As Insecure, the multi-award-winning series which has captivated so many of us since 2016 comes to an end, Esther Oluga shares lessons we should all takeaway from the final series.
Five years ago, Insecure, HBO’s comedy-drama based on Issa Rae’s web series, Awkward Black Girl, quickly became a hit among viewers who couldn’t get enough of watching the show’s neurotic but authentic characters as they loved, worked, supported and betrayed each other, all through the lens of the contemporary Black experience.
After five seasons of cinematic excellence with Black skin beautifully lit and challenging, polarizing storylines [Team Issa / Team Lawrence anyone?] it’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but as we have come to expect, in the final series, Issa Rae gave us a finale that many of us loved, questioned and challenged. We’re reminded of this quote from Ava Duvernay, another brilliant film maker: “When I write a screenplay, I create an emotional map, where the characters are, where they’re going and where they’ve been.” Even if we forget the details of the storyline, Issa Rae gave us characters that will stay with us, especially Black women who have been robbed of seeing ourselves on screen.
So, to honour the legacy that is Insecure and perhaps to give inspiration for tackling the year ahead, read on for some of the lessons the Insecure season finale left us with.
Spoiler Alert: Includes spoilers for Insecure Season 5 episode 10!
Vulnerability is often at the other end of receiving love
Molly teaches us that perfection is not a prerequisite for love, vulnerability is. In Season 4, we saw Molly’s insecurities play a part in destroying her relationships with her boyfriend, and Issa Dee (that shady text scene…awkward). From then, we start to see Molly introspectively assess the role she played in her relationships deteriorating which led to her becoming less controlling, condescending, and more vulnerable. Fast forward to the finale, we see the beauty of this growth manifested when she tells Taurean in a pantry store, that she’s afraid he’ll get tired of her, and he reassures her. This is a reminder that where safety is felt and vulnerability is welcome, love can be an incredible thing.
Confrontation can be disruptive, but doesn’t have to be the end of a friendship
Friends grow and change, and when mutual respect is present it can help us grow through hurdles. Molly and Issa’s friendship was the ultimate romance story. It was a reminder that romantic relationships aren’t the only place we can receive love and fulfilment. In the finale ending, when Molly says to Issa “Thank you for loving me, even when I was me”, this raw moment was a reminder that friendships go through growing pains, but where there is mutual love and respect from both parties, friendship can be healing. Despite the turbulence each character faced in the finale, friendship was the only consistent thing. Like Issa Rae told Gayle King in 2016, “Black women are the best thing to ever happen to my life”. We see the appreciation and importance of how friendship amongst Black women can be a saving grace for us to heal and grow, if we invest in them.
Know when to give up
Giving up on a situation can be the best step you need to redirect your life to the path you desire. When Nathan says “This ain’t good for me…I need to take a step back”, we see him choose himself and what served his mental health. Know when you’re out of your depth, and when something isn’t serving you. When Nathan said he couldn’t carry on with the drama of their relationship, Issa doesn’t fight it she says “OK”. Sometimes there’s nothing to fight for, and bowing out gracefully is the best choice, especially when you know your heart isn’t fully in it.
Sometimes your presence is all that a friend requires
We often offer relentless advice when we want to ease the pain of a friend, but sometimes listening is enough. We’ve seen a lot of growth from Molly – something that didn’t seem possible after her train wreck moments in Season 4. By Season 5 we saw Molly simply show up for her friend after the horrible break up with Nathan, rather than being condescending. This was a contrast to Molly in Season 4, who had to learn that she had to respect Issa’s choices and boundaries even if she didn’t agree with them, something that she was terrible at in former seasons.
Network with your peers
Insecure is special because it imitates real life. In an interview, the creator of Insecure, Issa Rae, stressed the importance of networking horizontally when building projects versus going for the top dogs. We see the example of this with Kelli in the finale, who experienced the greatest career growth. We saw her help Molly’s parents set up their wills, something that Molly had struggled to do. Then in the finale, we saw Molly push for Kelli to establish a new estate division in her law firm. Not only does this highlight the importance of ownership, but the importance of networking with your peers, and extending the ladder once you get up. Once again, friendship saves the day in the finale.
Life is unpredictable and what we pray for doesn’t always come in the package we ask for
When Issa asks Molly “when did life get so real” after her mother’s death, Molly responds, “you can make all the plans you want, but there’s always gonna be some shit” and she wasn’t wrong. We saw Issa end and begin a new relationship, Molly suffers a tragic loss but gains the love of her life, Kelli’s career blows up and she goes from being single to being pregnant with the love of her life. The finale felt rushed, like several strands of story lines were being wrapped up, but that’s life – it doesn’t wait for us, so the best thing we can do is adapt, grow and appreciate each moment.
Change doesn’t mean you have to lose the essence of who you are
A lot of us fell in love with Issa Rae, from the creation of the online series, ‘The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl’, a character that many Black girls could relate to but was somehow excluded from the films that claimed to portray us. She stayed loyal to representing Black girls and women who were used to not seeing themselves from the mainstream characters. From the broken pussy song in Episode 1, to the catchy “wine juice” mantra, Issa grows as an individual but is still the same quirky awkward person who comes up with random melodies in the most awkward of situations. We saw Issa grow and the writers dismissed the idea that you have to change the essence of who you are to grow as an individual.
Take risks – Be okay with finding out
As Tiffany said in this season, the right decision doesn’t need to make sense to others but to you. When Issa finally chose Lawrence, it was a big moment for us as viewers and Issa – it was the first time she made a decision that worked for her. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers, or we’re scared of what the future holds, but sometimes being okay with finding out where things go is a place to start.
Passion is the driving force of our lives
In Molly’s wedding we see all the bridesmaids – Tiffany, Issa, Kelli – wear red, then we see Issa in red when celebrating her birthday with Lawrence and his son. Red is the colour of blood – the life force that drives and connects us to passion – and it is quite something that we see Issa in red, symbolising that she’s found her passion in her career, love life.