She Hate Me

reviewed by Steve Sailer

The American Conservative, August 30, 2004


After its glittering launch in the Eighties, Spike Lee's career has been in steady decline. Perhaps the joy went out of Spike's filmmaking in 1991 when his father and employee, score composer Bill Lee, was arrested for heroin possession, shattering Spike's dream of being the patriarch of the kind of dynastic family enterprise that is rare among African-Americans. He replaced his dad with Terence Blanchard, whose morose minor chord maunderings have undermined what little fun remained in Spike's later films.

Spike reaches rock bottom in his new "She Hate Me," one of the more embarrassing movies ever made by a famous director. Critics will no doubt rationalize "She Hate Me" as a satire on ill-informed black male attitudes, but are we laughing with Spike, or at him? For Spike appears to espouse those knuckleheaded views in dead earnest.

For white conservatives, Spike has always been an intriguing and disturbing photographic negative because, like his hero Malcolm X, he is a classic grumpy social reactionary: nepotistic, capitalistic, elitist, sexist, and racist. In "She Hate Me," Spike takes his stand slightly to the right of Shaka Zulu as he endorses family values, extremely traditional African family values: namely, polygamy. Hey, if gays can get married, Spike implicitly asks, why can't a Big Man have as many wives as he can keep amused?

In "She Hate Me," Jack Armstrong, a handsome but glum black Wharton MBA, blows the whistle on his pharmaceutical company's crooked CEO (Woody Harrelson) and ferocious assistant (Ellen Barkin, made-up to look like Martha Stewart).

Spike is desperate to tell us his opinion of corporate corruption. Spoiler Alert! He's against it. 

But then so is everybody else. Even worse for Spike, there was no racial angle to the recent Wall Street scandals, so he laboriously wedges in a lame analogy to Frank Wills, the black security guard who discovered the Watergate burglars. The interpolated fantasy scene where Nixon and Haldeman start shooting at Wills is bad enough, but when Jack sanctimoniously proclaims to a Congressional hearing, "I am Frank Wills!" I cringed at how far Spike has fallen.

The now unemployed Jack is propositioned by his ex-fiancée, Fatima, who has become a lesbian. She and her girlfriend Alex, who both look like lingerie models, are willing to pay him $10,000 each to have him impregnate them. Fatima then lines up sixteen more lovely lesbians desperate enough for Jack's genes to also pay him ten grand apiece.

With so many lower cost suppliers available, Spike never explains why any woman would offer $10,000 for any man's DNA, much less for Jack's. Once able to cast Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, and Samuel L. Jackson in one movie, Spike can now only afford unimposing newcomer Anthony Mackie. He has that sub-four percent body fat level you only see in black guys, and Spike makes clear that his Jack has good IQ genes, too. Yet, Jack's a Gloomy Gus and is only about 5'-8" (although compared to Spike, he's practically Wilt Chamberlain).

Spike's knowledge of lesbians seems derived mostly from close perusals of the girl-girl layouts in old Penthouse magazines. As Fatima, kewpie-doll starlet Kerry Washington makes the least persuasive lesbian in non-porn film history - at least until Italian love goddess Monica Belluci (Mary Magdalene in "The Passion") shows up later.

We also learn from Spike the real reason lesbians don't like men when the assembled sapphists insist Jack drop his drawers. One glance, and they discard their turkey basters and demand he get them pregnant the old-fashioned way. Clearly, their problem is they've just never seen a real man before.

In fact, Jack is such a real man, that he not only wins back Fatima, but her girlfriend Alex falls in love with him too. At the end, the three have formed a cozy polygamous family, although Jack, being a tolerant modern man, lets his women make out with each other, as long as he gets to watch.

Football great and legendary wife-beater Jim Brown, the subject of Spike's hero-worshipping 2002 documentary "Jim Brown All American," plays Jack's dad. In the movie's last shot, he gazes upon his son's new family and chuckles with paternal delight. Spike seems to suggest that if only white society had allowed poor Jim Brown the polygamous arrangements natural to such a magnificent hunk of manliness, he wouldn't have had to smack his ex-wives around so much.

Rated a hard R for lots of (unsexy) sex.


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