Polyamory in the news | SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, 2017 Remake

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Image Courtesy of Netflix

Are people still talking about Spike Lee’s remake of She’s Gotta Have It which recently aired on Netflix? Cool! I didn’t want to rush to an assessment, so I was sure to watch the full first season. Now I’mma throw in my 5 cents.

I loved and hated it, but ultimately love wins. Amor Vincit Omnia and all that jazz, but let me get the messy stuff out of the way first.

The narration felt forced. The characters were predictable, and sometimes came across as caricatures. The monologues seemed cheesy, often didn’t seem to reflect the way people actually talk, and revealed that the writers may have been working overtime to define the story through the characters’ lines rather than letting the story tell itself. The manner in which important issues were addressed lacked nuance. I could pick the series up at any episode and feel like I didn’t miss a beat.

Whew! I said it. Now let me tell you why and attempt to bring everything back to the happy ending that I ultimately experienced while watching…

Nothing demonstrated the predictability of the series like that smoking scene just after Thanksgiving dessert at Nola’s. From the moment that herb appeared, I could count down to the utterance of that classic and all too played out line from Friday, “Puff, puff, pass”, then something about “the rotation”.

There’s plenty more: Jamie’s an affluent professional, so his wife must be light-skinned and bougie, as all well-to-do light-skinned ladies are. Greer is a handsome model and single with “the biggest member”, so he is, of course, as arrogant and devilish as they come. Mars is young and the most down-to-earth of all the men, so he doesn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. Shemekka’s fake booty explodes on her opening night. No surprises here.

Nola’s portrayal as a portrait artist left me annoyed at first, but I understood later what the writers may have been getting at. At one point, Nola’s work is judged by a prominent critic as “Pedestrian”, mundane, boring, lacking imagination. She’s a brilliant illustrator, but does she have the ability to convey original or layered thoughts? Until Nola read the critic’s article, this was exactly what I was thinking.

I tire of what passes for Black Art. I’ve seen enough strong black men and women with idealized bodies wearing loin cloths and carrying each other across the fiery thresholds of white supremacy. Many a talented illustrator can record the literal elements of what they observe. Few can deconstruct, abstract those things into art and inspire us to see them in a whole new light. It’s a reasonable assessment of Nola, but the hope is that she will evolve with time.

And speaking of being literal… can we talk about Spike Lee’s preferred style of driving points home with the force of a sledgehammer? It’s a violation of one of the first rules of writing: show, don’t tell. Sure, rules are meant to be broken, but only when it results in good art.

Listen, if you’ve already conveyed the meaning of a scene through the dialogue, scenery, body language, mood, etcetera, do you really need to drive the point further by playing a song with related lyrics at the very moment of revelation and then flashing the song’s album cover at the end of the scene… Every. Single. Time? Do you, as the presenter, assume that the viewers are so inept that they can’t understand the relevance of a song without the lyrics scribbled across the screen? I just couldn’t figure this out as a creative device, because it didn’t seem creative at all. It seemed heavy-handed, overused, and didn’t add anything to my overall experience of watching.

(I’m a little crazy, but) At times, I was yelling at the screen, “Why such staunch literalism???” The writers don’t just spoon-feed the audience ideas. They tie viewers up, slap ball gags in their mouths and proceed to shove the ideas in wherever they’ll fit. I’m, frankly, surprised some element of BDSM didn’t make its way into Nola’s loving bed.

Just when I thought Mr. Lee was going to keep his tail off screen, there he was in episode 7 at that bar with that Rev. Al coiffe, flashing a nametag that read “Joe” just as Frank Sinatra sang the line “So, set ‘em up, Joe” in the background song, One for my Baby. (Long sigh.)

Now, the “element in the room” (as Mars would say), the one idea that the writers chose not to explain, define, or overemphasize was POLYAMORY. And thank goodness they didn’t. If they wanted to, there are some perfect songs they could have used to shed a blinding, overbearing light on Nola’s opening night or the final dinner scene. Just the Way You Like it or Just be Good to Me by SOS Band, perhaps? In my humble opinion, the final episode revealed that this was one issue that they handled quite well, in terms of artistic style. The fundamental conflicts of polyamory were simply demonstrated in Nola’s attempt to introduce all of her men.

At this point, some of you may be asking, “Who does this Joy Outlaw think she is? Does she realize this is a Spike Lee Joint she’s talking about?” I know! I know this is a Spike Lee Joint! This is why the quality of the story-telling is so incredibly baffling to me. That man is the reason I started reading the dictionary at age 12 after seeing that brilliant creation Malcolm X, and haven’t stopped reading it since!

Lemme just get off my soapbox for a minute and tell you what I liked about She’s Gotta Have It, the 2017 remake:

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Image courtesy of Netflix
  • The scenery was absolutely beautiful. From the vibrant NYC setting, to the interiors, to the characters and their clothing, hair, and makeup, and of course, the art—it was all stunning.

  • Doc Jamison. That woman is as smooth as two freshly-shaven legs between satin sheets! I mean, Heather Headley came in as Doc Jamison and sprinkled Mature Black Woman Magic all over those scenes. I think every single actor gave a stellar performance, despite what they were working with. But Jamison’s lines were written in such a way that she came across particularly natural. In the words of Nola Darling, “She’s the kind of woman I aspire to be.”

  • Thanksgiving Dinner. It was sloppy, uncomfortable, inconsiderate, and a complete break from the etiquette of ethical non-monogamy. However, for Ms. Darling, it was necessary. Deal with it. And it made for a pretty good final scene (though I could have done without the appearance of an actual raspberry beret). I liked that polyamory itself was simply presented and neither demonized nor idealized. People are sloppy. No matter the relationship orientation, love is sloppy. Contrary to what Poly Public Relations would have you believe, such young poly relationships, and even those involving the experienced, are rarely executed with complete, polite precision. Nola is a rule breaker, and heroines don’t need to be pictures of perfection. They’re much more alluring when they aren’t.

  • I loved that the series attempted to tackle a slew of issues affecting women, along with other hot-button topics: Slut-shaming and women’s sexual autonomy, body image, black women’s hair and it’s personal and political connotations, street harassment, the internalization of racism in children, gentrification, and polyamory to name some. However, I felt like an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to tackling the issues left each portrayal feeling rushed and… predictable.

I’m reminded of another series that puts polyamory under the microscope. For an entire first season, creator, Jackie J. Stone, was able to string along a trail of hungry viewers with 10-15 minutes episodes on YouTube in a series that examines the ins and outs of one issue and one issue alone. That series is Compersion by Enchant TV, and we want season 2! (Waiting.) Pardon my digression.

Can we divert from standard narratives for a moment and add a little gradation to the She’s Gotta Have It storyline, for curiosity’s sake? Would that give the characters more depth without taking anything away from the overall story, and add more interest?

What if Greer was bisexual? What if Mars was? Nola is, after all, pansexual, which means that she is not just attracted to cis-gendered straight guys and femmes. What if Jamie was happily married and polyamorous himself? Just for the hell of it, what if he was the kind of guy who worked with his hands, with an average income, but with the same refined taste and the same connections that allowed him to borrow that money for Nola’s painting? How would changing his station in life change the way his wife was portrayed?

What if Shemekka was a fully self-possessed and seasoned sex worker, whose work sprang from a genuine gift and a depth of knowledge in the sexual arts, rather than desperation and low self-esteem? Those women do actually exist. Would she have still chosen the injections? Would she have needed to?

Once I got to episode 5, I sat with a cubic zirconia-lined goblet full of wine in one hand and my remote control in the other. I held up the remote and said, “You know what? Life is short. I don’t have to do this to myself!” Then I turned to Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Paraquay.

But I was compelled to go back to She’s Gotta Have It, time and again, because it was beautiful and entertaining and fun to see so many reflections of my interests and experiences on screen. I cared because of that, and I wanted to give it a chance, to see what I’d learn, to see where the real value lay.

It is the Day of the Black Woman, and as I contribute to the annals of Black Girl Magic with the creation of my own book series- The Jane Luck Adventures– I’m trying to figure out how to do this well myself. I’ve made my own mistakes. I wonder, as I depict a young woman’s daredevil journey from a struggling college student to a mercenary, as I present to the world the story of a black female Indiana Jones slash James Bond-like character, how do I address the audience? How do I balance the level of abstraction so that readers and viewers are not alienated, but then not dumb things down to the point that I’m talking down to the readers? What do I give away, and what do I let the audience figure out and define for themselves? Will I give them everything on a platter or let them have the adventure of piecing together what the work means for them?

I loved the final episode of She’s Gotta Have It so much I watched it twice. I was absolutely jamming off Prince’s hit, since I’d been teased with it through the entire series and finally got to hear it all the way through. My husband had to come downstairs and find out what had me clapping, and singing at the top of my lungs. (That song just does something to me. You know that song that’ll make you damn near have a car accident if they mess around and play it on the radio while you’re trying to merge onto I-whatever? Yeah, for me, that’s Raspberry Beret.)

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Image courtesy of IMDb

That’s the value in the finish. Avid readers often ask each other, “do you finish books that you don’t like or that rub you the wrong way in the beginning?” The ones who understand the value in the finish usually see a book through to the end. I’m glad I finished She’s Gotta Have It, Season 1, and I don’t want to overstep. Spike Lee is clearly doing something right to have garnered a loyal, loving following for this long. It’s easy to sit back and criticize, and I don’t mean to disrespect someone who’s work I’ve come to enjoy and who’s intentions I believe are pristine. But constructive criticism is necessary. One cannot write in a vacuum.

I take my lessons wherever I can get them, and this experience was no different. After watching, here are my notes to self: Joy, you don’t have to try so hard to be artistic if you tell a good story. You don’t have to try so hard to be relevant, to position yourself at the center of the zeitgeist, if you just tell the story that comes from your heart. The authentic story, in its own way, is always timeless.

I think the fundamental story that Spike Lee is telling here is just that. I’m looking forward to season 2 and for both Nola and the series itself to evolve into something that truly does the art, and all of these beautiful artists, justice.

Polyamory – Could YOU make the proposition?

…”It means you’re my husband… but … I can have a boyfriend”…



As sophisticated a presentation of open marriage as Enchant TV has provided so far, I still found myself squirming when Keena made that statement in the first episode of Compersion.

It was perfect– an elegant packaging of a very complicated idea. Yet it felt sooooo uncomfortable. Why? Because, for all the thoughtfulness and maturity which typically saturates any serious discussion of open relating, that statement seemed dangerously oversimplified too. It seemed to play directly to the very fears and negative ideas that non-poly people tend to have about the idea. It made Keena seem like a simple, selfish, ungrateful, greedy bitch having a midlife crisis who wanted to “have her cake and eat it too”–at least, that’s what I was afraid others would think.

I was hoping that people (even those still on the fence about poly… or those balking from twenty yards behind the other side of said fence) would delay their criticisms just long enough to recognize the depth of conflict that Keena was experiencing. I don’t think such a conflict would exist if Keena and Joshua did not share a truly genuine love already. Yet she still needed more.

This is how I try to explain the concept to people who don’t get it: As a human being, you need food and you need water. Someone could feed you the highest quality, most delectable steak as often as you wanted or needed protein, iron, or vitamin B12, but you would still die without water. Your body needs a variety of substances to survive.

For people who benefit from open relationships, non-exclusivity meets a genuine need for variety and community–not just a desire to “have their cake and eat it too”.

But then again, what the hell is the point of having a cake if you can’t eat it too?!





Mo’nique and Sidney’s Open Relationship – How it goes down

monique and sidneyYou may have heard some rumors about which celebrity couples are/were supposedly in open relationships- Will and Jada, Brad and Angelina, Mo’nique and Sidney, Ossie and Ruby. Well, Mo’nique and Sidney have set the story on them straight.

If you’re late (like I was) and you still haven’t heard, to answer your question, yes they are. Huuuuuney, they talked all kinds of real shit in that January 11th episode of their podcast on Play.it. This was the first show in what is becoming a collection of (in my opinion) very intriguing topics.

Here are a just of the few points addressed in their explanation of how their open marriage works:

  • The public’s rumors and concerns about Mo’nique’s “self-esteem”: Mo’nique says that it was easy for some to accept that certain celebrity couples might have open marriages because, the public thinks they’re “beautiful people”. But when it came to her and Sidney, they were thinking there’s no way this “fat, black woman” could be with a man like that without something else going on. The public assumed that she was willing to do any old thing to keep her man. Little did they know that the open marriage was her idea…


  • E.G.O. = Expectations Gone Overboard: Mo’nique candidly admits that, in the beginning, she was selfish. Her attitude was, “I’m the one making the money. I can do whatever I want.”  If she entertained other men, they would politely say “Hello” to Sidney in passing his room on the way to the hers. She could do her thing, but wasn’t so interested in letting him do his thing. Then Sidney was like, “Hol’ up now. An open relationship means we can BOTH see other people”.  Mo’nique became more fully aware of the principle of *reciprocity* and realized that she needed to allow her partner the same freedom that she desired and enjoyed.


  • “When you love a person, the last thing you wanna do is control them” says Sidney Hicks. He says he believes in allowing a woman to be who she is.


  • Addressing the Relationship Police: “What happens when someone catches feelings?” a listener asks. Sidney says that the dynamics of the relationship are such that another party would be well aware of the fact that their home base is the first priority. And I’ll add my no-so-humble opinion here: I would imagine that in some cases, catching feelings would be exactly the point. If you believe that love is infinite, you seek to enjoy the fullness that life has to offer, you’re letting go of the expectation of *ownership* in love, and you are truly committed to the community that you have constructed, your partners would overcome any fear of being left behind. The extra love would enhance the overall dynamic–as in that strip club example that Mo’nique so humorously speaks of…


  • “But Gaaaawd Said!”: Sidney politely agrees to disagree with those who have a particular view of marriage based on religious ideals. He asserts that, yes, they consider marriage to be sacred. They consider it so sacred that they believe marriage should compel people to be open and fully honest with one another about their desires and natural inclinations.

Okay, okay. I won’t give away everything. I hope you’ll make your way over to their podcast, scroll on down to the January 11th episode entitled “Our Open Relationship” and see all that they have to say…even if you’re doing it in secret like I KNOW some of you will. As you open yourself to the possibility of expanding your honesty and perspective, maybe you won’t have to hide anymore…

As their tagline says, “A mind is like a parachute. It’s no good unless it’s open.”

Do you agree? Well, you don’t have to, but I’m happy you took a look anyway!


Sneak Peak: Compersion, a seductive drama on Enchant TV


What is compersion? My understanding is that it is the opposite of jealousy. It is gaining a sense of happiness through witnessing another person’s happiness, particularly a lover’s…even if that happiness doesn’t directly involve you.

Advocates of open relating often cite compersion as one of the fundamental elements necessary to make such relationships work. In open relationships, sure there is jealousy. Yes, there are fears. But those who choose to enhance their relationships in this manner don’t see jealousy and fear as the end of the road. They seek to grow beyond them.

Those who have been truly successful at open relating understand something that many of us still have not fully grasped: that love is not limited, and that true love intends to set the beloved free to live a full, limitless life.

Have you heard about compersion? According to one HuffPost article, it is a principle that can be aptly applied in monogamous as well as polyamorous relationships. So even if open relating is not your thing, opening up to an idea that will allow you to more effectively align your thinking with your partner’s needs could be a big help. Ya think?

I hope I haven’t completely scared you off with talk of open relating and the idea that you may want to at least consider releasing your death grip on that fear of being alone. Why not check out the first couple of episodes of “Compersion”, a new web series from Enchant TV on YouTube. I’ve been glued to the first two episodes so far, and I think they’re doing a great job of exploring this topic with a great deal of maturity and taste. I love how it juxtaposes the ordinariness of a typical couple’s life with the events surrounding their very extraordinary decision to open their marriage.