HBO/Insecure Issa Rae as Issa
In the past, Hollywood’s treatment of Black film characters could be viewed as underwhelming, with Black culture being regulated to stereotypical images of servants, prostitutes, and thugs. From Tyrese Gibson and Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of Jody and Yvette in Baby Boy to Hattie McDaniel’s iconic role as “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind Hollywood has rarely demonstrated a vibrant spectrum of the Black experience; particularly a current narrative that dismantles the perception of Black culture as homogenous. With the Black Lives Matter (LGBT, men, women) movement and the current COVID-19 pandemic in our homes, public spaces, and minds (not to forget the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other African-American) Black people and our experiences are being shared, discussed, and dissected. What is rich about Black culture? Creator Issa Rae, Larry Wilmore, and their writing team’s episodic-masterpiece, Insecure, provides a rich Black experience of love, music, and of course…sex.
HBO/Insecure Issa Rae and Jay Ellis as Issa and Lawrence
What is love on film? Any well-developed character feels a full range of friendships, intimacy, support, and care. But hear me out. As a child of the 1990s, Black love on film was a limited expression produced in the form of “hood/gansta”, “Big Mama” and the family, or a character supporting the world in hopes of love reciprocity; a long way from Something Good – Negro Kiss (1898), the first depiction of Black love on film. With the increase of exciting Black storytellers, like Issa Rae, the development of Black characters and their stories are becoming more entrenched with contemporary complexity, range, and thought. Insecure character’s Issa (Issa Rae) and Lawrence (Jay Ellis), move through relationship-cycles of break up, exploration, denial, and “one more try”. Insecure is a progress show, speaking on many facets within the Black community. The show has included/engaged/demonstrated/discussed: LGBT characters, Black pregnancy and hospitals, “Bro” hood, female friendships, infidelity, “hook-up” culture, and Black affirmation; depicting a more heterogeneous reality of Black-Americans today.
Let’s not forget about the music. Baby! Insecure’s episodic soundtracks be like that. Music and film introduced their dance together since the 1890s during the silent film era. Back in the day, most film soundtracks (or scores) were mainly orchestral in sound – this changed with Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman who became the first non-orchestral composer in 1985. Insecure’s music selections transport you to various emotional planes of empathy, joy, rage, and laughter. Not only are the curated (and created) music tracks featured on Insecure unique, they also boast a creative roster diverse in ethnicity, region, style, and generational composition; you will hear new (thank you for supporting them) and seasoned artists that will have you using your Shazam app, THE WHOLE SHOW! Under Music Supervisor Kier Lehman (Insecure, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Love and Basketball (2000) Music Producer Raphael Saadiq blesses us a composer on the series.
Yes, sex is a thing in Insecure. Channeling Trina’s My Neck, My Back, Bone’s Homegurl (He Gotta), and City Girls’s Twerk Insecure has some steamy moments. Surprisingly, Insecure’s sex scenes add depth to character relations not to mention a pleasing visual to a world bent on viewing sexualized media. Insecure is a comedy series that looks at the friendship of two black women in a unique, authentic way; touching on a variety of social and racial issues that relate to the contemporary Black experience. Many Black lives maneuver through many challenges (systemic racism, financial hardships, etc) and like other people have a complex relationship to sex. Insecure, again, aims at showing the contemporary Black experience – sex is closely related to that experience. An example from the show is the polyamorous love affair between Dro (Sarunas J. Jackson) and Molly (Yvonne Orji). Polyamorous relationships are not talked about (four to five percent of Americans are in one), but there are many Black folks considering it – Molly wasn’t having that, it fizzled.
As Hollywood executives sit around the table and discuss new projects, it’s nice to know that there are Black folks thinking of us in a wider spectrum. Insecure’s Black culture is full and “drips”- providing stories of self-love, community, friendships, family, and enlightenment. Thank you, Issa Rae, for your vision that made the Insecure series, your black girl magic, and allowing us to go on the journey with our awkward, funny sister by the same name.
Insecure is a show on HBO. Check out Season’s 1- 4 available now!