Spike Lee is known for sparking controversy through his work and his Netflix series is the latest to do so.
Since season two of She’s Gotta Have It aired, black British viewers have shown ire for one particular episode which features disparaging remarks about black British actors.
The fifth episode,“SuperCaliFragiSexy”, sees Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) and her black British lover Olu (Michael Luwoye) arguing over the impact of British actors in Hollywood.
Nola claims black British actors are “cheap” and when Olu disagrees, saying it’s because they aren’t “carrying the burden” of black American history, she accuses him of being ignorant of his own British history, regarding the transatlantic slave-trade, and says he, and black Brits, are suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome.”
This clip went viral on social media and it was further shared by Star Wars actor John Boyega who labelled in “trash.”
A vast amount of black British viewers criticised the scene as well as another moment where it saw Nola mock the names of Boyega and fellow black British actor Chiwetel Ejifor.
Can't lie, the deliberate mispronunciation of their names doesn't sit right with me. Not only childish but I think of the cultural emphasis we place on names and the known conversation of African names being butchered in certain spaces...so why are we doing this to each other? pic.twitter.com/kkdh3bjtMn— Ade Onibada (@SincerelyAde) May 28, 2019
Laurence Olivier-winning playwright Bola Agbaje tweeted: “What kind of BTEC level 3 argument are they even having? This is why I tell my US agents I want to tell black British/African stories. Cos Spike this ain’t it mate (sic).”
When people took their criticism directly to Spike Lee he responded with the comment “Truth Hurts,” which fanned the flames of this continued debate that came to prominence after Samuel L. Jackson suggested Daniel Kaluuya was hired to lead Get Out because he was cheaper.
I would say you hate to see it but...what else do you expect from him at this point skskskskskksksksksk pic.twitter.com/IkX5NCWEwU— Comorienne 🇰🇲 (@_ShamGod) May 27, 2019
The actual writer of the episode, Barry Michael Cooper, claimed in an open letter (via IndieWire) to John Boyega that it was Jackson’s comments as well as the response from black British actor David Harewood that inspired the dialogue.
Harewood had written, in an opinion piece for the Guardian, “that we black British performers have the ability to unshackle ourselves from the burden of racial realities — and simply play what’s on the page, not what’s in the history books.”
Cooper said in his letter: “My point is, the remarks of both Jackson and Harewood became the wellspring for the fiery exchange between Nola Darling and Olu Owoye.
“It’s not something I made up. The scene I wrote in this episode of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ was meant to be combustible.”
The letter has been met with as much ire as the original scene it defends by both black Brits and African-Americans.
I’ve stayed quiet but this whole thing is fucking ugly. You can’t write a scene that was...well, whatever the fuck *that* was, then write a letter saying ‘let’s start a conversation’. If your art needs an accompanying pamphlet then....well. https://t.co/xHmNu6KiAA— Susan Wokoma (@susan_wokoma) June 5, 2019
They accuse Cooper of patronising black Brits by suggesting they don’t know their own history...
This letter is a lot. I don't know why Barry Michael Cooper felt he had to give John Boyega a history lesson, but I don't think this will do what he intended. And that "unshackled" comment is one for the books. Patronizing Black Brits, about their heritage names was a misstep. https://t.co/yM4RpuKbia— Carolyn *Pocket Sized Stallion* Hinds. (@CarrieCnh12) June 4, 2019
As well as using the words of one black British actor to represent the opinions of the entire black British community.
So basically from what I gather, he basically dismissed the complexities of blackness in the UK because of two people who said stuff & used that as a base to make a general claim about "Afro-Brits" & then says this was all to spark a conversation and to lift each other up 🤔🤔🤔 https://t.co/I1yMvkBql6— Joy Gharoro (@JoyGharoro) June 4, 2019
Also, “Afro-Brit” is not a thing.
🤣🤣🤣 just like the episode this is once again Trash!!! What’s an Afro-Brit? Cos I don’t know any of us that has ever, will ever call ourselves Afro-Brits. Is it really hard to research the people you put down? Uncle was giving us an essay to say nada. https://t.co/so9pcBasCm— Bola Agbaje (@bolaagbaje) June 4, 2019