Insecure // ISSA RAE

Sometime around my sophomore year in college, a good friend of mine urged me to come to his place to watch a show he couldn’t stop raving about. Aside from a shared interest in Glee, our taste in television was never equally yoked. I’m not sure what sold me on his offer. Maybe it was boredom. Maybe it was curiosity. I’m “old”, so it doesn’t really matter.

The show in question was a web series called The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. It was created by and starred this unknown actress named Issa Rae and followed her attempts at navigating relationships, racist co-workers and everyday life. It was like a melanated version of Seinfeld with a smaller budget, but just as good.

Rae’s character was unique in that she wasn’t just the black lead, but she represented the social awkward population.I honestly think she is the only person that can pull off freestyle rapping in a bathroom mirror. Essentially, Rae is my spirit animal. Awkward and the true, the actress embodied the complexity of social anxiety and the black experience.

As a black socially awkward man, I feel like we are underrepresented. Hollywood has the tendency to portray us as straight-up archetypes. It’s always the same scenario: we are always the  misunderstood loners that don’t fit in with other black people.

I think this is why the YouTube series became such a cult success. The actress-screenwriter wasn’t an outsider. She had friends and even was involved in a love triangle. It was her actions and reactions that sold the show. It opened a new door for a new narrative, but like all good things it came to an abrupt end. I won’t act like I wasn’t surprised when HBO greenlit Rae’s work for an eight episode season. Awkward Black Girl ended its run in 2013, so I mentally shelved her Magnum opus alongside The old Shane Dawson and Fred videos. That isn’t to say that I would never hear from Rae again.

Lacking cable and friends with cable, I caught up with the series much later than I’d like to admit. I finally succumbed to getting a HBO Go trial and the rest is history.

For starters, the show is brilliant. In eight episodes, I laughed, cried and quickly proclaimed my allegiance to actor Jay Ellis.Hashtag Team Lawrence.

Granted, Insecure is essentially a clone of its YouTube counterpart, but the essence is still there. Additionally,  Rae’s character( still named Issa) is now joined by a bevy of new faces and personalities including Yvonne Oriji, Amanda Seales and Natasha Rothwell.

Currently in its second season, Insecure still excels in maintaining the awkward narrative that originally put Rae on the map almost five years ago.

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