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After five seasons, ‘Insecure’ leaves behind a long-lasting legacy

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In the saturated world of television and streaming, “Insecure” has cut the noise, transcending levels of cultural sensationalism. And on Sunday, after five seasons, the show is over.

At its core, “Insecure” is about a group of black millennials trying to figure out life: their love lives, their friendships, their careers, things that any young adult can relate to. The beauty of the show is, in part, its banality. These are ordinary people, who deal with ordinary things.

“We feel like we’re watching our friends,” said writer Luvvie Ajayi Jones, who has been writing summaries of the show since its inception in 2016.

Of course, “Unsafe” is not the first of its kind. “Julia”, a 1968 NBC sitcom, stands out for being the first program to focus on a full-fledged black woman and, around the same time, programs such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” focusing on the life of ‘a bachelor. woman trying to work in her career. While not a sitcom, “Insecure” – in its focus on a group of black women’s friends – is part of those lineages, said Naeemah Clark, a film and television arts teacher at Elon University.

The cast of "Insecure"  in the first episode of season 5.

But what made “Insecure” so interesting, Clark said, is that it shows the deepest, most holistic connections between black women. Rae and the team behind the show didn’t shy away from showing how Molly (played by Yvonne Orji) felt used in her White law firm, or how Issa felt marked and disappointed in the work.

“There’s this understanding of knowledge and support that you don’t necessarily get from white friends. As much as white friends are ‘awake’, it’s the other black women and women of color who understand this navigation,” Clark said. “And I think ‘Insecure’ did it really well. It was based on the same structure and troupe as the shows of the ’60s,’ 70s and ’80s, but there’s that element of today’s world where black women are culturally.”

These moments are tainted throughout the five seasons of the show. When Lawrence is arrested by a police officer. When the neighborhood of Issa becomes more and more gentrified. When Molly discovers that her white co-workers are doing more than her.

“Issa said in the writers’ room at one point, ‘When you’re white, racism is a period. Like, “This is wrong, this has to stop, period.” But when you’re black, it’s a coma, “said Prentice Penny, insecure showrunner. he told the New York Times at the start of the fifth season. “It’s like this racist thing happened to me, but I still have to go pay bills, I still have to drive and go home and see my kids. Yeah, that happened, but how are you going to do it?”

Dealing with this is what “Insecure” showed so well.

“With ‘Insecure,’ there’s something about everyday life and worldly moments and parts of people’s lives that don’t necessarily trigger a sense of spectacle, that can relate to the audience,” Francesca said. Sobande, digital teacher. media at Cardiff University.

Shows such as “Living Single” in the 1990s and “Girlfriends” in the early 2000’s also played in this space, which represented the life of a group of black friends. With “Insecure,” however, his platform on HBO offered the opportunity for a different and more nuanced dive, Clark said.

"Living single"  starring Erika Alexander, Queen Latifah, Kim Fields and Kim Coles aired from 1993 to 1998.

“Issa Rae isn’t afraid to call something a thing, and I think that’s what makes the show visible,” he explained. “A lot of that is looking at myself, finding out, ‘Who am I, what mistakes have I made?’ Issa is not a perfect character. “

“Insecure” honestly shows this imperfection. In one episode during Season 2, Issa and a colleague attend a predominantly Hispanic school to help mentor the children, but soon realize that the school’s black principal is racist against Hispanic students and only highlights the their services to other black children. At first, Issa eliminates her colleague’s worries about participating in this discrimination.

“Sometimes there’s a bias in the African American community, too, and she makes it clear (in this episode),” Clark said. “And you rarely see it.”

Other episodes showed the effects of undiagnosed bipolar disorder on relationships, something Clark said is almost never shown on television, especially with black characters. It is this mapping of what was not previously mapped that differentiates “Insecure” from its predecessors.

But it is also, frankly, the quality of the show: the lighting, the writing, the costumes, the soundtrack (Solange Knowles acted as music consultant). All this made “Insecure” a joy. You wanted to get lost in this southern world of Los Angeles, with its blue and gold tones with hip-hop rhythms. Who wouldn’t?

The digital phenomenon of the ‘insecure’

One cannot talk about the art of “Insecure” without also talking about the importance of black digital culture. Every Sunday, the cast members tweeted and reacted to the episode along with the fans: a culture of live tweeting in living rooms around the world that once became prominent with “Scandal, “another program run by black women. For black people on Twitter, or just online in general,” Insecure “became an event not to be missed. Regardless of whether someone watched the show or not, many participated, albeit only through use GIF of “growth” by Natasha Rothwell.

Prior to “Insecure,” Rae rose to fame in 2011 for her web series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl,” in which she starred. It was this show that laid the groundwork for her to create “Insecure.” That’s significant, Sobande said.

He put it this way: It’s weird that programs starring a dark-skinned black woman, like Rae, are created in the first place. In addition, conventional media tend to overlook web series and these non-traditional avenues of art and content creation.

Everything “Insecure,” from its roots in Rae’s first web series to its current social media skills, speaks to the elevation and commitment of black digital culture, Sobande said. And that relationship with black digital culture is a key part of the show’s legacy.

Rae, who plays Issa Dee on the show, in season 5.

“It’s like the show is in conversation with the audience,” Sobande said.

Sometimes this conversation is quite literal: aside from live tweets, costume designer Shiona Turini posts where certain dresses came after each issue.

And for those who have been watching Rae since its web series “Mis-Adventures”, there is also a sense of nostalgia, seeing how both Rae and the media landscape have changed since then. For many of the cast members, his characters in “Insecure” were one of his first major television roles, and team members have been involved in other ways as well. Stars Rothwell and Ellis, for example, debuted as directors on the show, as did cinematographer Ava Berkofsky.

“For me, it’s been amazing to witness the journey of the show and also of its creators,” Sobande said. “It was so exciting to see how it was achieved with participating in the show itself.”

What leaves “insecure” behind.

Then there’s the moment of the show, and not just because it aired at a point where the use of social media is at its peak. (Without social media, “Insecure” could have been a very different show, Sobande said.)

The first episode of the show aired in October 2016, at the height of the US presidential election. About a month later, in the middle of his first season, President Donald Trump would be elected.

“It was a difficult time for people of color, who heard, ‘Oh my God, we’re in these next four years, there’s an administration that doesn’t care about us. Even worse, it gets us in trouble,'” Clark said. . dit.

A TV show doesn’t change policies or politics, but “Insecure” always framed the blacks ’experience as valuable, Clark said. And getting lost in the fluffiest plots (who should go out with whom, etc.) was a good distraction. This suspense is also part of the show’s legacy.

“It was like a little hug on Sunday,” he said.

In his season 1 summary, Ajayi Jones predicted that the success of “Insecure” would open the door for others on the street. Looking back now, he says he was right. Because of its success, other programs are filming black people in a more flattering way than ever, he said, and denied the idea that people don’t see black stories.

“I think‘ insecure ’pressured other people to increase their game,” Ajayi Jones said. “I don’t think we’ll know the true depth of the impact of ‘Insecure’ for a while.”

However, part of this impact is already noticeable. Ajayi Jones cited Amazon Prime’s “Harlem” as an example, a program that has a similar premise to “Insecure,” while in New York. Although not a comedy, Clark used Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” as another example of a black woman portraying an authentic story, just as “Insecure” did.

Michaela Coel in 'I May Destroy You' also portrays a true story directed by black women, such as "Insecure"  he did, Clark said.

Rae’s impact is deeper, though. Her journey has shown everyone, but especially young women of color, that they can create art while remaining true to themselves, Clark said.

“(Rae) knew who he was. And he knew what he would be able to do, and he was left with that,” Clark said. “I think in this way, it has changed the playing field, it has shown content creators that there is no way to be.”

However, the success of a program like “Insecure” does not necessarily mean that the media landscape is suddenly democratized, said Sobande. There are still previous issues that may have prevented a program like “Insecure”. However, the work of Rae and all those behind “Insecure” can still serve as inspiration, he said.

From a web series, to an Emmy-nominated hit on HBO, to where Rae and the “Insecure” team have gone. When December 26 ends, it will be a sad day for many fans: the nostalgia that many have and will have for the show is strong, Sobande said.

The promise of “Insecure” means there will be more: from Rae, who has signed one agreement estimated at $ 40 million with WarnerMedia, and younger creators following their wave. “Insecure” might have ended, but his legacy, his ripples, is still alive.

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