She Hate Me
—About this Film
WARNING: This review contains frequent (but not detailed) discussion of graphic sexual content related to the film. Please use sound judgment and discernment before reading this review.
I’ve said this many times on the message boards here at HJ. We are not sin hunters. It is our responsibility to not condemn the world or its Hollywood films but instead find the redeeming and grace-filled qualities of these films. We believe that our reviews could perhaps point our readers in the direction of the light and life of Christ.
This is not one of those times.
In the words of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, when trying to rationalize his daughter’s love for one of the enemies and oppressors of his people, ‘there is no other hand!?
Spike Lee was once a great filmmaker. His late 1980’s through mid-1990’s films including Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X showed the world the strength and diversity of African Americans. His films brought a very large measure of dignity and pride to African Americans. While previous images in American film presented us in a stereotypical and negative light, his films shunned those negative stereotypes and images . . . save one (more on that in a minute).
In She Hate Me, flashes of Lee’s former brilliance are evident. As Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) witnesses a horrible tragedy in his workplace and is forced to act on this tragedy, we see a man holding fast to his convictions and standing up for what is right. As Jack “blows the whistle” on the corrupt practices of his company, and is unjustly punished for it (he’s fired from his job and his assets are frozen -- sounds like Enron, huh?), we look forward with great anticipation to see him be vindicated.
If the film had focused solely on this arc of the story (and there are tons of story arcs), then I’d have no problem recommending the film. Unfortunately, the situation that Armstrong finds himself is merely a setup for the main plot of this film . . .
. . . And that leads me back to those negative stereotypes of African-Americans that I mentioned earlier. The one stereotype of African Americans that has managed to stick with us from the days of slavery onward to the rap videos of today is the one concerning our sexuality. We have constantly been portrayed as oversexed animals with a libido higher than the Empire State Building. The African American male has been depicted as a “buck”: one who has a wanton sexual appetite and can satisfy numerous women in a single bound. His female companion is depicted as a “hot mama sex machine” that will drop her undergarments and get it on with a man before even finding out his name.
This image has found its way to Hollywood films (most notably in the Blaxploitation action films of the 1970?s) and, unfortunately, Spike Lee has bought into this image hook, line and sinker. The film that put him on the map is entitled She’s Gotta Have It. You don’t need to see the film to find out what “It” is. The majority of his subsequent films have all featured at least one highly graphic sexual scene. While Lee’s films may have desired to present reality, these graphic scenes have done nothing more but jolt the viewers.
So, 18 years after She's Gotta Have It, we find Lee continuing his pattern of (unnecessary) graphic sexuality in his latest film. The main plot: While Jack Armstrong is figuring out a way to deal with his unemployment and inability to access his funds, opportunity knocks on his doorstep in the form of his ex-fiancée Fatima (Kerry Washington), now a full-blown lesbian, and her lover Alex (Dania Ramirez). It seems that these two ladies desire to get pregnant and do not want to adopt or go to a sperm bank to do so. Fatima’s big idea: pay Jack $10,000 to impregnate them both . . . with Alex’s bundle of joy coming by way of artificial insemination and Fatima’s bundle of joy coming the old-fashioned way. After all, they were ex-lovers, right?
After wrestling with the decision -- and seeing the $10,000 in cash sitting on his coffee table -- in light of his situation, Jack agrees. Fatima gets another big idea: offer the same service to lesbians all over New York City. Charge them $10,000 each, and she’d get a 10% finders fee. Jack agrees yet again.
Of course, Spike Lee shows no restraint in showing us Jack’s deeds. As we’re being treated to Jack graphically servicing client after client, one stereotype after another is reinforced again and again. If that’s not enough, we are shown a flashback sequence in which Jack finds out that Fatima has a thing for her similar sex -- once again in a near explicit fashion. And, to put the icing on the cake, when Fatima is confronted by Alex about her feelings for Jack, their subsequent makeup will have the brave and crazy viewer wondering if they accidentally rented Showtime's The L-Word First Season DVD.
This film is chock full of uplifting messages in the midst of all this madness. We are shown the intimate struggle of Jack’s father, a diabetic (Jim Brown) and his mother’s (Lonette McKee) pain and resentment of his father’s sickness. We are also given a tribute to the security guard who was the catalyst to the Watergate scandal of 30+ years ago. Jack likens his situation to that of the security guard’s life. We find out that, as a result of practically saving the country, his life was destroyed in the process. We’re supposed to empathize with Jack because he looks to be headed down the same road. But we’re so worn out by all of this explicit sexual plundering that we don’t care anymore what happens.
Of course the ending is another unrealistic “They Lived Happily Ever After" Hollywood affair . . . although this ending is particularly out there! When it was over, all I could do is shake my head in amazement. It is clear that Spike has lost his compass. I long for the days of School Daze (which was the primary influence for me choosing a Historically Black College) and Do The Right Thing, when Spike Lee films were cultural events. Those earlier films forced America to examine herself -- to see if this country was living up to its promise as ‘the Land Of Opportunity? for all men.
But after seeing this, I can only hope that it will be Spike Lee will examining himself. Hopefully he can see that it is possible to make positive and relevant African American films without giving in to the need to include graphic sexuality. He is usually the first to point his finger at films that blatantly present African American sexual stereotypes, like Soul Plane, Booty Call, and others. After this film, and considering the body of his work, Spike needs to take that same finger, go to the nearest mirror, and point it at himself.
ONE LAST NOTE:
Many of you will wonder why I, as a believer, would review a film that I know contains graphic sexuality and present the review on this website. Once again, I state that we are not sin hunters. God hates sin -- but He loves sinners. This review was written in the spirit of love. I love Spike Lee as a filmmaker. His films have been some of the greatest influences in my life. His mantra in those earlier days was “Uplift The Race.” I wish for him to return to those days.
It is not my intent that the conservative believers among us would start finding every single film by Spike Lee and condemn them, and him, to eternal hell and damnation. Nor is it my desire that the more liberal believers among us would use this review as an excuse to live in a life that Jesus declared we’re dead to. Instead I hope this review would lead us to pray for Spike Lee and other filmmakers who insist on glorifying sexuality in their films. Prayer is our most effective weapon, not our words. And the Word of God does not condemn sex itself. It is a gift. But through Satan’s acts of perversion throughout the world, this gift has become a curse.
Two things I hope we can do as readers of Hollywood Jesus in light of this review:
Pray for Spike Lee. Ask God to give him the vision to make films to uplift African Americans and the world at large.
Use this review as a tool for discussion of the distortion of sexuality in the world’s society. Let these discussions be a springboard for prayer that God would restore us as nation, removing the curse and perversion now attached sexuality and restoring the gift of sexuality through faith in Christ and commitment to our marriages, our husbands and our wives.
—About this Film