Sunday, October 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'Insecure' - Issa Struggles at Work, Lawrence Makes a Decision & Molly Goes on a Date in 'Racist as F**k'

HBO's Insecure - Episode 1.03 "Racist as F**k"

Issa and Lawrence try to move past their issues at home, as she deals with her colleagues' doubts and he gets a reality check from a head hunter. Molly introduces Jared to her friends, and later struggles to give words of wisdom to a new summer associate at work.

Issa and her boyfriend, Lawrence, haven't exactly been on the same page throughout the first three episodes of Insecure. They are in wildly different places in their lives. Issa has her dream job. She has just turned 29 and she's figuring out if she is happy with where she is in her life. She's contemplating whether what she has now is what she needs to be happy for a long time. Meanwhile, Lawrence is stuck at home still searching for that dream job. He's going for interviews but he hasn't really been inspired to take any kind of meaningful action in either his professional or personal life. They've truly struggled in these first episodes. Their relationship has changed over the years. They are not the same people who met in college. That doesn't mean their relationship is no longer good though. They can still be good for each other even though they are in different places in their lives. They just have to be willing to accept things for what they truly are. They have to own up to their mistakes. They also have to want to do better in the future. They have to try harder to make things as great as they can possibly be in every aspect of their lives. That's a lot of hard work but it could be very rewarding in the end.

Issa has her dream job of working at a non-profit. This is the line of work she wants to be doing. She want to be helping kids who need it the most. Just because she has obtained the dream doesn't mean it starts being easy. It still takes a lot of hard work to actually maintain the dream. Last week, her boss questioned how much she still loves this work and if she's still willing to do it. Issa didn't work hard and it showed. She bombed her big presentation. Now, she has to work harder than ever before to prove to everyone that she deserves to be at this job. That's a pressure she has put on herself. She came up with this solid idea to take the kids to the beach. It would be a new experience for them while also being simple and easy to manage for the organization. Now, Issa has to execute the idea. Even though this is what she wants, she still faces adversity in the workplace. One mistake is all it takes for her co-workers to question her judgment and her ability to pull all of this off. Doubts are there every step of the way. They doubt her because of her skin color. Issa wants to blame all of this on race. Her co-workers mess up like this but they don't get secret emails written behind their backs. And yet, that's not really the point. Issa still has to make this day a success for the kids. She has to ultimately just screw her condescending co-workers and show them all that she can work hard and impact these children's lives.

Issa has to be willing to work hard. She also has to accept that she played a role in all of the concern about her. She made that mistake because she falsely believed she could do no wrong in this company full of white people. She was the women of color and a guide into a different world. That gave her false confidence in the workplace. And now, she has to actually earn that confidence. It's up to her completely to make this day at the beach a success. She has no one else to help her. This project will fail or succeed because of her. She's the one who has to get up on the bus to tell the kids to be patient. She's the one who has to make sure everything goes according to plan. Doubt is there all along the way. Her co-workers are there for support but are more interested in how they could transition this to an event they know would work. The kids are rowdy on the bus because it's a hot Los Angeles day and they are stuck in traffic. Issa has so much adversity to overcome. And yet, she ultimately does it. She is able to make the most of the circumstances. She makes this a rewarding experience for the kids. Plus, she doesn't get sucked into the petty dynamics of those who doubted her along the way. She accepts Frieda's offer to go out for a drink. But she doesn't get in another co-worker's face when she voiced her support for the event all along.

Of course, this big day at work does distract Issa from her relationship with Lawrence a little bit. That gives him the chance to do some soul-searching as well. He is still looking for that dream job. He has his standards and doesn't want to compromise them for anything. He lashes out at anyone who suggests that he should. He put all that hard work into getting a college degree. He is overqualified for any kind of entry level position. He wants to wait for that perfect opportunity to come along. And yet, the longer he waits the less appealing a candidate he becomes. The breaks in his résumé are concerning. It shows that he may not be malleable to any given situation when the pressure is turned up. He's just coasting by on unemployment checks. Issa is the one lifting the emotional and financial burden in this relationship. She's carrying Lawrence while he's waiting around for greatness to come. For a moment, it seems like he'll double down on this perspective after he gets a pep talk from his friend at the bank. But it's more so a wake up call to the true reality of his life and his dynamic with Issa. He can't just sit around and wait for great things to happen. He needs to keep working. He needs to keep striving to be better as both an employee and a boyfriend. Issa has the same realization. She needs to be more considerate of Lawrence and face up to her own failings. It's because of their willingness to do so that makes them an endearing couple by the end of this episode.

Elsewhere, Molly is striving for perfection as well. She has her standards for what kind of relationship she wants and how black women should act at her workplace. Just because those are what she strives for doesn't make them good for the rest of the people in her situation. She has a good thing going with Jared right now. She's complained a lot about guys not being interested in a relationship. She and Jared are straightforward with their feelings for one another. She even has him meet her friends. They all love him. He is more than able to handle his own with this group of people. And yet, Jared isn't the type of guy Molly wants to be dating. He isn't a college-educated black men. This show opens such an interesting and refreshing discussion about that. Having a college degree is so important to the characters on Insecure. It's what has brought success and opportunities to Issa, Molly and Lawrence. It's how they function. It's how they see themselves being able to get ahead in life. It's a good thing to them. College wasn't for Jared. Learning that detail is enough for Molly to hit the brakes on this potential relationship. She ruins it before it even has a chance to develop.

Molly's view of the world isn't always the greatest either. She has succeeded at her law firm. She has carved a path for herself that has given her respect and appreciation. Her bosses notice her and the strong work she does. She is an asset within the company. And yet, it is still a big deal when one of the new interns is a black woman. She hopes to become a mentor figure of sorts. She is turned off by the personality this new woman, Rashida, puts on with her colleagues though. Molly says something about it only to realize Rashida isn't looking to change. She has succeeded in life by being the person she is. She's not going to change because another black woman is offended by what she does. Molly is just going to have to live with it. Not all of black culture is the same. There are differences out there that should be highlighted. Not everyone should be expected to be the same way. That may be tough for Molly to take. It's good advice that she should apply to her dating life. Jared may not be what she wants but he could be great for her. Instead, she's chasing a new opportunity by going on dates with college-educated black man from a new elite dating site. It's something she has wanted and has finally been accepted into. That clouds her judgment in all regards. It could bring her happiness. Or it could only further highlight just how high her standards really are.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Racist as F**k" was written by Dayna Lynne North and directed by Melina Matsoukas.
  • That couch montage is crucial in showing just how much Issa and Lawrence's relationship has changed over the years. This couch has been through it all. That's what makes it poignant when they throw it away in the end. It's the closing of one chapter and the start of something new.
  • Issa isn't the only woman of color at the non-profit. But the other one assimilates into the white culture. She is able to be embraced into that world fairly easily. She doesn't relate to Issa even though she wants to be included in the praise after all is done.
  • It's pretty funny when Molly praises these tacos that she gets for herself and Issa and then Issa just immediately drops it on the ground. And then, Issa just leaves the party early without spending a whole lot of time with Jared like Molly asks. It's a good thing this friendship is strong though.
  • Frieda is still just the awkward co-worker of Issa's at the non-profit. She says weird things out loud and only sometimes realizes that she does it. Though the offer to get drinks does seem genuine and could open the door to a real friendship.
  • Hey, it's White Josh from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as a colleague at Molly's firm. He doesn't do much but he may become important later on this season.
  • Issa's co-worker: "Why don't more of them swim?" Issa: "Slavery."