Is Lawrence From Insecure Trash? An Important Debate

HBO screenshot
HBO screenshot

It’s a question that has dominated the conversations about Insecure, both on Facebook and Twitter and at happy hour and game nights. Of course, Lawrence wasn’t the main character on the show, and Insecure featured several other compelling storylines, but there seems to be a consensus about each non-Lawrence character and subsequent character arc.

Molly’s a ride-or-die friend and careerist whose careerist-ism compels her to make bad decisions. Kelli is real and funny. Chad is real and funny and a fuckboy. Tiffany and Derek are light-skint. Daniel has good bone structure and bad aim. And Issa, well, Issa is a complete mess.

Lawrence, however, became a virtual Rorschach test for fans of the show, since feelings about him seemed to be dependent on experience either dating or being someone like him, making his character a tsunami of audience projection.


But before we can answer whether Lawrence is trash or not, we need a working definition of “trash,” which has become a succinct and punchy way of articulating uselessness and triflin’ness. It’s also become a catchall for bad behavior, which I don’t know if I agree with, since declaring something or someone trash suggests an irredeemability that isn’t always fair or even true. So for the sake of this conversation, let’s agree that “trash” means “triflin’,” which is worse than garden-variety bad.

Anyway, there are seven major places in the show where Lawrence’s trashiness (or lack thereof) is best assessed. Let’s look at each and see if “trash” truly fits!

1. His Season 1 Relationship With Issa

A case for Lawrence not being trash: His joblessness made him depressed, and the depression sapped his initiative and his willingness to put any effort into being a good boyfriend.


A case for Lawrence being trash: Although it truly does suck to exist in that type of professional purgatory, he left Issa out to dry for two years—putting all the financial pressure of maintaining the household on her shoulders, despite the fact that she could barely make ends meet by herself.

Verdict: This is the toughest call. Calling him trash for being a shitty boyfriend ignores the very real destructive force that depression can be on your mind and spirit. But two years of contributing nothing—no money, no dick and even no birthday cards—and allowing this woman you claim to love to do everything is a long-ass fucking time. So, I’m going to cheat a little here. He was a trash boyfriend, but not a trash person.


2. His Season 1 Breakup With Issa (Which Includes the Best Buy Shirt Left in the Closet and the Season Finale Sex With Tasha)

A case for Lawrence not being trash: He broke up with his girlfriend after learning she cheated on him, moved all of his stuff out (except for a shirt he didn’t need anymore) and had sex with a cute woman who’d been sweating him for months.


A case for Lawrence being trash: You (the audience) felt bad that Issa felt bad.

Verdict: He did literally nothing wrong here. 

3. His Season 2 Relationship With Tasha

A case for Lawrence not being trash: The decisions he made that hurt Tasha—namely, sleeping with Issa (and then telling her about it!!!) and attending and then ghosting on her family’s cookout—weren’t made out of malice. Instead, he continued to attempt to appease her. He was wrong for that, but not necessarily trash for it.


A case for Lawrence being trash: He likely knew from the moment he first met Tasha that while she’d be fun to sleep and chill with, they’d never have a long-term compatibility. But he continued to sleep with her and allowed her to think he was feeling her more than he actually was.

Verdict: Of all the bad things that people on this show have done to each other, ghosting on the cookout was the worst. He was trash as fuck for that.


4. His Season 2 Quickie With Issa

A case for Lawrence not being trash: Breakups are messy. Particularly breakups where both parties still love each other.


A case for Lawrence being trash: He knew Issa wanted to get back together, and the quickie gave her a morsel of hope that they would.

Verdict: Breakups are messy. But sleeping with the ex who wants to get back with you—even if said ex’s actions are the reason you broke up—is somewhat trashish. Understandable, but trashish.


5. His Season 2 Scene From

A case for Lawrence not being trash: Even though they literally treated him like a disposable Mandingo, there was nothing wrong on his end for hooking up with two women aggressively interested in him.


A case for Lawrence being trash: You (the audience) wanted him to get back with Issa.

Verdict: More than anything, this bizarre scene showed us how naive Lawrence is. Which means he’s kinda bad at being single (and Mandingo) but not trash.


6. His Season 2 Relationship With Aparna

A case for Lawrence not being trash: She’s cute and cool and she liked him and they were both single.


A case for Lawrence being trash: Pretty much every Aparna-related decision he made was the wrong one. He knew he was spiraling and shouldn’t have hooked up with someone from work. He shouldn’t have told her about the dinner party. He shouldn’t have gone to it. He shouldn’t have invited her to it. (WTF, MAN!!!) He shouldn’t have asked questions about her past with her co-worker if he couldn’t handle the answers. He shouldn’t have taken his friends’ advice on how to deal with it. He shouldn’t have been all weird and jealous for no reason.

Verdict: Trash. Interestingly enough, Lawrence actually exhibited more trash behavior in his relationships with Tasha and Aparna than he did with Issa.


7. His Season 2 Post-Dinner-Party Argument With Issa

A case for Lawrence not being trash: Although Issa’s feelings were hurt by Lawrence stupidly bringing Aparna to that party (I can’t express how fucking dumb that was), Lawrence did follow her outside to console her. Which was also a terrible decision—he was literally the worst person on earth to try to talk to her at that moment—but it wasn’t a trash one.


A case for Lawrence being trash: He brought his new girl to a party with his ex and all of his ex’s friends. And then got all cozy and kissy with the new girl in front of everyone. And then, after Issa got upset and left, he followed her outside and argued with her. And then, despite the fact that he slept with at least four different women in the months since their breakup (five, if you include Issa), he called her a “fucking ho.”

Verdict: Whether or not Lawrence is trash here depends on how you feel about him calling Issa a “fucking ho.” From the audience’s perspective, that comment was a low blow: an unambiguous slut-shaming slur that makes Lawrence a sexist and a hypocrite. There’s no getting around that. But it’s helpful to remember that the audience on a TV show is God. We see every scene and hear every line, making us privy to information that the characters are not. From Lawrence’s perspective, his girlfriend cheated on him with a random record-producer nigga—and they are notorious for being fuckboys—and, according to Facebook, is still seeing him. We also know that Issa wasn’t with anyone else during their relationship, but he doesn’t know that.


Lawrence was trash for saying that, but this was an instance when they were hurling equally (and understandably) trash things at each other. #AllTrashMatters.


Lawrence is more not trash than trash. But the times he’s trash, he’s super-duper trash. Über-trash. Trash emeritus, making up for years of suppressed trash. I have to make a ruling, though, and my ruling is that Lawrence is trashish and trash-adjacent but not trash. He’s just a guy. Which might very well mean that (most) guys are trash. Fuck.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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IMHO...I'll just say stuff

If most men are trash as the women folk like to say. Let us start a discussion about how they become that way. Case in point: most of them are raised in a single parent household and that parent over 90% of the time is a............................woman. Who is teaching little Larry how to treat women in his house from birth? My point is....if we are trash then that is not say much about the women that raise us.