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Spike Lee's Initially "X-Rated" Feature Film Debut ("She's Gotta Have It) Now Streaming On Netflix & In HD

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 1, 2012 10:15 AM
5 Comments
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she's gotta have it

It's about damn time! Not that I haven't already seen the film enough, but I'm always shocked when I run into folks - black folks especially - who claim to be black film lovers, or specifically Spike Lee lovers, who tell me that they haven't seen She's Gotta Have It

The first question I'm often asked is: is it streaming on Netflix?

Well, now it is. It became available on February 16th, and will disappear on May 1st, so, folks with Netflix accounts you've got about 2 months left to watch the film. It might seem like a long time, but time flies... so throw it onto your queue. 

This was the film that essentially introduced Spike Lee to the world (Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads aside, which won the Student Academy Award and got Spike an agent); a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary last year (2011); and 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."

How little has changed in 25 years! There's still very much this suppression of *black sexuality* in mainstream cinema, 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 period 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, 3 months in?

By the way, if you still haven't read it, I can't recommend enough that you do: Spike Lee's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerrilla Filmmaking; think of it as the godfather of the S&A Filmmaker Diary series in book form.

Say hello to Mars Blackmon and Nola Darling:

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5 Comments

  • Milt | March 7, 2012 2:08 PMReply

    Loved this film from day one. So Spike, when u/they gonna release the unrated version?

  • urbanauteur | March 3, 2012 12:17 PMReply

    This movie,along with [stranger than paradise] kicked my ass in cinematic gear, what a trailblazer;-)

    and Tambay, u on point with spike's inside guerrilla filmmaking, being the 1st Filmmaker diary or should i say, Alternative Cinema Manifesto?;-)

  • DRT | March 2, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    I Loved "She's Gotta Have it." It is Chicken Soup for the soul. Spike Lee made Nola Darling a household name in my hood; a sistah in charge of her own sexual appetite. I think Martin Scorsese stole some of Spike's character, Mars Blackmon in his "Good Fellas" - with the Frankie Two Times charater, the dude who repeated what he said, twice.

  • WindyCityGirl | March 1, 2012 4:08 PMReply

    Damn, 25 years later and the conversation about men moving in with a woman still exists. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Ash | March 1, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    This film got me interested in Spike Lee films and in Black cinema.

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