He Got Game is a 1998 movie directed and written by Spike Lee. The plot of the film involves a New York prison inmate Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) serving time for the manslaughter of his wife. Jake is offered a deal by the governor that would considerably shorten his remaining prison time. The only thing he has to do is convince his son, Jesus (Ray Allen), a superstar high school basketball player and number one prospect in the country, to sign a letter of intent to attend the governor’s alma mater. Just one problem — his son hates him; he has never forgiven his father for the death of his mother.
He Got Game features an all-star –and future all-star– cast. The previously mentioned Denzel Washington and Ray Allen (who knew he acted?) appear, plus Rosario Dawson, Hill Harper, Milla Jovovich, Rick Fox, and Lonette McKee, amongst others. But the most outstanding feature of this film is not the cast, but its amazing two-hour display of social and racial stereotypes. If you ever wondered just what stereotypes exist in and around black American communities about black men, this movie is for you.
Every romantic relationship in the movie includes a black male with a much lighter, if not white, woman. From Jake and his wife Martha (Lonette McKee), to a pimp and his main prostitute Dakota (Milla Jovovich), and even, later on, Jake and Dakota. Scenes featuring women almost exclusively include lighter-skinned women, unless she is not meant to be a sexual object (e.g. Jake’s daughter Mary [Zelda Harris]). Because everyone knows black American men love light-skinned women!
Sexism and Misogyny
The women of He Got Game exist as extensions of the men. Women serve as outlets for the men, as sexual partners and means to take out their frustration in verbal and physical abuse. Nearly every scene involves some abuse of women. The only power women seem to have is between their legs. But even their one strength has its limits, as we see with the often abused and hopeless Dakota.