HBO's 'Insecure': Souped Up 'Awkward Black Girl'?
I’m sure that as some of you read the title, the automatic assumption that I’m hating on someone doing much better than my lonely blogging self behind this computer screen, is (I’m sure) fairly high. However, trust me when I write this, there is no hating going on. I sincerely give kudos to any person (especially a person/s of color) who is making their mark and their coin. Albeit, I can’t get past feeling that “...we’ve been here before my dear!"
Issa Rae took the internet by storm (at very least by windy day) with a web series entitled Awkward Black Girl. A tale of a Black girl living in a world that didn’t quite understand her “isms” of life; navigating a society that deemed her too White to be Black and too Black to be anything but awkward. The series found fanfare among a predominantly urban audience. Those who loved seeing people of color create something that wasn’t complete and horrific garbage when it came to writing, directing, acting and/or camera angles.
Having funded the bulk of the series through a very rigorous KickStarter campaign, Awkward Black Girl survived its first season and Issa Rae became a name with plenty of buzz wrapped around it. A hit web series and a book later, Issa hit it big with HBO’s Insecure! Insecure follows Issa and her best friend Molly through a maze of relationship problems, career decisions, and life happenings that drudge up doubt, discontent, and eventually some type of resolve that equates to moving forward and continual personal growth. Throw in some great eye candy (like comedian Langston Kerman & recording artist Jidenna) and you may have a really great show, right?
Here’s my issue! From the very first “talking/rapping to yourself in the mirror” episode of this show, I was immediately reminded of Rae’s web series. I didn’t see the point in watching something new when it felt like a polished version of something old. By episode three I had contended that the show was nothing more than an Awkward Black Girl 2.0. I had no interest in Issa’s character and there seemed to be an air about the writing that felt like a textual and cinematic soufflé: Light and airy with no real substance. The overture of vulgar language that seems to spew out of the characters mouth- specifically the leads- just makes me feel like I am watching and listening to junior high kids say f**k as often as they can just because their parents aren’t around. The pace of the show ebbs and flows well, given it’s content, but there is just something about it that doesn’t sit well with me: The show should be about Molly instead!
Molly (played by Nigerian comedian Yvonne Orji) is a successful Black woman ravaging the world of corporate America. Her style is flawless and her past is a rags to riches story with a little less “glass slipper” and a little more E-40. She’s funny, smart, aggressive and with just enough of a lapse in judgment to keep her interesting, Molly should have been the leading focus of the series; not the sidekick best friend. She reminds me of a cross between Samantha Jones (Sex and the City) and Joan Clayton (Girlfriends). Yet, with a show called Insecure, I would much rather watch Molly grow and fall, get up and kick ass two times harder than watching Issa’s character be torn between an ex-boyfriend that I’m not at all interested in and a current boyfriend (Jay Ellis) who I, personally, would have broken up with after he 7-11’d my birthday. Not to mention a job that does nothing but remind me of Rae's work situation on Awkward Black Girl - again.
The casting is not horrible. It’s actually a really great cast with good chemistry. I just feel that the focus of characters are more than a bit misplaced. Maybe there’s a narcissism about creating content of your own to showcase your community that lends to the thinking that you also have to be the star. Sometime’s it’s best to create a great story and allow others to be great at acting them out. However, it could also be the network saying, "NO! Issa you just HAVE to play the lead! We won't do it unless you play the lead!" I highly doubt the latter was the case, but hey! It's possible.
I liken Insecure to the culture classic film, Baby Boy. To all those who can relate to the life of Jody and Yvette, it was the greatest movie ever; worthy of an Oscar. However, to everyone else who couldn’t relate or have just seen better movies? It’s something that they can watch when it comes on B.E.T. for free. Even WITH the edited out scenes!
**Just as long as they keep the Ving Rhames sex scene….THAT will always give the people life! Hop across the room VING!!!! HOP!!!**
Six episodes in (to what I’m sure is a 10-13 episode test season) I definitely can see the niche that this show has found and will continue to fit. As always, I’m super excited for opportunities that allow people of color to shimmer, shine, and cash great checks! Yet, I still can’t help but feel that Insecure is that little black show that HBO needed; seeming a little more diverse while connecting to a more “urban” audience. I think that with more developed writing, a tad bit of reflection and redirection, Insecure could go far…even with Issa in the lead. Nonetheless, the show’s on, people are watching and loving it. As for me, I’ll definitely be watching for Molly. If I continue to watch it at all!
Feature Photo Courtesy of FVSU's Flickr Page- Creative Common's License