautiful, realistic portraits of herself and others), spending time with her friends, enjoying the city, and experiencing the realistic harassment and come-ons an attractive young woman typically experiences on city streets. 

Nola quickly emerges as a character to be reckoned with, and one who's lovable and relatable as well. "I consider myself abnormal," she tells us in one of her third wall-breaking monologues. "But who wants to be like everybody else?" Confidently fending off criticism from fellow characters, she asserts "I'm not a freak, I'm not a sex addict, and I'm damn sure nobody's property." It's a rousing declaration, and one Nola follows up by making powerful and beautiful art, including a series of protest posters she hangs up on the sides of buildings near the end of the first episodes. Not every woman can be a model-gorgeous artist who lives in an improbably huge city apartment and has gorgeous men fawning all over her. But most viewers would  probably want to be as confident as Nola -- or at least to take strength in watching her. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sexual content in She's Gotta Have It. How much do you think is OK to show?

  • This series is based on director Spike Lee's 1986 comedy of the same name. Have attitudes about sexuality changed since 1986? If so, how? If not, why not?

  • Is the audience supposed to like Nola? To judge her? To relate to her? What clues do you get from her depiction? Consider dialogue, costumes, plotting, and setting in your answer.

  • How does Nola show courage and perseverance in her choices? Why are these important character strengths?

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