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On Sexual Politics and Becoming | REVIEW | Spike Lee 

Spike Lee's 2017 "She's Gotta Have it" for Netflix explores free-thinking and independence through his character Nola Darling; an Artist sticking by her gentrified home of Fort Greene in Brooklyn.

Compared to the time of the original theatrical release in 1986, Lee's late 2017 reinvention addresses what still remains embedded within male/female dynamics today: sexism and patriarchy.  

Notions of ownership within intimate relationships and how women are expected to conduct themselves are explored in a manner which provides solace from present 2018 inequality discourse.  The latter at times distracts from the core issue, an issue that Lee's 10-part series nails: individuals learning to express their choices and determining a space to do so.  

Nola's 'romantic' choices evolve and remain consistent to serve her and her art.  At a time when high profile relationships are labelled online with "hashtag goals", this project promotes intimacy outside of social norms which doesn't fit into a pre-determined package that hinders a woman's creative and professional growth.

Outmoded notions of romance aren't given a single look-in throughout this intelligent, nuanced, and very current tale sure to impact in an insightful way.  In fact, the only social media parallels exhibited are within the post-production edit: a curated playlist of songs punctuating the entire series, each played within scenes that cut to instagrammable images of nostalgic album art.  A creative choice perhaps to the credit of Lee's wife Tonya Lewis Lee who expertly executive produced this adaptation for TV, appealing to the 'new media' content consumer.

The main character's brownstone stoop and eclectic wardrobe reminded me of a late 90's televised female archetype: SATC's Carrie.  Makes one wonder about the hundreds of thousands of real life women whom over the decades have sauntered out of their New York apartments also donning original style and attire, none papped for a social app, and living before it was visually cool to be 'urban'.  

In the episode with the black dress, we're thrown into the emotional deep-end of body confidence, public shaming, and assault.  Themes which are so prevalent now in our post-Weinstein era.

Spike Lee's character journeys through the process of 'becoming' the Artist she is with the help of confidants and community.  With a tight cast and characterful storytelling techniques (monologues to camera and split-screen conversations) the plot is a compelling one.  I desired to see Nola realise her creative voice rather than see her end up with a mate.  It's a story about allowing creativity to manifest, unhindered by social constructs.  

By Founder/Creative Serena Hussain.



By Serena Hussain - Editor/Producer of LIFE VOCABULARY

Do you want politics in your music?  Should music be apolitical?  Is music being hijacked by agendas antithetical to our own?  Is a musical career becoming a soapbox for artists to position themselves socially in order to establish and diversify their brands? 

Now more than ever I find we are having to separate the art from the artist.  With Artists now becoming more and more visible and vocal outside of their music I can’t help but be bothered by their brand of politics accompanying their music, versus their views being cleverly woven into their music. Why?  Because they don’t and can’t always get the politics right.  But what they can get right is their music.   

Musicians, producers, and DJ’s are not my go-to source for current affairs.  No, music is a sanctuary from all that; turning it on to tune out of everything going on in the world. But in an unfair world where true representation of all interests and rights aren’t reflected in policy, it’s arguably necessary for those with influence to take a stance on important issues - even if it muddies the musical waters. But how can utilising influence for social good be achieved without disrupting the art? 

How can utilising influence for social good be achieved without disrupting the art? 

With sexual harassment cases exploding into media headlines 24/7 it’s virtually impossible to tune out of patriarchy.  The tunes I used to listen to with a pinch of salt - ones with unfortunate misogynistic lyrics - now further magnify how morally bankrupt society has become.  It’s impossible to even tune out of bandwagon identity politics when my favourite bangers to bump in the car are laced with marital politicking (Lemonade / 4:44).  

We’re also in a commercial era where it’s demanded of musicians, artists, and creatives to share their personalities, ideas and identities on all platforms; their personal brand.  The ‘old model’ if adhered to would have fans waiting to learn about their favourite singers from the content in the album sleeve or an in depth interview in a magazine, or radio/tv show.  Now … with unwanted exposure (eg when ish goes down on an elevator) whole musical projects are geared toward responding to exposés to set the story straight.   

I appreciate artists whose opinions and perspectives are reserved for their bars, not for twitter or publicity campaigns. In UK Artist Dave’s album ‘Game Over’, the song ‘question time’ may have reminded me of how under funded our national health service is, but it still kept me focused on his bars and the body of songs.  

Personality politics now requires a constant streaming of mind flow since listeners are vacant to download 24/7. But can’t Artists choose to cull their social media and marketing communications and reserve their perspectives for their music? The music can do the talking, to leave an imprint on the listener; just like a good book.  Insightful lyrics or real wisdom stays with us no matter how much time goes by.   

If modern day artists resisted the demand to contribute to the current narrative and reserve their commentary to be told through their art, perhaps there’d be more journalists and opinion makers sought out, and even born. The massive influx of content online requires some checks and balances inserted into very merky content waters.  

Should Artists then leave the social commentary to qualified journalists? 

The time has gone for the ‘be silent’ attitude.  It’s hella noisy out here and we all have a view to contribute.  But music and art is our sanctuary and should be upheld in that frame. I don’t want to listen to an album and have the artists’ random snapchat or tweet rant accompanying the album listening when all I want is the music to take me out of the noise.   

Keep your news out of my tunes.  Your bars are for your views. Lay off the rants and reserve it for the studio. Do you agree? COMMENT BELOW/DM ON IG