Announced 3 weeks ago, Spike Lee is teaming up with Showtime to develop a half-hour TV series based on his cherished, though problematic feature film debut, She’s Gotta Have It – the feature film that essentially introduced Spike Lee to planet earth (Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads aside, his NYU Master’s thesis film, which won the Student Academy Award and got Spike an agent); a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011.
It’s also a film that was initially given an X-rating by the MPAA. Why? The exact quote, according to Spike, was that the MPAA said it was “saturated with sex.”
Thus Spike had to re-edit the film three times, and still then it was considered too risque; So he released it first in New York, unrated, but was contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated movie, if he wanted to get paid, and eventually did.
What was Spike’s response to the whole thing?
“I don’t think it’s out-and-out racist, but the film portrays blacks outside stereotypical roles, and they don’t know what to do with blacks in films. They never have any love interests. Nick Nolte is the one who has a relationship in 48 Hours. And when it comes to black sexuality, they especially don’t know how to deal with it. They feel uncomfortable. There are films with more gratuitous sex and violence. 9 1/2 weeks got an “R.” And look at Body Double.”
Further details on the TV serial adaptation (like whether it’ll tell the exact same story the film did, with the same characters, who Spike might be considering for his cast, etc) aren’t yet available. It’s likely a bit too early at this point, with no specific ETA announced yet. It may not even make it to series (Spike has been here before; most recently, HBO passed on his Mike Tyson-inspired Da Brick, last year).
But I assume the Showtime adaptation will likely be set in the present day; and given that it’s on cable TV (premium), I expect Spike will deliver something for adults, “saturated with sex,” etc. And despite concerns among some that the series will come with similar problems the feature film did (notably, Spike’s handling of rape – something which he eventually came to admit he regretted), I’d expect that a She’s Gotta Have It TV series, written and directed by a much older, wiser, and mature Spike Lee will hopefully reflect his “coming-of-age,” if you will.
But male filmmakers tackling female sexuality in their art should expect close public scrutiny.
Despite the fact that it is indeed early to discuss what the TV series adaptation will look and feel like, I’d still like to look ahead a bit, and consider what actresses Spike might cast as Nola Darling – a character that I think we can assume will be central to the serial, even if her 3 lovers, featured in the film, are absent.
And with that, a survey: Who would you cast as Nola Darling?
She’s the young, self-assured Brooklynite, juggling three very different boyfriends, who, maybe, if collected into one body, will represent her ideal mate. But Nola doesn’t want to commit to any of her men, cherishing her personal freedom, even as their relationships with Nola grow, and each man wants her for himself. What actress (likely between the ages of 25 and 35) exudes what we can assume will be Nola’s complexities – an intelligent, assertive, compassionate, sexual confident, and in control young woman artist, challenging existing stereotypes of women and sex, still, in the 21st century, 28 years after the film’s initial release?