He’s gotta stop it: A Black, polyamorous femme on the Netflix “She’s Gotta Have It” reboot
Nola isn’t polyamorous, she’s a toxic intimacy vampire.
by Veronica Morris Moore
Spike Lee’s 2017 reboot of “She’s Gotta Have It” is mediocre, and that’s being generous.
In the age of Black television like Issa Rae’s Insecure coupled with our collective endeavor to #StayWoke, Spike Lee seemingly understood that he had to “wake up” Nola Darling if the SGHI Netflix series was going to capture the attention of the millennial audience it’s geared towards.
The trailer for SGHI promised queer millennials a comedy set in gentrified Brooklyn, centered around a sex positive, polyamorous, pansexual protagonist. As a radical-revolutionary, queer, non-monogamous, genderfluid femme–and self proclaimed hoe–when that trailer was released, I was geeked. Hyped! Tom-Cruise-in-love-jumping-on-Oprah’s couch hype. But after watching all ten episodes twice, and re-watching the original film for comparison, I am pissed.
Despite the writers’ ability to use all of these words properly in a sentence, they ultimately fail to illustrate what it is truly like to exist at those marginalized intersections.
The Netflix SGHI reboot is everything but timely as 2018 approaches. It is tedious, mundane, simplistic, and typical in every way it’s meant to be atypical. Ten episodes of clickbait? Absolutely. Tokenism of queer identities? Absolutely. Wasted time that I’ll never get back? Sure. But timely? Tuh!
2017 Nola may have the language that 1986 Nola didn’t have, but she is as dated now as she was then. Nola Darling is not as abnormal as she would like us to think she is. She is a self-absorbed, barely middle class, hustling artist, living in a gentrified neighborhood, insecure as the day is long, with a ton of talent and passion, but little to no direction. Sounds like plenty of self-identified millennials I know of. You wanna know what else is normal about 2017 Nola? HER SEX LIFE.
Labeling Nola as a sex positive, polyamorous pansexual is the ultimate clickbait for the New Millennium. I’m emailing Max and Nev because a ton of hopeful Black sex positive, non-monogamous, queer, trans, and non-linear people have just been catfished.
We highly anticipated (with reservations) the release of this series with the expectation that we could fall in love with a show on a major platform that finally, FINALLY, affirmed the ways we give and receive love and engage in sex that are not rooted in heteronormative traditions.
We tuned in ready for the sex-positive scenes that were not only inclusive, but celebratory of kinks, group sex, and sexual partners across the gender spectrum. Instead, we suffered through several straight-ass sex scenes before getting a few seconds of some classic lesbian sex that would’ve been more believable in the 1986 original.
Maybe in 1986, it was groundbreaking for a single Black woman to be sexually intimate with multiple men simultaneously, while having a trusty lesbian in rotation for when toxic masculinity reaches its max for the month. But in 2017, that’s just heteronormative dating and sex–fuck what ya heard. Sex positivity is so much deeper and progressive than “I enjoy sex and I’m not ashamed of it.”
Polyamory is more than just having multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge of all involved. It’s a romantic belief system that there are infinite ways to ethically and responsibly cultivate and sustain intimate relationships that are lively and profound, without the limitations of monogamy (and heteropatriarchy). Polyamorous and non-monogamous people, while dating and having sex with multiple people, also build long-term relationships and sometimes unorthodox families.
Instead of adhering to an ethical polyamory belief system, Nola presents as nothing more than a stereotypical cliché. An idea of how monogamous people assume most polyamorous lovers are.
Nola consumes what she wants from her intimate partners and holds the pieces of them that she doesn’t desire with contempt. None of her sexual partners are whole people to her, just fragments of what her ideal lover would be. Nothing about Nola’s non-monogamous practices are ethical or responsible, go which are critical staples in polyamory. Nola isn’t polyamorous, she’s a toxic intimacy vampire.
The most devastating, disrespectful, and disappointing part of this whole ass series is how queer identities were good enough to titillate the potential audience, but not good enough to be built into full characters or storylines. The series actually addresses and champions the issues of gentrification and surviving sexual harassment way better than realizing the daily struggles, truths, and triumphs of being an unapologetic, sex-positive, polyamorous, pansexual person.
This clearly indicates both the priorities and ignorance of the writers. The writers of the show, predominantly heterosexual, monogamous, Brooklynites, failed miserably to make 2017 Nola genuine to her own identity. She identifies as a sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual, yet all of her partners, friends, and muses are conventional, orthodox, and cisgender. Even her single lesbian lover misses the mark. Pansexual people are not bisexual, bi-curious, or “try-sexual,” as Opal refers to Nola, nor are they “playing for both teams” or any team for that matter.
It pisses me the fuck off how carelessly and superficially the series presents Nola’s sexuality. Where is the depth of character? How fucking dare they use queer identities for aesthetics and sensation, but not for substance? Why did this travesty of a reboot supposedly centered on a pansexual woman not cast trans and/or non-binary characters?
Trans and queer people, particularly trans women of color, have labored and sacrificed so much for too long to cultivate terms that expand the linguistic range for gender and sexual expression in ways that affirm us.
Queer sexual and relational identities are not at the world’s disposal for artistic abuse. Our queer-specific language and identities were used for this project by decision-makers who never had any real intention of including queer people with integrity.
Look, I’m not saying 2017 Nola is required to be a purist to her identity, but DAMN she was just so unsatisfying. Nola Darling is clearly caught in the crosshairs between actually being an interesting and unique character and the writers’ personal agendas to capitalize on queer feminism and queer identities, all while being degrading and delegitimizing.
Similar to the original, this version of Nola is a symbol of liberated Black womanhood, even as her story is told for her by those who are still struggling to understand it. People are celebrating the fact that Spike Lee brought cis women to the writers’ table, but there was not one queer, non-monogamous person with a radical Black feminist adjacent analysis in that room, and that is as much of a problem as a cis heterosexual man being the only one in the room.
Spike Lee and everyone involved here baited a queer millennial audience and misused us in a half-assed attempt to make this archaic, heteronormative, cisnormative, hyper-masculinity-saturated, yawn-fest of a series relevant.
Veronica Morris Moore is a young radical-revolutionary, queer, genderfluid, hood femme from the south side of Chicago. Mostly known for their role in the Trauma Center Campaign, Veronica is also a creative writer, amazing cook, and Beyoncé worshiper.