Episode 1: Insecure as F**k A review
28 Sep 2016
Issa Rae has found a way to put the black female L.A. experience not only into words, but a series. Based on her it web series, The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, Insecure is still the story of an awkward black girl trying to carve out her identity in the midst of her love life, career and city.
In the opening scene, Issa is dead axis in the crosshairs as the middle school students ostracize her natural hairstyle, wardrobe and unwed status. The show is not shy about putting stereotypes about black women front and center. I suppose Issa and co-writer Larry Wilmore wanted to put it all on the table to give the viewers who were expecting Insecure to be anything like HBO’s lily white hit series Girls the option to change the channel while there was still time.
Insecure picks fun at white do-gooders who want to help underprivileged communities without making the effort to understand the population. Issa works at a nonprofit who’s headquarters are in the blackest part of Los Angeles, but she is only one of the two non-white employees. The mission of this non profit, We Got Ya’ll, is to help kids of color. However, neither the boss or Issa’s co-workers ever make an effort to understand anything about the cultures or communities of their clients. Issa is the token black woman that all the white co-workers come to for clarification even with the most condescending questions and assumptions.
Reminiscent of her web series, Issa has scenes where she stands in her bathroom mirror and makes up hilariously awful raps that are misogynistic, violent, racially insensitive and over sexualized. This is her form of release from a job she is not too fond of and a love life that is more stagnant than the Dead Sea. What makes these scenes so deliciously uncomfortable is that she is saying things that are clearly inappropriate on thousands of levels, yet, her personality is such a contrast to her closeted past time. Everything she says in her rhymes are contrary to the things you would expect an insecure, awkward, 9 to 5, Stanford graduate to say. “Oh look, nigga. I guess you still single. Couldn’t find another bitch to make your toes tingle.” Not the type of bars you would expect from a Stanford chic with stacks of books in her apartment.
Issa’s best friend Molly, played my Yvonne Orji, is in many ways the quintessential twenty-something-to-thirty-something-year-old black woman in Los Angeles. Stealth, attractive, well-maintained, educated, successful, diverse yet involuntarily single. Everything in her life is on point… accept for her love life. I loved the way she plays the love guru to her less experienced co-worker. Yet to her real friend who knows her inside out, we get to see the real insecurities that plague her as she tries to escape her life of singledom. I can imagine all of my single, beautiful sisters shouting “Amen” to the screens as Molly treats this pilot as an expose about the shittiness of dating in 2016. Some of her issues are universal, but others might just be localized to Los Angeles… a whole different part of the zoo.
The relationship woes in the first episode is something I’m guessing all women can relate to. Issa is stuck with her boyfriend, Lawrence, played by Jay Ellis, and trying to figure out how to get out of this dead-end relationship. When Issa points out to her boyfriend that she is fed up of their lackluster interaction and sitting on the couch with him, he reminds her that he is working on getting his shit together (like he has been for the last four years). I’ve heard that line before in my past life. The one thing that brings out her genuine smile is the secret texts she’s been exchanging with a love interest from her past. I am very interested to see her attempt to transition from her present dead-end relationship to one where the man wants nothing serious, but he excites her. Bound to be superbly messy!
Insecure is the perfect series for borderline-ratchet women of every race. Though the characters’ lingo and locations are very specific to black women, their struggles are universal. High five to Issa Rae for creating an unapologetically funny medium with gratuitous cursing and a precise look into the life of the kind of black woman that America pretends doesn’t exist!