Let’s face it: you probably didn’t like “She Hate Me” all that much. Most critics didn’t when it came out 11 years ago. Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, recognized this when he said the following:
“[The film] will get some terrible reviews. Scorched earth reviews. Its logic, style, presumption and sexual politics will be ridiculed…Many of the things you read in those reviews may be true from a conventional point of view. Most of the critics will be on safe ground. I will seem to be wrong. Seeming to be wrong about this movie is one of the most interesting things I’ve done recently. I’ve learned from it.”
11 years later, was Ebert right? “She Hate Me” is far from Spike Lee’s best film. Hell, it’s not even his best film of that decade (I’d reserve that for “25th Hour,” but that’s just me). But just like you don’t appreciate steak if you haven’t had greasy fast food burgers, “She Hate Me” is an important film in Lee’s canon. The comedy-drama touches on sexual politics, corporate image-mongering, and health policy in a way that mirrors morality debates that continue to capture the national imagination.
Featuring several great thespians ahead of their mainstream breakouts, the film stars Anthony Mackie as Armstrong, a rising finance star who turns to sperm donation and manual impregnation of lesbian clients in order to pay the bills after his assets are frozen in a securities fraud investigation. Starting with his ex-fiancée (played by Kerry Washington), his business booms and, thanks to scapegoating from his old boss (Woody Harrelson), leads him to become a figure of national socio-cultural interest.
It’s a worthwhile snapshot of the mid-aughts, when most of the controversies we now consider benign or politically valuable were still at their peak of uncynical media frenzy. Check out the trailer below.