A Critique of HBO’s “Insecure”

December 30, 2020

By Modesty Sanchez

By starring in movies like The Lovebirds and The Photograph and gracing the covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Essence, and Glamour, Issa Rae has cemented her status as celebrity royalty. But even before reaching this stage in her career, she’d been making Gen-Z audiences laugh-cry while watching her HBO show, Insecure. Following Issa Dee (played by Rae herself), the show documents the tribulations of Issa and her friends as they stumble through friendships, relationships, and career changes. The show does a great job of unsparingly conveying the messiness of adulthood. 


Issa, though (usually) well-intentioned, unfortunately ends up hurting those she loves. For example, in the first season, she cheats on her long-term, unemployed, financially useless boyfriend, Lawrence, with her old fling, Daniel, a sexy rapper with promise. People were quick to vilify her actions, but the best part of the show is that it denounces these vilifications on its own: while what Issa does is hurtful and selfish, her relationship with Lawrence had plateaued as he continued to live off unemployment while Issa paid the bills for the apartment they both shared. It’s hard to say who’s ultimately in the wrong, or whose fault it is for the dissolution of their romance, a trait that is unique to Insecure’s plotlines. Many of the problems that plague Issa and her crew aren’t black and white, or solely as they seem at face value. There are layers to each situation, allowing the viewer to take various positions and examine the storylines on a deeper level. This is what keeps the show so exciting, and why viewers return for more. 


In addition to these compelling stories, another big selling point is the dynamic nature of Issa’s friendships, especially the friendship between her and her best friend, Molly Carter. Molly, a high-powered lawyer who has mastered the ability to be well-liked by anyone––white or Black, rich or poor, ugly or attractive––is beautiful and successful, but also insecure about her romantic relationships, which often leads to her acting rashly and illogically (like when she breaks up with a sensitive man named Jared simply because he had a gay experience, despite her confessing to a lesbian encounter of her own). Most of the time, Issa and Molly get along like sisters, but sometimes their own life events and conceit cause them to bicker and degenerate into contentious arguments. Audiences watch the duo’s high moments and can’t help but recall fun nights with their own best friends. Similarly, when audiences view Issa and Molly devolving into a fierce stand-off, they are forced to recognize their own behavior in the pair’s irrational accounts. But that’s the beauty of the show: while Insecure follows singular events happening to a unique group of people, it still manages to be holistically relatable and enticing as it mirrors life’s awkward and blundering moments. 


Gen Zers are all eagerly awaiting the fifth season of the Emmy-winning show, but they probably have to wait a while, since the fourth season’s finale just aired over the summer. So, if you’re one of the few people who haven’t yet watched this side-busting, tear-inducing show, you still have plenty of time to catch up and see how Issa and her crazy crew terrorize the city of Los Angeles.

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