2016 is the year that will not end. I hear Neptune is out of retrograde now, so we're finally seeing clearly without those noxious clouds of self-delusion hovering over us. I can tell. I've finally come around to perceiving Issa Rae's Insecure for the beautifully plucked string that it is, each note lingering in the air a second or two longer than it should



This latest episode, "Guilty As F*ck," has been my favorite. It's so messy. So tangled up in tiny balls of inseparable thread that you can't help but feel both exasperation and empathy for are the characters. Issa has just slept with her "what-if" guy, Daniel, and the fallout has been deeply anti-climactic. Sure, she's racked with guilt, but she hasn't told her boyfriend, Lawrence, so she's desperately holding on to their simplicity despite her infidelity. The truth here isn't that she slept with a man who was not her partner, or that her partner (thinking they have weathered the storm) thinks he wants to marry her, it's that Issa keeps lying to herself. She is educated to the point of retching. Her friends are all insufferable prudes. She has a job wherein her blackness is a medal, a purple heart for willing herself into the fold of whiteness that black upward mobility necessitates. But, she is lonely. All she has is her real self — her mirror self — for company.

What being awkward means



azealia
Photo: Insecure


The genius of Mis-Adventures Of Awkward Black Girl and thus Insecure is its jagged little edges. Issa has built a character who can't fit in anywhere. She is cornered, blocky and cruel where society says she should be rounded and soft. She is drowning in her sensitivity. She wants to connect on a level that no one can provide her. She wants to clothe herself in the armor that being understood provides. But she soon realizes that not only will no one engage her in that level of intimacy, but that society is set up to prevent that kind of exchange. The boxes we inhabit are arranged so others will keep their distance, not so that others will reveal their truth, and Issa is adrift in this ocean of fabrications



It is these lies that permeate the core of the show. On the surface, her best friend Molly is a hopelessly thirsty romantic. She's constantly searching for a person that can be both a home for her flaws and her affections. But she doesn't want a relationship. She wants the trappings of one. Someone to go on vacations with. Someone who leaves their clothes at her apartment. Someone whom she can claim as her beautiful, successful equal. This barrier to entry is the love she won't claim. Her equals see through her charades and are turned off by her wounded need to ensnare them. The one man she allows herself to be truly vulnerable with makes the mistake of thinking he can be so with her. He cannot. So she rejects him and becomes immediately regretful. Why'd he have to tell her? Now she can't help but imagine him with another man. She says she's not homophobic, but her "man" must be someone who can only navigate the labyrinth of heterosexuality or homosexuality. Not both. Her ego is still tied to the possibility of affection men can bestow upon her.

The lies we tell



azealia
Photo: Insecure


Both Issa and Molly are too busy navigating their personal deceptions to get what they actually want. They're messy as f*ck, pretending to be decently well-adjusted people. Smiling for their co-workers and telling them sweet little lies, unable to speak the truth that will get them kicked out of their circle of survival. Unwilling to take the risks that might leave them destroyed. In one scene in the series, Molly pulls her loud intern Rasheeda aside and breaks her mask for just a moment. She tells her these white people will consider her noise stupidity, that she has to blend in if she wants to rise up. Rasheeda scoffs. They weren't bothered when they hired her, she says. They weren't bothered when she became the editor of her law review. Welp. The episode ends with Molly selling her down-river to her bosses. She'd already tried to tell her the truth, now her bosses will give her the creased consequences of her authenticity



Beyond class structure and the politics of working while black, the scene illuminates the illusions the characters must constantly navigate. This dream state continuously confuses them in love and in life. It does this by design. Issa is in f*ck-it love with her ex, but she chooses Lawrence because he is a devoted follower of the rules. He gets a job even though he's far too experienced and talented for it. He hesitates at creating his app idea because he thinks he needs to take care of Issa and his responsibilities. Issa doesn't want to be taken care of though, she wants a soul-to-soul connection with a person and with a society that engulfs her, instead, in nonsense. She wants the hot-white truth. Which we see in the scene she imagines, in which she musters the courage, tells him the truth, and he violently attacks her. Issa wants a love where sleeping with another man invites a "manly" punishment. Also a part of her delusion. I'm sure she just wants to escape that box too.

The post-truth world



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Photo: Mike Diva


In many ways, Donald Glover's Atlanta is the opposite of Insecure. Donald uses misperceptions to reveal the truth. Issa uses the truth to reveal our lies



Such is how 2016 is reducing us all to tears. The greatest among us are dropping like flies. Everywhere we look it seems like things are getting worse. We've got a president who is a simple con man. An opportunist who's ensnared us all. He is without a soul, so there is no chance at reflection or redemption. He has no mirror and so we can't see him. Everyone sees whatever they'd like to see. But know that was his sacrifice. To be Donald Trump, to be successful, means he must never give way to his truth. In this way, he is a physical event. A series of causes and effects carefully spread out on a bed, each one connecting to another in a way so obvious we'd rather not look. That's the con



The con of Insecure mirrors that. Their desires are so messy and troubling, that it forces you to view these young black women as the frazzled humans they are. Once this happens, for many, they immediately lose their value. This is the way of the world now. Society has always been a series of competing illusions. Whichever you prefer is open to you as you see fit. What part will you sacrifice to be the business man, the careerist, the entertainer, the felon, the lover, the academic, the awkward black girl? The answer is, as always, everything. You sacrifice it all to be each, since being whole, pursuing your real desires, being truly human will get you booted from the world you inhabit quicker than you can say, "I slept with my ex."


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