Spike Lee Takes on Gentrification in Netflix Series

In an update to his 1986 movie "She's Gotta Have It," Spike Lee confronts the ways Brooklyn has changed since then, gentrification and racial tension included.

December 13, 2017, 8:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Welcome to Brooklyn

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Brentin Mock discusses how Spike Lee treats gentrification in She's Gotta Have It, a Netflix update of his 1986 film of the same title.

On top of her relationship challenges, "In the Netflix special, [main character Nola] Darling's freedoms are further depressed by a new antagonist: gentrification. Darling's white neighbors call the police and hold neighborhood meetings to report noise, loitering, funky smells, graffiti, and other perceived nuisances in their neighborhood."

According to Mock, much of Lee's earlier work portrayed a New York City "as black as Woody Allen's was white." He goes on, "It wasn't until Lee's seminal 1989 film Do the Right Thing that he began teasing the menace of the invasion of white people into Black Brooklyn."

Mock points out that Lee "has been publicly challenged on the fact that his own living and business arrangements in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, have drawn upscale developers, renters, and homeowners to the neighborhood, helping make it unaffordable." But the director is, perhaps, a special case here.

Lee is part of a vanguard of black artists and professionals who helped buy and fix up properties throughout Fort Greene after white residents abandoned it. He helped fortify Fort Greene so he's earned the right to speak out for it. But it was that exact urban-renewable energy that made it attractive to the children of white flight, who began moving back to neighborhoods like Fort Greene, interrupting the beautiful Black Brooklyn canvas that Lee was so in love with.

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