Issa Rae may be a self-proclaimed “Awkward Black Girl” but after this weekend the writer, director, producer, actress and Stanford grad will emerge as the new voice of her generation. Or something like that.
If you’re over Lena Dunham‘s often-entitled exploration of what it means to emerge from your 20s as a more mature and respectable person on “Girls” but are still interested in the idea of self-discovery and growth from a confused female perspective, Rae’s “Insecure” is a show to add to your queue.
The series was created by and stars Rae, making her the second black female in history to create and star in her own show, Wanda Sykes being the first. In a nutshell, “Insecure” is a down-to-earth look at the relationship between two best friends (Rae and Yvonne Orji’s Molly character), their existential life crises and what it’s like to navigate L.A. as black females in today’s climate.
At the outset it seems like Issa has it all–a five-year relationship, a solid job where her opinion matters and a bestie whom everyone loves. Of course it doesn’t take long for the mini-explosions to start. On her 29th birthday Issa begins to wonder if she’s wasted the better part of her twenties in a dud of a relationship. Will she ever follow her aspirations and rap in public, or will she continue to passively aggressively mock the clueless white people at her job? Meanwhile Molly has had it with dating, wishes desperately to settle down, and finds herself in a full-blown panic at her office’s bathroom when her Asian co-worker becomes engaged to a black man.
It’s an honest, unflinching look at dating, relationships and life, told from a refreshing and hilarious perspective. Rae’s unique voice is all over the pilot thanks to her behind-the-scenes contributions while onscreen she illuminates every scene. Her memorable facial expressions and contagious smile simply emanate star power, making it hard to believe she hasn’t led a series before.
Indeed some of the biggest standout scenes from the pilot are those in which Rae is solo and positioned in front of the mirror either testing out lyrics or pumping herself up. It’s a relatable device with tons of comedic potential, and is just different enough to set the show apart from the comedy pack. But her scenes with Orji shouldn’t be discounted either; the pair play off each other quite well and remind us that female friendships are just as interesting to follow in a comedy as romantic ones.
Between Rae’s best-selling book and her YouTube videos she certainly comes equipped with a loyal audience for this weekend’s premiere, but thanks to a solid start and the show’s universal premise she’ll inevitably collect more fans along the way. Her character may be socially inept and awkward, but that’s what makes her so relatable and raw. The only real surprise here is that this is a point of view we haven’t had the luxury of seeing before, but Rae should rest secure knowing that she knocks this one out of the park.
“Insecure” debuts Sunday, Oct. 8 on HBO.