Representing black females on screen : a defence of Spike Lee against indictments of misogyny
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
“Whose pussy is this?” is the abrasive demand of Jamie Overstreet, in one of the most controversial scenes in Spike Lee’s filmic career. This demand is directed at the film’s female protagonist, Nola Darling, after she is raped by Jamie. The scene takes place in Spike Lee’s first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It (1986), which made it to the big screen in 1986. In spite of being a part of his first feature film, this egregious rape scene still remains a target of criticism today. Numerous critics accused Spike Lee of denigrating the image of the Black female via the rape scene. The problematic nature of the scene, coupled with the fact that it was featured in his first major production, quickly led to Lee being labelled a misogynist. Critics assert that Spike Lee is out to denigrate the Black female race. However, this essay will argue that such a view is a fallacious and is borne out of two fundamental, related, misunderstandings. The first is a presumption that Lee has an active authorial voice with regards to filmic portrayals of Black women. The second is a conflation of this presumed authorial voice with the subject matter presented in his films. The combined effect of these misunderstandings is the establishment of a direct relation between a superficial interpretation of Lee’s films and his purported misogyny. The aim of this thesis is to elucidate the fallaciousness of these claims as well as to present Lee’s portrayals of women as a means towards the end of achieving gender equality in society.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University