SPIKE LEE’S NEW SHOW IS MAKING ROMCOMS GOOD AGAIN
"I would like you to know the only reason I'm doing this is cause folks think they know me... If in the end this helps so people out then that's cool too"
Its Monday night and I’m sitting up in bed after successfully doing the adequate amount of work to deserve a netflix break. This is how I cyber Monday. First of all, you should probably know that I’m happily obsessed with romantic comedies. Something about the culmination of love and feels and humor that just really gets me going. The last time I went on a rom-com binge bender was about two months ago when I finally gave into watching Issa Rae’s “Insecure”. Now, I’m not gonna lie, SZA’s contribution to season two’s soundtrack with “Quicksand” was the straw that broke my back. I guess my hesitation could also be credited to the fear I had that I wouldn’t like her variety of funny. But somehow I convinced myself that if black twitter was still having #IssaVibes after season two, then watching would be worth the investment. Thanks Black Twitter.
See, Issa Rae is what Amy Schumer is to white people; NECESSARY. Lol, ok, what I mean is; Issa Rae is what Amy Schumer is to white people who thinks and lives rather awkwardly. You know... those characters that reminds us of our secretly badass, slightly inappropriate and insecure selves. Yeah, them.
In a world where the most liked black female characters are always well placed, well accomplished and well put together. Issa, if you know her... is a vibe. Lol, sorry I had to. But really, she’s self-aware(ish), sexually liberated, dependent but independent, awkwardly romantic and hella funny. But in relation to the Subject matter, “She’s Gotta Have it” - Spike Lee’s reboot of the 1986 original title is looking like a good left jab to “Insecure’s” right hook to the awkward agenda. The original is best described as a provocative portrayal of an independent 80's woman struggling to maintain her identity while the men around her strive to control and define her. The reboot takes shape as a modernized Netflix series made for now. It follows an enigmatic Nola Darling -played by Dewanda Wise- as she traverses the plains of adulthood as a sex-positive-polyamorous-pansexual artist type living in Brooklyn. She paints. So the premise remains the same as it did 31 years ago. That’s good news for us 80’s and 90’s obsessed millennial bingers. The culture lives on! Now, don’t be alarmed but up until these last three sentences I had only watched the netflix trailer. I really wanted to be present with you when I brought you here 5 minutes ago. Ok, hold on one second while I go watch the first season.
Well, it took about 12 more hours to watch all 10 episodes of season one but this is where we’re at. “She’s Gotta Have it” is irreverent, cinematic and very important. How it explores sexuality in its 2016 time period using storytelling styles from two decades ago is pure magic. You can definitely see how Spike Lee may have inspired Issa Rae in the founding principles of her character in “Insecure”. The show’s music choices and screenwriting preserves the 80’s magic the original feature film introduced to the zeitgeist. Btw, it was Spike Lee’s first. It makes good on my expectation as a translated throwback experience a millennial youth like myself may quite enjoy. And I do, enjoy it. Critics apparently finds the writer's’ use of neo-catchphrases like ‘catching feelings’ disingenuous and the hashtagging of each episode title too contrived. But I say; it’s always hard to accept what we look like while we look like it. Here we are in 2017 dictating how 2017 should be represented in, well... 2017 culture. Wake up call, Black kids everywhere after watching this will or will want to say ‘Nola is me af’. The ‘men are trash’ sub-generation will also be rejoicing in deprecating anti-romance romanticism... If only for the love of Nola Darling.
The characters new and old strikes a deep resonance with a divergent thinker like myself. And I especially love how the serialized version gives viewers different types of
women with varying relationships to sex and sexuality to fall for. There;s Nola, her best friend and former roommate Clorinda Bradford, who is somewhat prudish and then there’s Shemekka Epps, the Jamaican stripper who harbors some insecurity about her body. These stories deserves to be told, especially right now, and it is invigorating to see Nola use her art as a therapy to cope with sexual harassment, understanding herself, and comprehending her relationships.
Then there are Nola’s leading men. Greer Childs is the rich, handsome narcissist. Then there's Jamie Overstreet, a stable, overprotective alpha male with wealth and power that revels in black bourgeoisie. And Finally, we have Mars Blackmon, a timid geek with a heart of gold. Mars is my favorite and I think he’s my generation’s too. He’s most like what most of us look for in a millenial partner. He’s sweet and funny and in his own way very romantic, loyal and fiercely protective. In the original, this role was brought to life by Spike Lee himself. “Please baby please baby please baby please” is Mars’s and Lee playing Mars’s winning catchphrase. In the Netflix series Mars is played by Anthony Ramos, the biracial American actor from the Broadway breakout; “Hamilton”. That’s just one of the interesting considerations made in remaking a project with a predominantly black cast such as this. Mar’s bilateral switch helps an old idea like this assimilate into 2017’s robust racial present.
"Please mami, please mami, please mami,
mami mami please!"
Anthony Ramos as Mars Blackmon
The music and art included in the series is an essential lesson in staples of black culture. Scenes are intercut with colorful album covers from Maxwell and Floetry, and paintings and photographs from Kerry James Marshall and Mickalene Thomas; even Nola’s therapist has some framed photographs from Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series hanging on her walls. The performances are also quite solid.
Shemekka, played by Chyna Layne is a Jamaican born Brooklyn broad that aptly relates to the Cardi B curves and chaos cross-section of current culture. Ms Layne actually happens to be of Jamaican heritage just like her on screen character, though her accent is weak as fuck. Shemekka’s arc comes after debuting her back road body augmentation at the strip joint where she waited tables. Her days of booty popping was rather short lived though, after she fell ass first and literally popped her booty. Ok, no more spoiler alerts. You’ll just have to wait and see where this season takes and leaves you.
Me? Somehow, watching these heavily complex characters come to life -in stories surrounding equally complicated human emotions- revived the romantic Brooklyn artist in me. The writers tackled everything from the shadow the ushering in of the Trump era casted, to the unrooting of the national anthem’s true messaging against black freedom. Opal, Nola’s lesbian single mom lover deserves mention too. Afterall she’s who Nola ended the season with in a late night champagne campaign. In the end Nola Darling reaches a tipping point where her great big idea of living a full and free life on her own terms finally started to ferment. By now she can afford rent, paint freely, love freely and begin to move on from the archaic tomfoolery surrounding free independent womanhood in a Trump America. This season ends shortly after thanksgiving dinner 2016 with Nola and her three men. Just like in the film. I’m anxious to see where the story picks up, though a continuation seems unlikely. If there will be a season two, this is where Spike Lee and his team will really get to be imaginative. Here we will kind of get to see where 1986 Nola sort of went after the reconciliation. And that’s exciting.