I first saw Spike Lee’s 1986 She’s Gotta Have It, when I was 15. I had wanted to see it for years, but I knew the subject matter was a bit risqué to get parental approval. (Strangely, my cousins let me watch Love and Basketball when I was only six…). Anyway, Nola’s passion and energy, which shined through in bright red even under the black and white lens, did not disappoint. I found the story’s premise – female sexual freedom and the exploration of sexual identity – to be so intriguing. I was inspired by Nola’s openness. Her insatiableness. Her cold treatment of men. I knew that when I grew up (which should’ve been now at 23) I would be Nola Darling. I would be unabashed, free in love, openly seeking what I want in a man, even if there are three of them.
While my teenage dreams have changed and I am no Nola, I respect those that are, and sometimes, unashamedly live vicariously through them. The Nolas of the world are free, unafraid and can do anything; which brings me to the 2017 Nola Darling of Spike Lee’s first joint reboot. The new Nola truly fleshes out the many levels of her personal and sexual identity. She doesn’t believe in labels. She isn’t embarrassed of her desires, her passions. She captains her ship in a spectacular and inspiring way. Her experience reflects the essence of our generation’s Renaissance Woman. She’s Gotta Have It 2.0 is about freedom, exploration, personal identity, and self-discovery. It’s everything we as millennials want packaged in ten enthralling episodes.
What exactly makes Nola’s experience one that resonates with so many of our own?
Unapologetic. Being unapologetic in 2017 is what have been taught to strive for. We are not our parents or grandparents, as such we should not have to apologize for being who we are. Nola has this concept down pact. She is unapologetically black, female and polyamorous. Her comfort in her identities serves as a lesson to us all. Why apologize for who we are when it doesn’t fit the standard? What is the standard, anyway? Like Nola, we must embrace who we are. Others be damned.
Free. Along with being unapologetic, Nola is a free, passionate spirit. She doesn’t subscribe to labels. Enjoying sex doesn’t make her a freak or a hoe. She doesn’t tie herself down to one category or even one man, because she doesn’t need to. Instead, Nola is free to explore and discover the endless possibilities of what life offers.
Nola’s freedom is also realized in her artwork. Her street art campaign, “My Name Ain’t”, is the visual embodiment of what women deal with every day. Nola flips the patriarchal ideas that women are property, that women have to service men’s needs. My name ain’t yo ma…. because it’s not…and Nola shows us that we can reclaim our time and freedom by reminding men of who we are.
Willing to understand and discover. I commend Nola for taking the time to work toward achieving self-understanding. Nola’s character doesn’t rely on the stereotype of the strong, black woman. She is strong, yes. But there’s no underlying need to be perfect or superwoman. And even though her journey to realization is slow, Nola sees that she has a problem. Another deviation from the norm is that she doesn’t turn to prayer, she instead tries a variety of unique, healing techniques. She settles on therapy. Again, this is something we can all take a note on. Therapy is not bad. I repeat, therapy is not bad. It helps to talk about your issues with someone who can offer an objective opinion. Nola, like many new black, female characters in television, shows us that even the carefree black girl has some stuff that needs to be worked out. More importantly, we must never stop discovering ourselves, even if it seems difficult at times.
Nola is our Renaissance Woman, and her fierceness and energy for life should inspire us as women.