Just like 13 Reasons Why and Dear White People, sitting through every episode of this was like getting a pap smear. Annoying and not fun. I was going to watch the season one more time to gather any observations that I missed so this review could be more detailed but I couldn't do it. This show makes my irritability levels rise to the heavens. I hated it a lot and I am mad about it because it ended up being such a waste. The concept, the writing, the vision, just wasted. There was so much potential but it was such a miss, there were way more things about the show that I disliked than liked. I liked the soundtrack, the photography in the opening credits, the visuals of Nola’s apartment, and Mars’s character. That’s it. I’m also mad as fuck that every time the intro came on, I was ready to sing Raspberry Beret but it never came on.
I didn’t care for the writing, the protagonist (how sad is that?), the storylines, the acting, nada. I’m disappointed in the fact that I'm disappointed, like how many more corny Black shows are we gonna see on tv?! Especially Netflix. 99% of the writing was basura, it’s like these writers have been camping out and watching everyone on Black Twitter since the beginning of 2016 and turned it into a script. I don't know where these shows are finding these writers and what that writer's room is looking like when they write these episodes but it's literally getting out of control. I WANT to be able to have and happily consume more Black entertainment, that's all I've ever wanted to do. But I can't do that if it's not good quality and the content isn't what it should be, I don't give support and praises out of pity. If it's trash, it's trash. And it's important that these people know that so they can actually do better next time.
DeWanda Wise is a pretty girl but I wasn’t buying her portrayal of Nola Darling. I much preferred Tracy Johns original portrayal of Nola, she was much more secure and confident of herself as a woman and the way she interacted with her threesome of lovers. In the original, Nola was a smooth but firm woman who knew what she wanted and had an air of mystique that sort of drew you to her. I didn't really get that from DeWanda, it felt like she was trying to come off as that confident and convince everyone that she was that confident, but it didn't seem like it. I didn’t see what these other 3 dudes were seeing when they were falling in love with her. If Nola was as free-spirited, multifaceted, and charming as the show wants you to believe she is, then I should have fallen in love with her character too, but I didn't. Instead I was repulsed because of how much of a contradictory cliche she was. It was also probably because her character was a literal member of Shea Butter Twitter and I hateeedddd it. Headwraps, natural hair (I use the word natural loosely cause that weave was fucking terrible and stiff), big out-of-place-ass septum ring, makes art for a living, lives in a New York apartment she can’t afford. She was a very stereotypical and unoriginal character with little to no charisma, it didn't feel like Wise brought Nola to life the way she should've.
Take Mars for example. He was my favorite character on that show because you can tell Anthony Ramos was doing his part in giving Mars an actual personality, turning him into a real person and not leaving him as a fictional character with no body. You can see Mars as the kind of nigga you'd kick it and have fun with. There was just something missing from DeWanda's portrayal and the entire show in general and I still can't quite figure out what it was, maybe personality and livelihood. I don't know, but it just felt impersonal and discombobulated. I didn't feel entirely present and invested in the show, in their universe, the way I usually am with my favorite shows.
During each episode I was hoping for something to pop off so that there would be an actual plot that’s interesting enough to follow but after 10 episodes there’s still nothing. The last episode was a Thanksgiving shitshow and it was the dumbest thing I ever saw. It already feels like the plot isn't going anywhere because how long can Nola keep up this wannabe-polyamorous charade before she fully realizes she needs to be alone and not involve people in her mess? It's already being subtly revealed that her "polyamorous" nature with her relationships is unraveling because it's not as firm and stable as she thought it would be. Because she has no idea what she's doing or what she actually wants. How much longer can you drag that out for? Especially before it just becomes annoying to see.
My whole issue with this version of Nola is that it feels like they almost tried to make her some Afrocentric, neo soul version of a manic pixie dream girl and I just wasn’t buying it. The depth in her character wasn't there because it was clear to me how much of a hotep she was and how she tried to pass off her messy approach to relationships as polyamory. If I was her friend, we wouldn’t be very close cause she gets on my damn nerves. I think I’m mostly annoyed and mad though because we finally get another dark skinned female lead and we end up with *Miranda Priestly voice* this... this stuff. Nola was selfish, childish, confused, fake deep, and not as grown as she thought she was. She was contradictory in a way that makes you go, "bitch are you stupid?" instead of, "yeah we're all human." I don't have it in me to be constantly consuming unlikeable fictional characters, especially ones that are the protagonist and you have no choice but to look at them. I do enough of that with real people. There wasn't many redeeming qualities for Nola that I could recall so she was just a big fat no for me.
Another thing I hate about Nola is that she gets unnecessarily offended and mad over a lot of stupid things, things that aren't even mean or doing her harm. She freaks out, pun intended, over being called a freak, like calm the fuck down. Any black person that’s even remotely familiar with AAVE knows that’s not an insult so like.. what’s the point of that? You from Brooklyn and you acting like you don't know what being a freak means? We're not white people, freak isn't an insult. Stop being annoying. Also I don't know why she tried to make fun of the fact that Mars lived in the projects and worked “18” jobs when she can barely pay her rent and works multiple jobs too. She better act like she know what the deal is in gentrified ass Fort Greene.
With this series, I guess Spike Lee and co. thought the concept of a Black woman literally just being a messy bitch was going to be empowering and fun to watch, but it really wasn't. That's what Insecure was for, honestly. Issa filled that slot. And it's not because exercising sexual agency in itself isn't empowering because 1) it's no one's place to tell the next person what is and isn't empowering to them cause it's none of our business, and 2) everyone's relationship with sex and their bodies is different. But I'm just personally tired of seeing people frame casual sex and being noncommittal to anyone as the one and only form of female empowerment. Do we know that there are other ways to portray women as empowered and free and to encourage other women to be free, other than just sex and revolving everything around men? It's sooo old. And I say this as someone who has had sex and so far I'm not getting the hype, and I don't really care to. Like sex has never been a huge priority or concern of mine. I roll my eyes every time I see a sex scene in a show or movie now because if I wanted to see sex I'd watch porn. Sex is everywhere now, that shit is so overdone and I'm really over you guys constantly trying to tell women that sex and anything related to it is the only way to be empowered and to have freedom as a woman. It can and does go way beyond that, beyond men.
I don’t find polyamory under the guise of “I’m liberated!” when you’re really just confused and have commitment issues endearing, none of that was cute to me. I saw right through it. One minute Nola says she’s not dating any of them and it’s just sex, next thing you know she’s going out on dates with them and mixing up their names during sex. She’s a mess. She also has a rule of not seeing the same person twice a week and seeing no more than 2 people twice a week. If you’re so secure about “dating” 3 different men and not catching feelings, why the restraints?
That’s not polyamory. In order for Nola’s relationship with those men to be legitimate polyamory, she would’ve needed to tell all of them from the jump that they’re basically all in a relationship with her. But she didn’t do that, she kept it a secret and made things even more complicated for herself down the road. She claims it’s just sex with them but her actions say otherwise. I don’t know much about polyamory but I know it’s not simply just having sex with multiple men, an actual relationship with feelings and intimacy (which she's been strictly avoiding) is needed to consider that polyamory. Otherwise, Nola is really just casually dating. The whole premise of her relationship with these men was that it would be no feelings involved, she made that a rule and a point when she first met all of them. So yeah, this isn't polyamory this is polyimahotmessory.
The show itself was very try-hard all around. They tried too hard to be radical, pro-black, progressive, and feminist and got it all wrong each time. That #BLM hashtag at the end of the pilot was not needed and didn't fit in anywhere in the context of that episode. I don't know why the hell they thought it was okay to go through with that scene. The inclusion of phrases like “hipster imperialism” in casual conversations, unironically, was not needed. Nola constantly referring to her painting as the “free black female form” or some shit like that, was stupid. And not needed. Freedom for Black women can go beyond being naked, wearing natural hair, or having multiple sex partners, and I will be so glad and maybe finally entertained the day y'all realize that. It really sucks that a lot of people's sex positivity and supporting other people having sexual agency doesn't extend to folks like me who don't really give a fuck about sex and showing my body because we're written off as bitter prudes when that's far from the truth. We just sexually express ourselves differently and that's okay, but I don't think a lot of you understand that still because you lack the range as per usual.
And while we’re on the subject, I don’t mind film and television being used to amplify issues and bring attention to them. What I don’t like is it being forced and sounding like something a 15 year old on twitter would say once they’ve finished reading some work from Karl Marx and Bell Hooks. Subtlety is key. That all up in your face, #BlackLivesMatter shit that doesn’t connect to ANYTHING on the show or episode? Stop that right now. And honestly you don’t NEED to include stuff like that all the time anyway. It’s nice to just watch entertainment to be.. entertained. And not informed. Until y’all hire some new writers and learn how to talk about social issues in a way that doesn’t make people break their necks from cringing, don’t do it. Just because it’s made by black people and has black people in it, that doesn’t mean it has to be extra political. Sometimes people wanna take a break from that and have a laugh.
The outdated oppositions towards Shemekka getting her butt done and wearing weave was also the obvious work of the old writers on the show. How hard is it to put on new talent and younger writers? People from this generation that actually live the lives of these characters in this day and age? Why is that so difficult? These shows on Netflix keep writing this terrible ass material because the wrong people are holding the pen. I don’t need baby boomers and folks from Generation X writing about and trying to broadcast MY generation through their lens. Like what are you goin to gain from it.
She's Gotta Have It is basically the host body 40 and 50 somethings have been waiting to use as a vessel to show this generation through their eyes and incidentally misrepresenting us in the process. The episode with Jamie's son and using the word nigga confirmed the fact that there are indeed some oldheads on that writing team because... no. "Nobody should be using that word!" Boy bye. The portrayal and reactions from different characters regarding the expression of Black female sexuality and womanhood in general had both clearly old-fashioned and younger perspectives on it which I think is why a lot of this show just didn't mesh well together. It's like the writers subconsciously put in their perspectives on the issues at hand into the script even though it should all be from a millennial's point of view, it just feels like inconsistent writing to me. It's much older people from a different generation trying to write the lives of younger people they don't seem to know much about. The route they're taking to appeal to their audience (us youngsters) is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign pandering to the youth and Black people.
The sexually liberated freedom schtick, the starving artist trope, the not-so-subtle inclusion of social issues when nobody asked. The show tried to cram in every little thing they've seen from our generation into 10 episodes and you can tell they don't know much else about us. I can't tell if the writing was an attempt to give this generation a voice and depict us on-screen, or a chance for them to slip in their 2 cents on the matter at hand. Maybe it was both. But there's only so much consistency and flow that can come from 45+ year olds writing a show about and aimed at 20 somethings that also attempts to be socially conscious. For various reasons that I believe boil down mostly to the ages of the writing crew in all honesty, this show just doesn't quite do a lot of things justice. Polyamory, Black female sexuality, duality in Black women, social issues, being broke and living in Brooklyn. Being a broke millennial and living in the city in general. Yet again none of it was realistic, made sense, or was handled properly and I'm just wondering when these shows will get us right.