First time aired on American televisions in October 2016, Insecure (2016-2021) has totally changed my perception of representation and inclusion in actual TV productions. I wanted to celebrate the end of the show with this article that feels closer to a letter.
So, it’s been more than a week since I have finished Insecure and I’m still processing the long journey of being a viewer and especially a French black girl viewer of the show. I started watching Insecure at 19. I’m now 24 almost 25. Was I too grown or maybe too young to watch the show ? One thing is for sure, Insecure just like Mr. Robot (2015-2019), has influenced my desire to be seen through the screen with beauty, sensibility and style (it’s good don’t you think). From L.A. to Paris or London, Insecure is a fresh reminder that it is possible to articulate and tell our stories, us black women and citizens’ stories. I know that Issa Rae’s show is not revolutionary or the first of its kind but it was to me, a big teenager from the middle class, in her suburban apartment close to Paris. As a French woman, I grew up without any black icons especially women on screen except for Joséphine Baker or Césaria Evora, who are to me amazing but past icons and implicitly linked to France. Today a lot has changed but not on French television, where apparently the change is not really happening. So I, like many, turned to British and American shows to find a part of me on the screens.
I had to search for a show that could do that for me, with simplicity and no frills. And I feel so privileged to have known Insecure at this young age. The show doesn’t navigate between fantasy worlds or talk about AI issues. It tends to reflect with realism, humor and kindness the lives of four young black women with different ethnic and socio-economical backgrounds, just trying to make it in the big city of L.A. From their mid 20’s to their early 30’s at the end of the show, we are seeing those four women Issa the main character, Molly, Kelli and Tiffany, face adult life’s difficulties like being financially, physically or mentally stable. From racism, gentrification to death and friendship, all kinds of hardships are brought up. All the aspects of what constitute the social scales of being a young adult in our current world. Like them, I have learned, changed through the seasons intellectually, humanly and professionally and even on the love scale. Like a reflection of my life, Insecure was this fictional balance which allowed me and thousands of women, black or not, to experience during those five years, the opportunity of being seen. Without too artificial or negative tales. Insecure has also challenged the representation of black men on screen. From Mental illnesses or fatherhood failures or interrogations, the show has allowed to present a variety of opinionated black men and individuals, which is far closer to reality.
The development of each character on the show is incredible and well articulated. As Issa is also the producer and creator of the show, Insecure detains a kind and honest energy of truthfulness and realness. Seeing her growing and changing through the seasons was refreshing, sometimes hard but it always felt right. Her love stories and their issues especially with Lawrence were great examples of today expectations in couples : doubts, egos tribulations and the importance of social media that can not be left apart of our today relationships. Same with Molly who was maybe my favorite character. Molly has suffered a lot, especially in her love life and I saw her evolve into this brave and strong woman with more self-esteem. Another personage that should be talked about : Kelli. I was afraid of Kelli‘s evolution in the show, as she was depicted in the first seasons as « the strong and funny black girl friend », which is stereotypically linked to boldness, a bottomless happiness and humor but foremost, the friend that never suffers and nobody is really concerned about her issues and inner insecurities. Kelli was a reminder that tropes and stereotypes can be broken, giving to the show this universality and progressiveness which cinema and tv productions often lack. And Tiffany which her postpartum depression which was the first one I saw on screen, has shaken my vision of motherhood and womanhood. We are not perfect, we don’t have to always be strong and foremost, communication often free ourselves from so many complications.
I would like to conclude by saying that Insecure was my personal television revolution. It has surpassed many barriers in place for decades. Even if I grew up with Sister, Sister (1994-1999) or That’s So Raven (2003-2007), I believe that each generation deserves at least one cultural visual point of change and convergence and maybe Insecure has incarnated this change. The end was simple but it was still a valuable and poetic way to tell us the viewers that the characters will be okay and so will we. Despite all life dramas and deceptions, we have to stand up, face our realities, ideas and nightmares and go beyond what we think can be accessible, as black women, girls and human beings.
Thank you Issa for your ideas, your creativity, your craziness and for never stopping to believe in yourself and your projects. Your message has been heard loud and clear and will not be tarnished and erased. It is just the beginning.