Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It was the first of its kind when it was released in 1986. Following the twilight of the '70s blaxploitation genre, African Americans were largely stereotyped on film—as comic relief, drug addicts, and violent characters—or ignored entirely; Lee's characters, in contrast, are models, artists, and working professionals. She's Gotta Have It's protagonist, Nola Darling, has a realistic sex life, juggling three different suitors alongside her friends and career, a rarity for black female characters of her day (and ours). Lee's film has since been credited with helping to pave the way for the "golden age" of black cinema in the '90s, when major Hollywood studios began releasing African-American films for mainstream audiences.
Now, She's Gotta Have It is being rebooted in a new television series for Netflix, available this winter. With all 10 of its episodes directed by Lee, the show still features Darling as its central character and maintains the same open tone toward Nola's sexuality: a sneak peek of the show depicts Nola frankly discussing sexual double standards—when she's called a "sex addict," she asks her partner why enjoying sex makes him a "grown-ass man," while for her it makes her a junkie. She's Gotta Have It thus promises to join the ranks of Insecure, Chewing Gum, and The Incredible Jessica James in a new wave of entertainment that shows black women negotiating their romantic lives on their own terms.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.