Row erupts over 'She's Gotta Have It' scene about black Brits in Hollywood

·4-min read
Why black Brits are mad at Spike Lee's Netflix show (Credit: Netflix/Getty)
Why black Brits are mad at Spike Lee's Netflix show (Credit: Netflix/Getty)

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.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Rise of the Skywalker

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.

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.

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.

They accuse Cooper of patronising black Brits by suggesting they don’t know their own history...

As well as using the words of one black British actor to represent the opinions of the entire black British community.

Also, “Afro-Brit” is not a thing.