One of the most influential story lines in the 1st season of 'She's Gotta Have It' centers around Nola and her "My Name Isn't" street campaign. At the end of the first episode of the season, Nola Darling is harassed and assaulted by a stranger as she is walking home at night. It was a perfectly direct situational reference to the beginning of the episode- when the episode highlights, in a light manner, the cat calls Nola receives while walking down the street. As funny as that beginning scene may be, when it's not funny anymore and when it's no longer just a cat-call, it can be terrifying and life threatening.
As Nola is walking home from a night with her close friend Clorinda, a man tries to "holla" at her.
"Ay yo, ma"
"Ay yo ma"
She tells him that's not her name, and as she keeps walking, her life is immediately put in danger. "Let me holla at you real quick," switches to "ugly black bitch" and "that's why I didn't want you in the first place." The guy grabs at Nola, and luckily she is able to fight him off and get home. This is a raw, scary moment for our main heroine- and in the first episode too.
When a man doesn't get what he wants from a woman, when his ego is bruised, he goes into full attack mode. I mean we've all seen the newspaper headlines Female Student Shot by Man after Asking him to Stop Grinding on Her, Woman's Throat Slashed After Rejecting Man, and so on. We know this narrative all too well. This moment could have ended very badly for Nola; she knows it and the audience does too. Spike Lee uses this moment to set off a gunshot that catapults the main characters life in more ways than one.
How to tell the men in her life?
As we all know, Nola has 3 men currently in her loving bed- Mars, Greer, and Jamie. Everyone's telling Nola that she should tell them about her encounter, but I didn't fully agree. Why should she run to the men in her life, like a woman who needs to be saved? And when Nola DOES tell them, it's just transformed into a moment for them to show their machismo. Why she didn't tell them sooner? Who did it? These men want her to cry on their shoulders and feel like they can protect her from other bad men, but they don't even take the time to understand her process of emotions or actually be a leaning shoulder.
"You gotta call the cops." "
You gotta learn jujitsu."
"You gotta let me beat his ass."
"What were you doing outside at night, alone?"
When all else seems to be failing to help Nola process, she caves and decides to make an appointment with Dr. Jamison. Dr. Jamison is a huge stepping stone in Nola's life going forward, and she plays a huge part in facilitating her growth. As we see later in the season, through her sessions with Dr. Jamison, Nola gains clearer understanding of what she needs in life.
Sidebar: seeing a therapist doesn't define you or label you- as we all know, Nola hates labels. When she finally decides to see someone, her life is changed for the better. You don't have to have a "mental disorder" to see a therapist. You shouldn't have to carry the burdens of life alone.
the black dress.
Through Dr. Jamison's advice, Nola purchases a little black dress (for the whopping price of $558.72.) As one of her most "woke" friends, Clorinda tells her she shouldn't buy the dress for the price, but she misses to see Nola's reasoning behind why she needs to buy it. Is it financially responsible? No, but you can't put a price on trauma, and this black dress helped Nola move forward in her confidence and also proved her point that the 3 men in her life each want to keep her, cover her, and shelter her for themselves. As Nola wears her new dress, in confidence, with her 3 suitors, their true colors are revealed. Jaime tells Nola if she didn't want the attention, then she shouldn't be dressing how she does. Mars tries to argue that Nola's dress is the reason she is harassed, yet again, at a concert. When will men (and some women) realize that the way a woman dresses should garner ZERO harassment, rape, nor assault of any kind? This is not a problem with how a person dresses; this is a problem with men who cannot control themselves and have no respect for women. Lastly, Greer begins to hyper-sexualize Nola and refuses to listen to her when she's uncomfortable. After her other violations, this is the last straw for Nola. None of them deserve her. Many men don't deserve any woman, because they view us in their world- for their consumption.
"My Name Isn't" Campaign
Through her experience, Nola creates a street campaign called "My Name Isn't." It's her most political work, and ironically, its her most regarded and praised work- since Nola does not like to get political in her pieces. Through the character, Spike Lee gives the audience a powerful work of art that speaks to a prominent issue today.
"My name isn't "Ay yo ma."
"My name isn't Sweetie nor Sexy."
"My name isn't Black Bitch."
Men think they can call at women, and we're supposed to run at every beck, so when we don't we lose value in their eyes. They call us all sorts of names that weren't given to us, and we should be swooning at the idea that they even look at us. Come at me correct, or don't come at all. If I'm walking to work, I don't want to be bothered. Me being alone isn't an invitation for you to join me. Me wearing tight clothing isn't an invitation for you to touch me. If I look like I'm in a good mood, that's not an invitation for you to approach me. If I look like I am not in a good mood, it's not an invitation for you to ask me for a "smile."
Through her friendships and therapy, Nola powers through. This incident showed her how inadequate the men in her life were and addressed an issue in society that we should never stop talking about.