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"She's Gotta Have It" Was Released Today... About That X-Rating And Black Sexuality On Screen...

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 8, 2011 9:42 AM
9 Comments
  • |

Today in history... August 8th, 1986, Spike Lee's feature film debut, She's Gotta Have It, was released theatrically, and is, by the way, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year!

Time flies right?

Revisiting an old post on the film, and, in a way, in celebration if it... some trivia and food for thought...

Did you know that She's Gotta Have It 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."

Hah! You can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of that given reason. Talk about a double-standard!

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."

Boy, how little has changed in 25 years! There's still very much this suppression of what I'd call black-on-black sexual expression on movie theater screens, at the studio level specifically, so much that some of our stars (especially our male stars) seem to have even given up, or given in to these tacit "agreements," if we can call them that.

I'd say that since the Blaxploitation era ended, black sexual expression has been noticeably absent from mainstream cinema.

In 1987, when Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle was released (in which his character was involved in a romance with Anne Marie Johnson's), he was quoted as saying, "This year, I'll be the only black man that kissed a black woman on screen. That's deep."

And with that, I'll leave you with this, how many films developed, financed and released by a Hollywood studio last year had a black man kissing a black woman, or vice-versa, with mutual affection? How about this year, 8 months in?

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9 Comments

  • Nia | September 17, 2011 2:55 AMReply

    I didn't want to leave a long comment, but I believe there are many ways to deal with graphic subject matter. What sets McQueen apart is that he is direct in his approach. I don't know. You obviously don't want to see it. I wanted to see the film before reading about it S&A because I like the actors and McQueen's previous work. I can't convince you, but reasons for wanting to see the film aren't going to be the same. I don't believe the majority are waiting to spend their money to go see something they consider porn. I think they have a genuine interest in the project and the people involved. So watch it if you want...or not.

  • Jay | August 9, 2011 9:08 AMReply

    @BluTopaz

    That was Arnon Milchan. In context he was talking about 'selling a film' by taking the point of view of how distributors look at previous box office returns (with only black leads) and how adding a white A-list star with a black A-list star will add a significant box office boost.

    That said, I would love to see more beautiful, dynamic, transformative and honest black sexuality on screen.

  • somsharp1 | August 9, 2011 2:17 AMReply

    I didn't see it but did anyone kiss in "Jumping the Broom"? I mean, they were getting married for pete's sake! What about "Why Did I get Married too"? I actually don't remember! Wow! That's interesting....

  • Dankwa Brooks | August 9, 2011 1:54 AMReply

    *CORRECTION*
    "one of the first sexual black men on TV."

  • Dankwa Brooks | August 9, 2011 1:51 AMReply

    Black sexuality IS lacking onscreen. Blair Underwood complained on ‘L.A. Law’ about everyone on the show hopping in bed, (even the old dude) but his character and they gave him like one scene of he and his onscreen girlfriend Renee Jones in the bed (post coitus).

    I often also tell people who complain about the buffoonery of J.J. on ‘Good Times’ that he was one of the first sexual black man on TV.

  • BluTopaz | August 9, 2011 1:20 AMReply

    H'wood does not like Black on Black sexuality in films because it does not involve Whites getting their freak on with good looking POC; in addition to it would force them to see Blacks as human beings with emotions and we can't have that, can we. There's something demonic about a culture that is more comfortable seeing other people abuse and degrade each other, rather than treat each other with affection.

    Dr. Henry Gates did a show on Black Hollywood where he interviewed some sleazy European filmmaker and I'll never forget his quote re: this topic: "Halle Berry and Denzel on screen kissing--boring. Halle and (some White actor) kissing-now that's exciting!" When you think about it, White Hollywood does not like to see any people of color together on screen, the most attractive non-White actor/actress (Latino, Asian, etc.) is always paired up with a plain White character, never another gorgeous POC. They ALWAYS want to be in on the action.

    and re: Spike's quote above is the main reason why i love him--he's never been afraid to say what many of us are thinking.

  • James Madison | August 8, 2011 12:58 PMReply

    Good post.

    One of my favorites. Just because it was Spike's first feature.

    I wish he would have done a commentary for the DVD. I am not too upset. I was able to get the companion book "Spike Lee's Gotta Have it".

    I remember Spike saying, and I paraphrase, "that the people in the foreign market will go nuts (positively) to a Black on Black love".

    Excellent birds-eye view of the entire production.

  • Vanessa | August 8, 2011 12:56 PMReply

    Great film. This issue Hollywood had with black on black sexuality on screen baffles me.

  • Neziah | August 8, 2011 11:23 AMReply

    That's true, Hollywood just doesn't like to see black on black sexuality in films. When you do see a black couple in a film, it's almost always made by a black filmmaker, this goes to show that some things never change.

    By the way, when are they going to release this classic on Blu-Ray? It's bee long overdue for a quality home video release.

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