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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.

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