Insecure has certainly captured the anxiety of the times, no less in content than in title. Although the show is a comedy, co-creator and star Issa Rae deals in a thoughtful and intelligent brand of humor, deriving her best material from truth. Together, the first eight episodes are an unflinching deconstruction of the pressures faced by today’s African American young adults, as portrayed by main characters Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji). The two close friends are courageous and touchingly vulnerable by turns as they struggle to find security in the next, more mature stage of their lives.
Released on HBO in October of 2016, the first season has already met with a great deal of commercial success, developing a devoted audience base and scoring a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. This acclaim is hardly surprising: across all metrics, Insecure is seductively modern, beginning with its cast of young, emotive, highly relatable characters. Rae has taken pains to present Issa and her friends as universally sympathetic and widely expressive, eschewing the notion that a comedic actor must exaggerate a narrow set of characteristics to tickle the audience’s funny bone. Instead, the co-creator is proud to present a measure of “authenticity and… a regular voice”, along with “regular human emotions”, as she stated in an interview with E! Online on Dec. 12, 2016. Nowhere is this more evident than in her stunning portrayal of Issa, a young woman who is frustrated yet ambitious, kind yet selfish, and equal parts sensible and childlike—in a word, human. Yet even as the show maintains a real emotional weight, Rae satisfies the viewer’s appetite for humor through the wit of her dialogue and the genius of her timing.
Just as Insecure manages a kind of universal, human appeal, it also offers a nuanced portrayal of African American identity. Here as well, the first season is gratifyingly modern; one often gets the sense that it was intended less as a description of 2016 than as a prescription for it, a blueprint for a more honest, more thoughtful mode of thinking about today’s social climate. The central discussion advanced by the media has largely surrounded the idea that Insecure is a show about race. However, if we look to the vision of its creators, the sentiments driving this claim seem to be largely outdated. Instead, racial identity is continually acknowledged throughout season one as one of many intersecting identities that inform the characters’ experiences, in work, in friendship, and in love.
Defined by contemporary writing and enhanced by contemporary aesthetics–including an original soundtrack scored by Raphael Saadiq—Insecure has something to offer to anyone who delights in the inherent ridiculousness of our modern world.