Insecure is also a potent tonic for TV’s mostly-white perspective on dating and sex. “Black women aren’t bitter,” Issa says in the first episode. “We’re just tired of being expected to settle for less.” When Issa’s longtime boyfriend, Lawrence (Jay Ellis) suggests Molly is single because her standards are too high, Issa shoots him a look that suggests her own standards might not be high enough — Lawrence has been collecting unemployment as he works on his “business plan” for the past four years. When her smoldering ex-boyfriend Daniel (Y’lan Noel) — Molly calls him Issa’s “Achilles dick” — sends her a birthday message, she starts to question her commitment to Lawrence.
And yet Insecure doesn’t villainize the men in Issa’s and Molly’s life. We may be tempted to see Lawrence as a deadbeat boyfriend who needs to get his ass off the couch, but the show follows Lawrence — a Georgetown graduate — on his frustrating job search and attempts to keep Issa engaged in their relationship. To Tasha (Dominique Perry), a chipper bank clerk who deposits Lawrence’s unemployment checks, Lawrence is a catch, a “good black man” with a college degree, some money in savings, and no kids.
Just as the show suggests Lawrence isn’t entirely to blame for Issa’s dissatisfaction in the relationship, it’s not so quick to let Molly off the hook when it comes to her disappointing dating life. Molly is beautiful, educated, accomplished — but she’s single, and sick of it. In the first episode, she watches, stunned, as her Asian co-worker announces her engagement to her black boyfriend. At a party, she defends herself against the accusation that black women are “difficult,” insisting, “Just because we have standards does not mean we’re difficult.” But her search for a very specific kind of educated, professional black man limits her pool of prospective mates. She can be just as superficial as any man.
Insecure is a show for and about “grown-ass” women — we don’t see much skin from either Molly or Issa, but every sex scene yields at least one shot of the man’s behind, thankyouverymuch. Issa and Molly aren’t perfect. They���re smart, funny, financially independent women who are “trying hard AF,” as the show’s tagline goes. But they can also be indirect and manipulative with the men in their lives. They’re right to insist they shouldn’t have to settle for less, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes get it wrong. They’re not goddesses or queens; like most of us who are trying hard AF, they’re just people.
Insecure premieres on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.