Issa Rae’s Insecure returns this Sunday and I’m uncomfortable going into this 4th season without proper acknowledgment of what the show has done - both for me and for THE CULTURE at large. After 3 seasons, it’s easy to see how Insecure gets compared to Girlfriends, and a black version of Sex and the City. 4 friends, big city, hot guys, you get it. But the comparisons tend to miss the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the show special. Yes, like Girlfriends the show depicts sophista-ratchet Black women who eat sushi and speak Ebonics. Yes, like Sex and the city Issa Rae has created a show where women happily pass the Bechdel test and dress better than people IRL, but that’s just the first level. When you go below the surface of Twitter and think "pieces written by white editors at shiny outlets," the success of the 30-minute-comedy is simple…it’s hella Black. Black-ety Black. Blig-gity Black. BLACK Black. Insecure is quite possibly the Blackest show on TV.
Unlike Girlfriends, the background music isn’t trying to make you think you’re watching a sitcom starring Jennifer Aniston but instead it transports you to your best friend's living room in Durham. And unlike SATC, the fashion did not validate the show or the net worth of the character but it was instead itself, a character. Shiona Turini (fashion veteran and costumer designer) freely and lovingly uses black designers and perfectly inserts Black consciousness into the wardrobe. Recho Omondi sweatshirts, Brother Vellies shoes, NWA t-shirts, and African prints all create a look that not only feels Black, but also just is Black. And while many might say that those things are only so important, you can’t think of them on their own, but as conduits for connection. The conversation being had and the scenes being portrayed feel real when they are balanced on top of music that feels real. The emotions, the actions… they all feel real when being executed by bodies wrapped in themselves. It’s a vibe. Moving past the vibe that is created, there is a view that is granted. The lighting, the writing, direction, casting and producing all from the Black point of view. And not just one. The reason Insecure feels necessary and comforting and not like a diary entry from Issa Rae is because she is working a myriad of Black creatives who add their own perspective and their own understanding of Blackness. The creation of a nuanced millennial Black identity is impactful less for its rarity and, more, for its timing.
Black people have never been more visible (Thank you Michelle Obama) and we are living in a time where Black culture is leading internet trends and hip-hop is more popular than rock. The world is primed and ready to receive highly concentrated Blackness at the highest level – and cable doesn’t get higher than HBO. Once the Blackness is accepted as true, authentic and nonnegotiable, everyone is focused on the story and the writing and pure excellence can excel. Everyone wins. It’s the exact opposite of a Tyler Perry production. Making a diaspora come alive on screen without alienating those who aren’t apart of it requires unapologetic honesty and commitment. It’s similar to a family welcoming a stranger into their home and making them comfortable. They don’t change; they don’t apologize for who they are. They just are. And the stranger feels welcomed by not being acknowledged as different and the family is comfortable because they were themselves.