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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

She’s Gotta Have It explores the men’s inner lives but it feels too late

Illustration for article titled She’s Gotta Have It explores the men’s inner lives but it feels too late
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I said in a previous review that Nola Darling is a Hannah Horvath and that framing was crucial to the show. Understanding that Nola is selfish, immature, and maybe not as talented as she might think makes her slightly easier to watch. Unfortunately for She’s Gotta Have It, no one calls Nola on her bullshit or asks her what she wants. Nola runs from her problems but they never seem to catch up to her. It leaves the audience weary of her antics. There’s no satisfying release of Nola getting what’s coming to her or achieving her goals. So, the audience is left looking for some depth elsewhere. Up until “#HowToMakeLoveToANegroWithoutGettingTired,” we’ve gotten glimpses into the inner lives of Nola’s three men. We know Jamie is living in the basement of his own home and Mars is living with his sister in the projects. Both men are sketched out with a little bit of specificity and sympathy but Greer is mostly the stereotype of a self-obsessed pretty boy.

This episode attempts to go a little deeper. We learn he’s got a white French mother, he grew up in France, and he has aspirations of a more artistic life. He has a lot in common with Nola and wants to have a more intimate and exclusive relationship with her. On paper, a relationship between them would work but their scenes lack depth or warmth. After seeing episode after episode of Nola and Mars’ chemistry and Jamie wrestling with risking his marriage and child for Nola, Greer feels like an afterthought to the series. It doesn’t help that the conversations Nola and Greer have on their date are enlightened bougie Black artist patter. Greer and Nola lament being not Black enough for their Black kids or the white gatekeepers.


Put aside the fact that this conversation feels dated and tired in an era when there are more representations of Blackness on screen, two of the leads having this conversation seated at a table is boring. We don’t get to see Nola or Greer experiencing this tension. Also, we don’t get to see if Greer or Nola has really experienced any bullying around this issue or if it’s another manifestation of their insecurities. There’s an undercurrent of insecurity to Greer but this episode doesn’t do enough to explore it beyond “I’m beautiful and Nola wasn’t trying to lock me down, so I want her even more.”

Nola opens up this conversation because she watched a video review of the diastopian art show by the Julian Kemper, an art collector and critic. He calls Nola the weakest link of the show because her work lacked a point of view or intensity. Nola decides that her work wasn’t “Black enough” when that’s not what he said and Nola appears childish but the show expects us to sympathize with her. Greer fawns over her art and Jamie buys one of her self-portraits. It doesn’t help when the audience can see that Nola’s work isn’t up to the other artists she shared the space with. Even if the other artists verge on parody of “Afro-centric art,” they were interesting and had a point of view. The most editorializing Nola does in her art is putting a natural hairstyle on Shemekka.

Illustration for article titled She’s Gotta Have It explores the men’s inner lives but it feels too late

Nola grows even more tiresome in this episode when she rejects Greer’s advances for a more intense relationship. Greer is attractive, has a big sexual appetite, cultured, worldly, and appreciates Nola’s art. He’s just as pretentious as she is and loves the finer things in life. What more could she be looking for? He isn’t interested in controlling her in. In fact, his offer is go on dates together. Polyamory allows for romantic intimacy and if you can show me a straight woman in her mid-twenties that isn’t excited that a man wants to take her on more dates, I can show you a god damn liar. There’s no explanation for why Nola rejects Greer. There’s an invisible line that these men keep crossing and she rejects them. Without knowing what that line is, Nola is just infuriating. For someone who supposedly loves sex, we don’t see her having much sex or enjoying it very much. Nola feels like a liberated, sexual woman written by someone who is scandalized by casual sex. The writers feel like they’re working out some fascination with the concept of “fuckbuddies.”


The greatest sin of this episode is it’s pretentious and slow-moving. At least some of the other episodes are ridiculous and make you pull your hair out, this episode shows us how Nola met Jamie and Greer. Her meet-cute with Greer was fine enough but Nola and Jamie met on a bench and talked about Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s influence on Jay-Z. This show is obsessed with showing us how smart it is. It sacrifices action for characters sitting around talking about French novels or showing extended clips of Imitation of Life. It’s exhausting and I’m exhausted. Without something compelling, this show is getting awfully tiresome.

Stray Observations:

  • Are we supposed to be sympathetic to Jamie? He’s ruining his marriage for a relationship with a woman who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with him.
  • The song playing during Jamie and Nola’s pretentious meet-cute is “Nola” from the 1986 film, composed and performed by Spike Lee’s father, Bill Lee. In the movie, Bill Lee plays Nola’s father and the song is a gift from Jamie for Nola’s birthday.
  • Shemekka continues to get screwed by the pacing of the show. She gets one scene at the end of the episode where she apologizes to Nola and breaks down in tears. The episodes keep ending with Shemekka but she doesn’t get any meaningful screentime.
  • The most realistic thing Jamie’s son has done so far is Google racism and figured out that “The Star Spangled Banner” is a racist song. That checks out for a high school freshman. Unfortunately, after months of protest during the National Anthem during football games softens whatever edge this scene could have possibly had.
  • Nola complaining that everyone says “keep it one hunnid” and that “Drake is a cult” is PREPOSTEROUS. Is she 70 years old?

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Ali Barthwell is a wearer of fine lipstick and fine hosiery.

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