In the final episode of She’s Gotta Have It season two entitled “IAmYourMirror,” Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) is experiencing backlash about a mysterious portrait that she has painted and hidden behind a maroon curtain. This season, Nola’s journey with her art has taken her to both capitalistic heights and some humbling personal lows, but she defiantly steps into her own purpose in the final episode when she unveils her long-awaited art show.
“There’s no accounting and no predicting how art will ever hit you.” - DeWanda Wise
*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*
Nola has returned from a trip to Puerto Rico with renewed vigor and has poured her time into several portraits of her family and photos from her working vacation. However, one piece has earned her some side-eyes. Viewers aren’t shown the painting until the last few minutes of the episode, but we are teased with reactions and analysis about it from Nola’s inner and outer circle, particularly from her friend Shemekka (Chyna Lane), who gets into a heated dialog with Nola about her intentions.
“You can’t just do things without consequences, Nola,” she says. “You don’t get a free pass just because you’re making art. You still have a responsibility…The Nola that I know heals with her art.” Nola counters, “I own Black pain just as much as you do and I choose to express mine.”
Season one of She’s Gotta Have It opens with a self-portrait of Nola dressed in white, evoking simplicity and literal reflection. The mirror only shows what is seen, not what is felt. However, by the end of season two Nola has turned herself inside out to wear her pain as a Black woman in America, wrapping her experience in a sanguinary metaphor. The provocative portrait is of a nude Nola being strangled by her own hair, her brown skin disfigured by a full-body tattoo of the American flag. It’s a morbid declaration of independence that is open to many interpretations, but feels like an indictment of the fallacy of freedom.
During our interview with DeWanda Wise, the actress shared her experience in creating the portrait and the reaction to it by Nola’s peers, but we held her comments until after the season aired.
“I actually didn’t see it until I watched the show. I obviously posed for it. So, I had a general understanding of what it would be, but I didn’t see it until I watched the show,” she told BET.com. “At that point I think we were really fleshing out the specificities of what the piece meant for every character that was there to witness it. And honestly, I anticipate the same kind of division. Some people see the show and identify with Nola because she makes them feel more free, and there are just as many people who watch it and think she’s setting our people back.
There’s no accounting and no predicting how art will ever hit you. Especially not something that can be deemed provocative or pushing the envelope or make people feel uncomfortable. I have a lot of conversations with the show surrounding representation of Black women’s sexuality and who gets to claim ownership over our bodies. This was Nola, the kind of illustration of how she chooses to take ownership over her body in season two.”
She’s Gotta Have It has had its share of controversies this season, particularly regarding the debate about diasporic racism that takes place between Nola and her Black British lover Olu (Michael Luwoye). The response to their dialogue was so strong (actor John Boyega called it 'trash' in a Tweet) that it prompted a written rebuttal from writer Barry Michael Cooper. After that exchange, it seems that few had the energy left to engage about the conversation-worthy season finale. But on this American Independence Day, it would be appropriate for us to reflect on the trauma we carry, inside and out, in response to our time in this country.
Photo Credit: Netflix