July 14, 2017
‘Insecure’ is Nothing but Bold in its Approach to Television
With Season 2 premiering soon, we look at the ways the HBO series uses comedy to break barriers.
Ever since Insecure premiered last October, the show has received high praise from critics and garnered dedicated fans by awing them with hilarious quirkiness. Writer/producer/star Issa Rae’s original and almost effortless sense of humor shines in her portrayal of the main character, also named Issa, as she and her best friend, Molly (Yvonne Orji), encounter numerous bumps in the road such as infidelity, race in the workplace, and mental health.
Although funny and lighthearted most of the time, the show also features flawed, all-too-relatable characters. One of the pinnacles of Season 1 is when Issa cheats on her long-term boyfriend, Lawrence (Jay Ellis). This moment is so crucial to Insecure for two reasons: it kickstarts a shift in the plot and, more importantly, it’s a defining moment in television.
Even tracing back to the days of her web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, it’s always been a quality of Rae to address taboo topics — biracial dating, racial insensitivity, and intoxicated sex, to name a few — so it would only make sense that Insecure would go above and beyond with issues that are not only more relevant but also more typically avoided.
“The idea of a woman cheating is so bewildering for a lot of men; like it’s a huge mark of betrayal for them in a way that’s kind of a double standard. I remember writing a film when I was younger and part of it had a woman cheating for reasons of lust and weakness. The executive who read it told me that a lead woman could not cheat because it makes them immediately unlikeable.” Issa explains in regards to implementing the concept.
“He strongly believed that women could not come back from cheating and I remember thinking how unfair that was, because I watched shows and movies where women forgive men for cheating all…the…time [Fatal Attraction, The Loft, Boomerang, Bruce Almighty, Gone Girl, in case you need a reminder]. It was also important to me to have Issa cheat precisely at a moment where Lawrence wasn’t necessarily at fault; where it wasn’t about him, it was about her.”
We can’t help but sympathize with both Lawrence and Issa as we watch them struggle with the secret once it’s revealed. The amount of hurt and anger emitting from both parties is a landmark in the show because of its accurate portrayal of gender dynamics. Men, who are assumed and, often times, depicted as tougher harbor the same amount of emotions that women do but are commonly discouraged in their exudation of it. Insecure shows a grown man not only hurt but acting out in response to the pain inflicted on him by a girlfriend.
Molly represents a large number of women in America who thrive in their business lives but can’t seem to score the same success in relationships. Whether it’s due to her slightly obscure standards or overall incompatibility with a partner, you can’t help but feel a deep pinch every time Molly is rejected. Her fear of being alone drives a lot of her aggressive decision-making that too often goes awry due to rushed assumptions.
As Season 1 progresses, it becomes evident Molly has deep-rooted issues that she most likely never addressed before due to pride. In episode 7, “Real as Fuck,” She has a run-in with an old friend who admits to going to therapy. The idea seems to catch Molly’s attention as she both verbally and silently contemplates getting a doctor. Once again, reality is mirrored through the show’s dialogue as multiple opinions weigh in on the subject, some saying it’s a positive while others mock and laugh at the idea.
Most interesting of all is when even Issa laughs at the concept, which in turn creates turmoil between the two best friends. Mental health is a fragile subject that isn’t always taken seriously, so the fact that we get a standpoint from both angles is important. Though it’s still left till Season 2 to see if Molly decided to go, the show does an excellent job of breaking down the internal struggles revolving around therapy and why it can sometimes be discounted.
Just as it was featured multiples times in The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, racial issues in the workplace make a comeback in Insecure as both Molly and Issa encounter it at their separate jobs. Whether it’s being forced to puppet the words of a prejudice boss to other black employees or being disregarded for opportunities due to skin color, Insecure covers a range of experiences that people of color can identify with.
Adding depth to this entire scenario is the fact that Insecure is one of the first ever HBO comedies to star a black female lead. Proving that black women are bankable, the show has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been renewed for a second season, which premieres July 23rd. Being that the misadventures are about to restart in fewer than 10 days, there’s no better time to start binge-watching every episode, and in case you needed a helping hand, Issa got’yall.
All eight episodes of Season 1 will be free to stream on July 23rd on Youtube, so even if you’ve watched each of them 10 times, like I have, it wouldn’t hurt to push 11.
— Issa Rae (@IssaRae) July 12, 2017