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Midterm: Who Has Control Over Nola Darling?

Nola Darling

The ‘It’ in “She’s Gotta Have It” can really be anything depending on each viewer’s personal interpretation of Nola Darling.  Maybe ‘she’s gotta have’ attention, independence, personal agency, to be untraditional/revolutionary in her sexuality, or a number of other things, but in Nola’s final monologue at the end of the film about “what makes Nola Darling tick,” she claims that it is all about control of her body and mind.  Ending her relationships with Greer, Mars, then Jamie, respectively, are supposedly evidence that Nola is the one in control of her body and mind, but the rest of the film argues pretty much the opposite because everything she does is reactionary to what her three suitors want and do.  The only times in the movie that Nola actually exercises her control is when she is dealing with other women, especially Opal’s predatory female sexuality.

Opal Gilstrap


Ironically, for Jamie, there was nothing more threatening to his relationship with Nola than Opal’s presence.  Before we meet Opal, Jamie basically says that all of Nola’s male friends were okay, but the possibility of her having a sexual relationship with a woman was “a bit much,” though Opal was the only character after Nola’s heart who could never have it.  During our first encounter with Opal, she already shows us that she—like all of the other characters—is not willing to accept Nola’s thoughts about her own sexuality. Opal explains that she realized what her sexual preference was at a young age and pursued what she wanted to, but does not extend that same self-awareness to Nola, saying she just wants her to be open-minded and experiment with her sexuality, “that’s all” (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/mv-xNsM2/shes_gotta_have_it_sex_with_a_woman/  or 16:09 – 17:12 in the film). However, Nola has no problem telling Opal that she knows what she wants in life and that sex with Opal is not it.  Though Nola is curious about what it’s like to make love to a woman, she quickly rejects Opal’s probing offers to try it with her on numerous occasions, even asking her to leave her apartment when Opal kisses her toward the end of the film, marking the last time we see Opal.

Greer Childs, Mars Blackmon, and Jamie Overstreet


On the other hand, it seems like Nola cannot have control in her relationships with Greer, Mars, or especially Jamie.  Even though she has a loose approach to her sexuality, her actions are clearly determined by what each man wants or needs. When Nola is with Mars, she is more playful and almost takes care of him by doing things like fixing his hair. When she is with Greer, she exercises and dresses up for fancy dinners; if she questions any of his actions, he gets angry then proceeds to attempt to control every aspect of her life.  Her lack of control with Jamie is pretty obvious, even excluding his “near-rape” of her, when she verbally and physically resigns her body over to his desires.  However, he knows he is the one in control of her body before then as well as we can see after their first fight, when he tells Opal that she “can have her,” as if Nola is his to give away when he is done with her.

In her final monologue, Nola admits that the other characters that were interviewed “might know parts of [her],” but the only part of her they attempt to know is her sexuality and even that only in relation to themselves.  Nola claims that she agreed to make the movie to clear her name and rid herself of her ‘freak’ reputation, but the only message that came across clearly is that her body was not her own unless she was alone.

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