In the first scene of the first episode of Insecure, Issa Rae makes the mission statement of her show clear when she responds to a student who says her dad told her nobody is checking for bitter Black women. “Tell your dad Black women aren’t bitter, they’re just tired of being expected to settle for less,” Issa says.
From there, Insecure’s entire first season aims at proving this theory to that little girl’s daddy and the men like him by pushing back hard against the idea that Black women don’t have options. Issa and her best friend Molly have options, they just handle them in the messiest, most savage ways possible. They cheat, they lie, and they constantly find new ways to get in their own way, which is why I found myself relating more to them than I did to guys like Lawrence.
The amount of crap men were put through on the first season of Insecure was quite remarkable. Never have I seen a show so effectively treat men like pawns and go to such great lengths to humble an entire species, but after watching every episode twice (except for the last one), I must take my hat off to Issa Rae: She, a Black woman, created a show in which her and her girls look terrible and all the men are winning the morality game.
Lawrence is so faithful and focused on proving his value to Issa even without a job and only a little bit of savings that he can’t even see Tasha, the bank teller who carries hot sauce in her bag and has never met a low-cutting shirt she doesn’t like. Molly treats Jared like the rent-a-cars he supervises at Enterprise, only going to him when she’s been rejected by other men for being too thirsty too soon. Daniel was asked by Issa to do a career day and does such a good job she ends up knocking boots with him on a studio couch. Then she doesn’t return any of his texts and reduces him to an itch she needed to scratch when he finally asks her why their text message chat has been so dry.
It’s easy to root for Lawrence and Jared and Daniel. But what I see is a group of guys I can’t completely relate to. I can relate to Lawrence not having a job, but when he walked away from the counter at the bank after it was evident that Tasha wanted to throw dollars at him, I know that could not have been me. When Jared still wanted to go out with Molly after she confessed Issa’s “Broken Pussy” song was about her, I know my reaction would have been to run as far away from her as possible. When Daniel showed up unannounced at Issa’s job, I looked at him the way I looked at women in my past who thought it was a good idea to pop up unannounced and surprise me with their presence.
Meanwhile, Issa deciding to get close to Daniel on the side while being vague about what’s bothering her in her current relationship is something I know very well. Molly going from guy to guy to guy trying to find Mr. Right but settling for Mr. Right Now is exactly how I was when I was dating. The constant references to Black men through the use of the n-word is similar to how I used to refer to women when talking to my male friends, except replace the n-word with other inappropriate five-letter words. I was rooting for Issa and Molly to get better not for the sake of the men who want them, but for their own well being, something my exes used to tell me. Be better for yourself not for me.
Perhaps the only thing I didn’t agree with when it came to Issa is when she decided to tell Lawrence that she cheated on him. When she cheated, I thought there was a good opportunity to show the difficulty that comes with trying to hide it from your partner and allow that to play out well into season two. But then I saw Sunday night’s season finale, and I realized why the writers decided to let the secret out to Lawrence even after Molly advises Issa not to say anything.
In episode five, when Molly is dating a guy named Chris (played by Jidenna), the two of them go to an engagement party for Molly’s co-worker and surprisingly, Chris introduces himself to everybody as her boyfriend. But later, when Molly asks Chris if he meant what he said about being her boyfriend, he confesses it was an act. “You looked like you needed a win,” he says to her.
Lawrence needed a win too, which is how we got Tasha. But having sex to make the hurt go away is like putting a band-aid over a broken bone; that’s not how you heal. If Lawrence is a hero, he’s a tragic one, and that’s why I wouldn’t want to be him. Issa may have been left on that bouch crying enough tears to fill up that bottle of wine, but she doesn’t know what Lawrence is doing, just that he’s gone. If he comes back (and he probably will), Issa will be fine and her healing process will end. Meanwhile, Lawrence’s path to recovery is just getting started and he has a long way to go. I pray that I never have to make the same journey.