Following Insecure's heart breaking season finale a few weeks ago, I experienced the five stages of grief, mainly denial that the show had ended so quickly. After 8 episodes? Really? This wave of denial led me to re-watching the season just in a poor attempt balm my withdrawal symptoms. It didn't work, I'm still in mourning.
If you haven't heard of Insecure, it's a series that centres around two black female leads, Issa and Molly. The whole concept is loosely based on creator, Issa Rae's web series Awkward Black Girl. Insecure places itself as one of the most refreshing portrayals of the contemporary black female experience. The show portrays black people as actualised human beings sans the pigeonholed archetype of black characterisation Hollywood normally feeds us: namely drugs, poverty, "trying to make it out the hood", "hustling" the list goes on. The characters on Insecure are, by society standards, well-rounded, moderately successful, generally happy and funny AF. The show's sometimes overt humour is carefully balanced by the strong character development and story line. But besides its entertainment value, the show is necessary for black representation and a solid start at narrating the modern black experience, by black people. During the season, the creators were also able to smartly weave in the many social structural issues facing the black condition: whiteness and masculinity. These are the few moments Insecure became a class:
- Assimilating To Whiteness Has Black People Shook
Rasheedah, the new appointee at Molly's office is a loud, unapologetic black girl, a 'YAS Gurl' kind of girl. Even the boss requests Molly to talk to her and make her understand the "work culture here", this obviously makes Molly seem like the "better black" since she apparently fits in within the hegemonic white structure of corporate America via her assimilation. At first she declines but eventually Molly calls Rasheedah into her office and tells her to tone it down. Rasheedah's response is "I didn't switch it up when I interviewed with the senior partners. I didn't switch it up when I was editor of the Law Review. I don't think I need to switch it up now."
This highlights that black people, mostly, have to embody a hybridity: assimilate to whiteness at the office to get ahead and be black at home. In Black Skin, White Masks Fanon speaks of the resultant destabilised double consciousness when the black man seeks to form an identity via approval from the white world. This is true in Molly's case, she portrays herself as colourless as possible, stripped of any personality, never raises her voice. This is a hybridity many black people are familiar with, where in order to gain access, seeking out white approval is the method. Another interesting aspect is the obvious nervous condition that Molly is in. Rasheedah's blackness threatens her own as she may not be secure in her own. The black nervous condition continues to plague black people everywhere, since the black experience is universal.
- Black Male Sexuality Has No Room To Explore
This another Molly moment. Molly and her boo, Jared are discussing the crazy things they've done in their past, that's when Jared reveals that he had a once off same-sex experience. This is when things get awkward. You can immediately tell Molly is uncomfortable now. She obviously runs to her girls the next day to tell them and Issa argues and a debate ensures among the black women about black male sexuality. Les fabian brathwaite wrote an article on Out.com titled "Insecure Asks, 'Why Can't Black Men Explore Their Sexuality Without Being Labeled?' , which discusses the phenomena that denies black men a "spectrum" to explore whether their sexuality or their masculinity. The article further points out the complicity of black women in perpetuating a toxic, stifled masculinity, which is seen here when Molly says she wants her man to be ALL MAN. What does that even mean? Black men tend to occupy this space where they have to fit into a singular expression of masculinity that is deprived of expression and exploration.
- WOMEN FACE A HARSHER SENTENCE FOR INFIDELITY
During the finale, Issa's estranged boyfriend, Lawrence (he left after finding out she cheated on him with her ex) goes to the strip club to take his mind of things. It's clear that Lawrence is one of those wholesome guys, but his friend calls him an "R&B n-word", immediately to prove that he isn't "soft" (masculinity already fragile!) he eventually goes to the back room with a stripper. Long story short, he can't bring himself to do anything with the stripper, he calls Issa, tells her he misses her then we all think they're getting back together. Wrong! He leaves to go have revenge sex with his bank teller 'friend' Tasha he has been flirting with for months.
Women it seems are punished more for "stepping out" than men. A man will date a woman, heck even marry her, but still be cheating on her from the beginning. If a woman steps out just ONCE, it's as if the man has been hugely disrespected. Why isn't the disrespect equal? The standardization of infidelity in relationships seems to be more of a reality than we may ever imagine, but it's always the women who have to play Hester Prynne while the man is absolved of all his indiscretions. Earlier on in the season, Lawrence has been unemployed for four years, working on a "business plan" while Issa was taking care of the bills.
Women usually occupy similar roles in their boyfriend's lives for elongated periods of time but their roles invalidated by infidelity. The man can flippantly be a mess or cheat for years, but never receives the same slack. The scales are always tipped in his favour thus the women is subject to how the masculinity will perform in light of her own indiscretion. The emotional game that Lawrence plays with Issa is another assertion that she must suffer more for what she has done, by having revenge sex he also asserts his manhood with his male-group of friends. It serves his shady masculinity twice, but fails him as a person.