“We are just tired of being expected to settle for less.”
This one line is one of the parts that resonates the most from the premiere episode of the new HBO series, Insecure. That line comes with many layers of meaning. From within the show, it’s Issa explaining to a classroom why Black women aren’t bitter. It’s a terribly awkward, funny but complex scene that puts our lead character on the spot, and it’s hard not to admire how she doesn’t for a second back down from the prying, mean-spirited group of kids. In a layer of meaning outside the show, it’s a sentiment that comes from the audience.
Living in a peak TV era, there is no excuse for a non-diverse slate of show offerings. Unlike the film industry, TV has blossomed into more of a culturally rich and inclusive medium. Many strides, of course, still need to be made, but when shows like Atlanta, Jane the Virgin, Master of None and now Insecure come to be and give us familiar and incredibly nuanced characters and their stories, it’s an abundance of riches that is long overdue. For years, we settled for less in terms of the stories we devoured and the people it represented, and now it seems we don’t have to anymore.
However, that isn’t just what makes Insecure a great show, but that it tells its character’s story with authenticity, a nice balancing act of humor and angst which truly reflects a young woman’s experience with work, love and life. With Issa, we get a sort of passive aggressive individual who is on the edge of her 20s and realizes that she wants more. Whether she’s freestyling alone in her bathroom or we hear the show’s soundtrack of booming hip hop, we feel that she’s ready to burst out – to not let her insecurities to take over and to finally get what she wants. On the other hand, there is her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) who isn’t as “awkward” as Issa, and who knows how to charm everyone from co-workers to guys, but still can’t find someone who wants a real relationship with her. Both women are very different, but through their own trials and tribulations, dealing with race, femininity and everything else that makes up their daily lives, we get a layered, emotional and unprejudiced storytelling.
Known for her popular web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae produces, writes and stars in Insecure and proves to be a new, real triple threat. Rae manages to tap into all the little and big things that are part of growing womanhood and creates a series that is very specific but still universal. It doesn’t work off stereotypes, but normalizes an experience for people and a culture that many often see via archetypes in past film and television. Rae’s world comes to life with the help of co-producer Larry Wilmore and Melina Matsoukas, who lends her directing talents for the pilot. It all comes together with a half hour episode that is so the opposite of insecure – confident, brilliant and insightful – that you can’t wait to see what’s next for Issa and Molly.
Insecure airs Sunday nights at 9:30/8:30c on HBO.