She’s Got to Have It

She's_Gotta_Have_It_film_poster Hoping to continue to the discussion on She’s Got to Have It. Feel free to add comments from our conversation in class about Nola Darling as a symbolic whore.  How does Spike Lee frame her as a sexual deviant? What does it mean to be a good girl in Spike Lee’s world? And would Nola Darling ever fit in? With talk of making She’s Got to Have it into a cable show, along the lines of Girls, could Spike Lee make Nola Darling into the sexually liberated and self affirmed woman he thinks he portrayed her to be? Please review these articles and comment Why we should worry about a resurrected ‘She’s Gotta Have It’

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31 thoughts on “She’s Got to Have It

  1. I believe the Protagonist Nola, in the film Shes Got to Have it was an attempt to reflect on an atypical female model in society where sexual freedom is controlled by men. Throughout the film Nola was engaged in relationships with three different men, as she define herself as a woman who wanted independence and sexual freedom. Although, she clearly stated her position against a patriarchal society, the film depicts her falling victim of just this. She faces self doubt as she calls herself abnormal. Internally she is in a fight unable to liberate herself from social stereotypes she is expected to embody. The rape scene towards the end of the movie changes the dynamic in which an attempt to show female empowerment leads to suppression and a step back to “reality”. The reality in which women who strive to move away from female stereotypes are forced in such a manner where they are ” put in place” and controlled by men.
    When Nola ignores to speak on the rape she does not acknowledge the lack of sexual power she truly has. Whether one may perceive it as her lack of emotional connection towards men, her attempt to make it work with Jamie shatters the notion that Nola has control. Towards the end Spike Lee’s form of a good girl goes against everything Nola is,not only does she not fit this role but she strives to go against the social expectation.
    Finally, I think that a show in which Nola is portrayed as a female with elements of sexual freedom and independence can be achieved, yet it will be very hard to create such a character in modern day film. Modern day society has a false belief in which feminism and sexual freedom is depicted by negative role models in the media. Such portrayal of self proclaimed ” feminism” leads society to view women within a standard of male dominance. Sexual freedom is shown in the media to be an attractive female who uses her sexuality to attain wealth and financial stability, yet we do not see women who are self reliant, strong and lead a life in which male views are not the standard of expectation. Although I support the advancement of females taking a stand to own there own sexuality, as long as women fall victim to a platform where men are still in charge of deciding what is acceptable or not, change will not be made.

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    • Karen, you made similiar observations that your classmates have. Where I think you added to the discussion is your comment that the “rape scene” was an attempt to suppress Nola’s sexual freedom. I don’t think Nola was ever meant to be this model of female empowerment. She was set up to show what happens when one does not follows the path to normalcy, they are called names at best and raped at worst. Relating to one of your comments about what a woman who expresses sexual freedom uses her sexuality to attain wealth and financial stability. Other than Greer, Nola seemed to be doing much better financially than Mars and Jamie. She didnt need any income from any of the men she was involved with. Her sexuality was just an extension of who she was, a woman attempting to live life on her own terms.

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  2. There are a lot of things that should be highlighted when it comes to movies like this, where the director or the writers of such films are adding in reality a essence of their lives towards their movies and how much they are affected towards them. I feel like in some sense I should be offended as a woman that Lee’s work portrays the women who are ‘just like me’ I don’t find it at all offensive, it’s just the way he has his views of how women are treated and ultimately how they are portrayed not only to the ‘white’ communities but also to the black males, in this case is Lee’s own view on women. Although I am not actually sure on how this is going to work if he puts those same influences that he had in his movie, but I think it would be rather interesting on how they play out with an more modern twist and how the ” women’ has revolutionized as then. Nora Darling ultimately is a woman that she is very scandalous, which is something that I don’t find it to be shameful; rather it should be owned.

    Also in the movie, I was glad that she didn’t end up with neither of the guys that she used to be with. All three of them ultimately wanted to take away and change a person, only for their own benefits ( besides Mars because he himself didn’t even know what he wanted) but the most dangerous of them all was Jamie, because he was selfish enough to try to change her. Even after seeing this movie, there was a change in the atmosphere with the guys in the class, because of Nora’s bold move and ultimately her decision to being what she was doing from the beginning, but I am glad that this happened. The fact that she is still has a choice after being objectified and labeled as a Jezebel and ultimately a ‘ho’, Lee’s ultimatum is that she still wanted to make her own choice and live her own life.

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    • Yuleisy, I think you should be offended. Lee presents Nola as a sexually liberated woman only to show that’s woman who is seeks her freedom will be punished for her sexuality and she pays the ultimate price in being raped. I do agree that Nola gets to make her own choice at the end but is punished for doing that and is left alone, for good or bad.

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  3. I haven’t seen Girls, but based on how he left Nola with the rape and how she was punished, I’m not sure Spike could do it. I could see Nola using that trauma to learn more about herself and in the end, yes return to being sexually liberated. But her reaction of trying to stay with Jamie because she was punished for her sexual appetite and then becoming celibate, I think the show would have to follow her journey to becoming herself again. She was self affirmed and liberated until she was punished.

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    • I haven’t seen Girls either but I assume based on that show’s and Scandal’s success plus the interest in capitalizing on the support of a black audience, it would only makes sense to profit off the popularity of Spikes 1st commercial film. I agree that Spike wouldn’t be the person to modernize Nola or take the concept of a sexually liberated woman to the next level.

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  4. Karen, you made some excellent observations about SGTHI. Under the gaze of the male characters and through the interpretation of filmmaker, Nola could never truly have sexual freedom and be a fully realized person. In essence, her character was set up to fail based on the filmmakers desire to continue the same stereotypes produced in films he believed to be critiquing. If presenting Nola as “other” and as a jezebel wasn’t enough, the rape scene seals the deal, even to the point where Nola doesn’t even acknowledges it as rape and blames herself for Jaime’s behavior. I think in the age of the HBO’s show Girls, a tv version of SGTHI is possible but not under the direction of Spike Lee.

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  5. Being a black man living in the inner city, I think I have somewhat grown to adore Spike Lee’s movies. Probably out of shear ignorance I ignored the fact that he placed women in the same roles that prejudice film makers have done over the last century. In his film “She’s Gotta Have It” the main character Nola, seems to exemplify this notion of sexual liberation from the feminine point of view. Personally I had no problem with this, as I think that it is fair for women to be as sexually free as men have been since society’s inception. She sleeps with several men, but isn’t so much hyper-sexualized. She seems to be in control throughout the film until she is raped in the closing scenes. “Girls”, “Sex and the City”, and “Girlfriends”, happen to be some of my favorite shows of all time, and in the essence of sexual liberation they are all groundbreaking television shows. People, white and black alike, love “Girls” because of its feminine empowerment. I for one think the show is hilarious and highly intellectual because it gives us the world from a female point of view. Nola Darling could definitely have a show under Spike Lee’s direction (hopefully). After all, he’s not as bad as Tyler Perry. The only thing that I find wrong with having a show that shows sexually liberated black women is that television is already saturated with these images. We need a multifaceted view of our culture. It’s okay to have a few shows like this but if these are the only television shows that we have of black women then it only further supports the stereotype of black women being sexualized and weak.

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    • Zachary, I agree with you in how Lee presents Nola as a sexually liberated woman almost creating a woman centric film. But I disagree that Nola is not stereotyped as hypersexual, all the men in her life criticize her for her lifestyle choices. Greer calls her a nympho and sick and Mars and Jamie call her a freak. Her sexual habits are no different than theirs but is viewed as not “normal,” therefore I think she has lose control long before the rape scene. In terms of making a contemporary version of the SGTHI, it will be interesting to see if Spike Lee can modernize Nola or pass the responsibility on to another filmmaker.

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  6. She’s Got to Have It is a film that shows Nola Darling as a woman who is not shy about her sexuality. She is upfront when it comes to sex and throughout the movie she is criticized for it. Spike Lee frames Nola as a sexual deviant when showing her interactions with others and how others talk about her. She is criticized because she is not a “normal” woman. They describe Nola as a freak and Spike Lee says that every man loves a freak, just not for a wife. In this definition, it can be said that a “good girl” is not a freak and the exact opposite of Nola. Perhaps Nola would not fit in to certain stereotypes but in others, one would appreciate her sexual liberation. I think that with all the shows that show sexual liberation in women, she could fit in on some level in today’s age.

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    • April, you and Darell have completely different perspectives about Nola and I think despite all the issues that this film brings up, it forces us to look at how we view Black women in the context of film, as community and in society overall. Hopefully, the film encourages a necessary dialogue especially with the possibility of an updated and serialized TV version of the film.

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  7. She’s Gotta have it…. Is a interesting piece I dont remember as a kid so seeing it now and understanding whats going on is intriguing. Me personal I dont like the main character Nola because I just always feel away about woman who just float. I may sound sexist but i like wholesome woman. I always feel woman like Nola are dangerous because they seem unsure of what they really want so they’ll float, wont really get attached and get and take what they want with no remorse. She uses sex as like expression but at the same time she does it so much with so many men that it doesnt seem special anymore. It almost becomes like a job description or what shes known for.

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    • I dont know if you sound sexist but I think it was intentional that Nola was portrayed as a certain type of woman that a lot of men have issues with. She is either desirable because of her sexuality but not the marrying type or despised because she is considered a slut, freak or whore, which were words that was describe her. Her behavior is no different than most men, she uses and experience sex the same way but she is viewed completely different, which puts her in a particular box.

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  8. Nola Darling fits easily into the jezebel stereotype. She is presented as masculine in her appearance and in her sexual forwardness with men and she is explicitly referred to as a “freak” and “nympho” in the film. In the Washington Post article the writer mentions that many critics view Nola’s character as ahead of her time. I both disagree and agree with this statement. In certain respects Nola is ahead of her time in that she is independent, likeable, and (for most of the film) pretty self-assured in her decision to not be monogamous. However, Nola’s character is ultimately subjected to the same stereotypes that black women in film have been forced into for decades. She is raped, or “tamed”, by Jamie and immediately insists on being celibate afterwards. Though Spike Lee has stated that he regrets putting the rape scene in, I still don’t think he is the right person to have complete creative control of the reboot. Though I’ve never watched “Girls”, one of the main – and fairly consistent – criticisms I’ve heard about the show is the severe lack of black characters. A “She’s Gotta Have It” reboot could potentially be a great response to the lack of representation on “Girls”. However, it would be more effective if Spike Lee were to incorporate more women into the creative process. Not only would hiring black female writers and directors promote the incorporation of women in film/tv, but it could also be a means of avoiding damaging portrayals of female sexuality.

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    • Olivia, I think we as audience members are set up to think that Nola is an independent and sexually liberated woman. She is verbally abused for her independence and physically abused, “raped” for it. I agree with you that Spike Lee, despite his creation, is not the person to take Nola and SGTHI to the next level. He has proven that his female characters are weak and he has not grown as a filmmaker or a person in creating three dimensional women in his films.

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  9. In spike lee’s she’s gotta have it he does a very good job at framing Nola the protagonist of the film as a sexual deviant according to societies standards of how a “good girl” should be. Throughout the film we can see that Nola is a very classy woman who has respect for herself and has a good upbringing and is also interested in art but according to Spike lee’s character “Mars” he considers her to be a “Freak”. Nola’s character is a woman who believes that there is nothing wrong with sleeping with more than one man. She even says herself in the film that she isn’t a one man kind of woman. In today’s society Nola would be compared to a single man because men are known to date different woman at a time and nothing is wrong with that but when a woman does it she’s considered to be a “whore”. I feel that if Spike Lee tried to turn “She’s got to have it” into a television series where Nola Darling was a sexually liberated and self affirmed woman that it would actually do well and wouldn’t be as controversial as when the film first came out because the views of how women should behave have changed over the time and people are more accepting in this day in age of a woman who’s dominant in her sexuality.

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    • You made some very interesting observations that no one else has. Nola does have a very middle class, some my say upper middle class upbringing. She is educated, cultured and earns her own money but is still considered a sexual deviant despite her status. I agree with you when you state that she has the same aspirations as any single man but is still considered a “whore.” Although, I disagree that the tv series would fair better because views of women have changed. I don’t think views of women have improved that greatly, plus if Spike doesnt truly change the way he portrays women, particularly black women, then he is sure to experience the same criticsm as he has in the past.

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  10. She is Gotta Have it, is an unusual movie likewise the main character. Nola Darling depicts a black woman who suffers from polyamory, which completely overshadows the vulnerability and sexuality of black woman. Her role exemplifies the stereotype of Jezebel, immoral female with a demanding sexual appetite. From first half until to the end, she is shown as anxious, sexually deviant and manipulative. However, at the end of the movie it shows that the she is not the anxious one rather other people imposing their idea of sexuality under her and trying make her feel guilty for wanting more than one sex partner. I believe her character can be seen as female version of playboy, which is also rare thing to see in films.

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    • Sanam, I don’t know if I would say that Nola suffers from Polyamory. She makes it very open and clear that she is having more than one relationship. There is no manipulation on her part. As a matter of fact, the men in life try to manipulate her into making a decision to serve their own needs. She doesnt feel any remorse or guilt about who she is. Its the men in her life who are anxious and suffer because they can’t control her or make her into the woman they want her to be, the “good girl.” And as a result, she becomes the freak or sexual deviant in their view of her. She really only suffers when she tries to conform and become the person they want her to be. Lastly, I dont think she is a playboy, because a playboy is generally considered a wealthy man or a man of means who is irresponsibly and sexually promiscuous. Nola is none of those things.

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  11. What it means to be a good girl is a female with no sexual agency. Spike Lee displays this in his films with Angie from Jungle Fever for example. A woman who would seemingly have the proper morals expected for a “normal” woman. She works and is independent but her home life is that she is the only woman in her household and takes care of lazy ass men. Nola on the other hand dictates her life. Lives in her own house, rules, and dictates her relationships. As much as the men in the movie try to put a foot down, she maintains control. At the end of movie, the message is clear that she has to be in control at at all costs. She could never be a “good” girl. I believe that Spike Lee met the goal of portraying Nola as a sexually liberated woman.The problem is that no one WANTS to see it that way because of the rape seen. I feel the rape scene was significant because it communicates how a lot of men (i cannot say all) do not accept woman who is the initiator or in control. What Jamie does in that part is personally establish that he will not allow Nola to control as well as support the claim i just made. However critics want to look at it as Nola’s sexual freedom being taken away. However all it did was momentarily make her feel that she needed to down how playing field to one guy. However in the end she gets rid of Jamie because she has to be who she is and he would not allow her to have her own affirming position. So yes Spike Lee is successful with Nola. However that part, and some other parts of the movie give insight to a common perspective about a woman such as Nola

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    • Chris, thank you to referring to the reading and our previous class discussions. I think you bring out some interesting but conflicting points about the women in Spike Lee. I think he either tries to make them independent, sexually liberated woman but then fails when it shows that what they really need is to be put in her place, aka Nola Darling. You note that, “the message is clear that she has to be in control at at all costs.” But none of the women in his films never really have any control. Nola is shown as a “sexually deviant, a freak and not normal” and because she is not a “good girl” suffers for it. Therefore, I dont think Spike is successful with Nola. He has failed her and he takes away the freedom he pretends to give the women in his film.

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  12. Spike Lee’s film “She’s Got To Have It “developed a character Nola Darling. Nola is dating three different guys which she refused to commit to any of them and she just wanted Freedom which portrays her to be a Sexual Deviant. Towards the ending the guys were tired of her sleeping around and wanted her to choose. In my believe Nola started to feel guilty and thought something was wrong with her. My opinion she’s independent , in control and Strong. Eventually, she thought choosing one man or even becoming abstinence would change the way she was looked upon.or even seen like Clorida ( The Good Girl )
    There’s enough shows in today’s Society that Displays Nola Character “Sexually Liberated Women that’s why Black women still maintain these is as a Jezebel , masculine and non-feminine.

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  13. Shavonn, although you made some good observations, you also gave me a basic overview of the film, which we already know. I want to know more about your thoughts about Nola as the “Jezebel.” You gave a more detailed overview in your observations of Coffy. Keep that in mind for your next posting. Thanks for your comments!

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  14. In Spike Lee’s film “She’s Gotta Have It,” the protagonist Nola maintains sexual relationships with three different men throughout the film, and is therefore portrayed as a sexual deviant, bad girl. As a woman, there were many aspects of this film that were quite offensive to me. The sexual double standards between men and women present in our society are evidently perpetuated in this film. Nola’s decision to sexually liberate herself by pursuing three men was perceived as inappropriate behavior. In fact, she was identified as a nymphomaniac who needed to seek professional help by one of her partners, Greer. Men in our society are recognized as the more sexually dominant gender, and are sometimes even encouraged to engage in sexual activities in order to prove their masculinity, whereas women who embody this sexual “masculine” trait are often called derogatory names such as slut, whore, etc. Nola’s “unacceptable” actions unexpectedly led to her rape by another one of her partners, Jamie. This scene was profoundly appalling. Because Nola was not behaving according to our gender/sexual norms, she was essentially punished by being raped, which was also a way for Jamie to express his dominance as a man over Nola. Nola, in every way possible, represented the opposite of a “good girl.” She was in control of her own sexuality, not submissive, and noncompliant. Although Nola was with three different men at the same time, Jamie, Greer, and Mars were all aware of it. She never attempted to hide anything from them, was open, and always blunt. Despite the negativity towards Nola for her actions in the film, I believe it was a good portrayal of the right for women’s freedom, independence, sexual liberation, and empowerment.

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    • Meran, since I rarely get to hear you in class its really nice to know you have such clear and strong opinions. I doubt that Spike Lee went out to make an offensive film and I dont believe it was widely viewed that way when it first came out. But, it clearly has problems. I think its hard for men to write very strong roles for women and I think Spike expressed a lot about his issues with women. I disagree with your statment that it was a good portrayal of a woman’s right for sexual freedom otherwise you would not have felt so strongly about some of this issues you addressed. I think we are meant to believe that Nola is a strong, modern and sexually liberated woman but then she is punished for that same behavior so she really never really gets to be who she wants to be.

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  15. In the movie She’s Gotta Have It by Spike Lee we see the story of one woman and he experiences with three different men. This would be seen as discussed in our class as the whore through the way every man says it. Mars is one perfect example because he is always joking around but wants to be serious just because Nola was attractive. Nola tries to show that what she was doing is right and yet still wants to be treated like a real woman in the end but is a double standard to what her actions cause. Jamie who wants to pursue something positive with Nola gets pushed to the side which makes Nola’s dream just another fantasy which her personality stops her from achieving.

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    • Maximo, this would have been a great opportunity to bring something new to the discussion. Your comments are somewhat limited and short in outlining some of issues and stereotypes demonstrated in the film. Here would have been a great place to express some ideas that you haven’t really talked about in class. Hope to hear more from you in future postings!

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  16. Nola can be described as a sexual deviant, but with special circumstances. The movie opens up with men that she was been with, talking about her sexuality, saying that she loves sex and that she’s a freak. Three men that she was with at the same time knew of her relations with the others, but still engaged in relations with her, as well at all 4 of them sitting and sharing thanksgiving dinner together. She knows that her sexual deviance is wrong, but she embraces it and owns up to it. In Spike Lee’s world, a good girl would be the complete opposite of Nola. She uses her words and honesty to get what she wants out of each man, and its nothing material, its just what makes her feel good. She According to the readings, female sexual deviants make men look down upon her, but in this movie it is the opposite. Three men are fighting for the complete love and affection from the sexual deviant.

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  17. Jenai,
    Needed to get a little deeper here. You basically gave an overview of the movie without offering a new or different perspective. You stated that Nola knows she is a sexual deviant and knows its wrong but you didnt prove you argument. Nola is proud of her sexual appetite and isnt ashamed of it. Its the men in her life that have a problem with it. In addition, you didn’t add any quotes from the readings.

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  18. After watching Spike lee “She Gotta have it” Nola darling character was suppose to be a woman of agency. Spike lee approach was to show a woman who was successful in her career and was uncontrolled of her sex life. Even with Spike lee trying to be positive of the new African American women, still show negative views on the black women sex and love life. Nola Darling as symbolic whore, she was in a relationship with three males, she was often underhand seem confused in what she what, and by her male companies she was label as a freak. Although Nola can’t quite fit in begin a Jezebel, because she not using her sexual powers to lure her lovers and use sex as a come up. Nola character was free sprit women, who enjoy male company. Spike lee try’s to show Nola as a liberated woman who’s self affirmed, but he didn’t leave out the male dominance in the film. Throughout the film we got the males point of view of Nola. Nola will speak her and there but not really so of her feeling of her three lovers. Will Nola ever fit in begin a good girl? Well she said it herself, “I will never be a one man woman”. This from viewers will label her as the bad girl/ whore. Spike lee even unknowing show viewers how women who are sexually liberated and self affirmed can be punish. Nola with her male tendencies she was remind she still a women, when she tries to be a good girl for Jamie and confess her love. His words, “You don’t want to be love, you want to be fuck”. This only show’s that a woman who is liberated and self affirmed would never be love or be respected. If spike lee was to bring the film back up into a series for ShowTime, he will first need to know the African American women of today. He should leave out the male ego and show Nola living her young wild a free self. Maybe Nola can find love and she may also loose love. Nola I believe should be connected as Carrie from sex and the city. Even though black women in cinema argues that it’s not possible for black women, to be portray as such because we weren’t never seen as women to begin with. I think lee should provide a show that proves this theory wrong.

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    • Ebony you made some excellent points in you assessment. I agree with you in regards to how Spike Lee sets up Nola as this fiercely independent woman who is not able to manage her sex life. You describe Nola as a “symbolic whore” but again dont relate it to the reading. An example, Manatu states in chapter 3, the symbolic whore “is a tidy way of advancing the devaulation proces, black women’s inferiority emphasized the film one up one-down positioning.” (pg. 76) You stated that we really don’t get to her Nola’s voice but those of the men in her life. That’s not true. From the first scene of her on the bed to the last scene on the bed, she expresses how everyone sees her and how she feels about it. Thats one of the major conflicts in the film. Because she is so truthful, independent and sexually liberated she is punished which you accurately noted. As I stated, you made a lot of great comments but didnt get them to readings or the article as well. Its important process to analyzing the film.

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