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Regular Like: On ‘Insecure’ the Strong Black Woman Myth is Laid to Rest

insecure

Photo: HBO

Since the first episode, Insecure has been a conversation starter. Why was Issa supporting her couch potato boyfriend? Will Molly ever learn? Will Lawrence get a job? The list of questions goes on. Questions we still don’t have answers to or have just agreed to disagree about our perspective on. Ultimately, the show has grabbed the attention of young, Black, millennials because it’s extremely relatable. I think we all see ourselves or our friends or someone we texted with once in some character on the show. Insecure so accurately depicts different facets of our lives today that the show itself is often even emotionally triggering. We’re arguing with friends and people we don’t know on the Internet about a show full of fictional characters. And while every artist hopes people will engage their art, I wonder if Issa Rae ever feels like we’re missing the point.

I was recapping Season 3, Episode 2: Familiar Like on my Instagram story and was posed a perspective I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since.

“I think the interesting part of this season so far is that, essentially Issa is Lawrence from Season 1 and Daniel is Issa from Season 1. Issa Rae keeps fighting hard to create a dynamic character that displays that it’s okay for Black women to be trifiling and everyone keeps trying to save her character from that reality by rationlizing it away…

At first, I disagreed with the idea that we as viewers rationalize Issa and even Molly’s behavior away. But then, I sat with the statement longer and realized that’s what every argument about Insecure is – an attempt to get a different party to agree with our view of what the characters are doing. Views more often than not related to justifications for their messed up actions. We can make sense of Issa cheating on Lawrence even if we think it’s wrong because he was on the couch for years and stopped showing up in their relationship on multiple levels. We reason that Molly’s inability to sustain a relationship with men comes from her clear Daddy issues (especially after finding out her Dad cheated on her Mom). We say Issa’s finances are a mess because she was the only one bringing an income into her household for four years. We believe Molly can’t set boundaries in her relationships because she so desperately wants to be loved. We rationalize their behavior on the show the same way we rationalize our behavior or the behavior of our friends in real life. Yet, we also hold them to a higher standard because it’s TV and I guess we believe all TV should have some degree of the fantastical in it. Or maybe, it’s just because we’re uncomfortable with Black women not showing up to the world as superheroes.

Issa and Molly are not superwomen and maybe that's the point. With each episode Insecure reminds us that Black women should have the ability to exist in the world however they want to or happen to show up for the day, flaws and all. Click To Tweet

Society, including Black women ourselves, always talks about the strength we possess. We didn’t vote for Trump. Well, the majority of us. We’re always on the front lines of movements for equality. Black women get the job done, even at a cost to ourselves. We will feed everyone, raise the babies, take care of our partners, and only stop to think about ourselves when life or circumstance demands we do so. We show up and we damn sure save the day – on and off screen.

Think about it, for all the flaws in other Black, female, TV characters, at the end of the episode or series you usually walk away feeling like that woman was a boss and did what she had to do. Characters like Olivia Pope or Annalise Keating, Miranda Bailey and Jessica Pearson, Charley Borderline West and so many more past and present do the work of reinforcing our ideas about the position and in the process, humanity of Black women. We view them as strong and often are willing to forget or rationalize away their flaws.

insecure

Photo: HBO

Except, on Insecure you can’t do that. The only real redeeming quality about Molly and Issa is their friendship. Other than that, they are both a hot ass mess. In no world is Issa’s 425 credit core deemed strong. We don’t view Molly as a boss in her career because for all intents and purposes she is floundering at work. Neither of them can communicate in their pursuits of love and consequently always end up with less than they both desire and deserve. Not flaws and attempts to write them away in the writers’ room or remind viewers how powerful they are. But, flaws you have to sit with and work through. Flaws that mean you have to stay on the couch or “platonically” in the bed of a former and maybe even current flame for a little bit longer because you just don’t and cannot manage to get your shit together. Flaws that mean you asked for your key back but still won’t cut dude off (because we all know this Molly and Dro saga isn’t over). Flaws that demonstrate just how hard it can be to really carve out some space for yourself in the world because of your insecurities.

Regular Like: On 'Insecure' the Strong Black Woman Myth is Laid to Rest Click To Tweet

On Insecure, the myth of the strong Black woman is laid to rest. And while I’m not applauding Issa’s inability to save money, Molly’s inability to make a smart decision in love, and their collective inability to communicate effectively, maybe the point of the show is to demonstrate another side of Black women’s humanity. That’s why we all relate and watch every Sunday. Because on Insecure, Black Women get to just be.

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Gabrielle Hickmon

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