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Insecure? More Like Black Lives Chatter! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 3rd, 2017


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04:32 pm - Insecure? More Like Black Lives Chatter!
Sometimes I barely hear about a show and then suddenly it is getting award nominations and being constantly mentioned by television critics and friends, and it is only two seasons of eight half-hour episodes, so watching Insecure seemed like a good idea. And it was!

Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, Insecure follows three characters navigating personal and professional relationships in Los Angeles while black. This is definitely not a show where characters "just happen to be black"; their race and culture are integral to who they are. As a non-black person, I cannot speak to the level of authenticity in its portrayal, but given its writers and its reception by black critics, I am guessing it's pretty accurate. But this is not A Show About Being Black any more than Master of None is A Show About Being Indian; it survives on the strength of its characters and stories.

Issa works at a youth outreach program called We Got Y'all, which is run by white people and staffed almost entirely by white people—she is the one black person. Fun for her! She gets to present the black perspective and then still be whitesplained about what's best (or what looks best) to serve these "urban youth." Meanwhile, her best friend, Molly, works at a law firm where she has to code-switch to fit into a predominantly white male environment and fight for her considerable skills to be recognized. Finally, Issa's longtime boyfriend, Lawrence, doesn't have a job but does have a great idea for an app he's been working on for a while.

The basic storytelling engine of the show focuses on relationships, primarily romantic (heterosexual) ones, although Issa and Molly's friendship forms a strong emotional anchor. I love that they can fight and have real conflict with each other, but they still ove each other. They call each other on their shit all the time, sometimes playfully, sometimes hurtfully, yet they respect that they are two different people with different priorities. Even if both of them are still trying to figure out what those priorities actually are. Issa is feeling like her relationship with Lawrence is a bit stagnant and eyes an old flame, whereas Molly envies all her attached friends and longs to find someone to settle down with. If there is one constant in this show, it is that all three of these people make bad decisions. It's incredibly frustrating to watch, yet very human. People fuck up, people do stupid things, people forgive or they don't or they do and then they don't.

Luckily the show is also quite funny and charming, in ways both genuine and uncomfortable. Issa and her friends trade barbs like baseball cards, and one of them, Kelli, is particularly boisterous (though not always endearingly). Issa expresses her emotions by rapping at a mirror, and it's not always clear if it's a fantasy or she's actually doing it, which leads to some amusing moments. Nearly every scene at We Got Y'all has some cringeworthy moment, sometimes courtesy of Issa's white colleague, Frieda, who's lovable and awkward as hell as she tries not to be That White Person while working with Issa.

Insecure treats its characters like complex, flawed people, who want love and/or sex and/or success but don't really have their shit together in any of those departments, whether it is their own doing or not. It is a refreshing counterpoint to the predominantly white television landscape that doesn't feel the need to explain itself to its non-black viewers. And the season one episode titles are all "[Blank] as Fuck" and the season two episode titles are all "Hella [Blank]," and I love any television show with episode title naming themes.
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: Prodigy - Medusa's Path

(Describe me as "inscrutable")


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