BLACK VOICES
09/02/2018 11:00 pm ET Updated Sep 04, 2018

‘Insecure’ And The Glow Up: How The Show Lets Black Women See Themselves

The HBO show is at its best when it’s regular and drama-free. Season 3, Episode 4 might be the series’ greatest achievement yet.

“Hey mirror bitch, you lookin real clean, you lookin real bad, you lookin like a queen,” Issa raps in her first full freestyle of Season 3.

The Issa we know and love is back.  

There’s something normal about the latest episode of “Insecure.” Issa is going through the motions — she’s moving into her new apartment, where she’ll be property manager. She’s digging through old belongings while drinking cognac with Molly. She’s saying goodbye to things that no longer serve a purpose.

Those goodbyes slowly trickle into parts of Issa’s past she has yet to reckon with. She runs into Nathan, the fine countryman from the Party Lyft, at the taco spot she told him about. She plays hooky from work and spends the day with him, giving the Houston-native a tour of black Los Angeles. With Nathan, Issa sees a chance to get shit off her chest. She finally admits that she was wrong for cheating on Lawrence, reveals how her parents’ divorce when she was a teen affected her and realizes that she doesn’t have to continue to be unhappy at We Got Y’all.

Throughout the episode, something beautiful happens: Issa begins to finally open her eyes and realize that she doesn’t have to stay comfortable with where she is at in her life. She can shake things up and, most importantly, she can break free from her oppressive job. She can do what she wants.

On this edition of “Run That Back,” Taryn Finley and Julia Craven discuss purging your life of things that no longer serve a purpose, how hoods down South look different than city hoods. and the beauty of seeing black skin in water. 

***

Taryn: Season 3, Episode 4 is hands down my favorite episode of “Insecure.” Period.

Julia: Same, actually. I really liked how regular and drama-free it was. It was also refreshing to see Issa finish her glow up from Episode 3. Sometimes shows bog down on the drama too much, but it was nice to see the episode step back and isolate Issa from it. We also learned more about her background!

Taryn: I was genuinely overjoyed when this episode opened with her freestyling in the mirror. I really missed that. When you’ve been so far away from who you know yourself to be, it’s everything to get that reintroduction. Issa is finally seeing herself again and fully appreciating it.

Julia: Yessssss and I love it when black women see themselves! It was nice to see that the turmoil and upheaval was coming to an end ― or at least slowing down ― for Issa.

Taryn: I know we live for mess on our screens but levity is so important. In this episode, we see Issa finally opening her eyes. This move was really good for her. And I have a feeling that this is Issa’s butterfly moment.

Issa moves into her new home and says goodbye to Daniel, possibly for the last time.
HBO
Issa moves into her new home and says goodbye to Daniel, possibly for the last time.

Julia: It also seems like this is the end of Daniel? It felt like he may be gone for good ― especially when Molly closed the door and said bye. Good symbolism in there.

Taryn: I thought that, too, at first. But I think this isn’t the last time we see him this season. I think he’ll come back around like raggedy exes tend to when you’re trying to mind your business and move on. I think there will definitely be a Mercury retrograde moment. But I think she won’t be so quick to go back to him like she’s done in the past. We’re finally gonna see her learn from her mistakes and make better decisions. (I hope, at least.)

Julia: Here’s to hope.

I also want to see more of Trina.

Taryn: Trina and them damn squirrels, bruh. She had my ass listening close like one was bout to pop outta the ceiling. Idk how Issa is gonna handle her. Godspeed, sis.

Julia: Trina was high as all hell.

***

Molly is still trying to recover from last episode’s fallout at work. She’s cut off by a male colleague in the firm’s morning meeting and runs into two women co-workers by the coffee machine. After an awkward back and forth, they open up to her about the dude who spoke over her being a jerk. Her therapist encourages her to see how she can be helpful at work as opposed to worrying about her status. Molly tries, but when she signs on to help the ladies out with a case, she ditches them the minute she has an opportunity to get closer to the firm’s partners.

Taryn: Molly know she wrong for showing up to her broke friend’s house in a Versace shirt.

Julia: And Molly was very wrong for that shirt but 100 percent correct when she told Issa to Marie Kondo her life. You can’t have a new you when you holding on to all this old ass shit ― especially shit from former relationships. Let it all go bbygrl.

Taryn: I’m glad Molly told her she needs to do a total purge. She really does. Holding onto shit from Season 1 when she was comfortable, yet unfulfilled. They give each other such great advice so it just makes me really frustrated when they make dumb decisions.

Julia: Incredibly. One thing I do think she should keep are her old rap journals but the CDs Lawrence made you six years ago? No. Throw them away.

Taryn: I think she should keep at least one of her Zane books, too. But that’s just me.

Julia: Nobody in the 2018th year of our Lord is still reading Zane books.

Taryn: That don’t mean you can’t keep em for memories. She had some good plot development in those books.

Julia: Taryn.

Taryn: Maybe she needs to lend them to Molly. She clearly needs something.

Julia: Granted, I throw everything away. Books. CDs. People. It’s all gotta go if it’s serving no positive purpose.

Taryn: It’s weird to see her stuck in this place where she has everything she asked for but is still unhappy with how things panned out. When she’s in bed by herself, I can’t tell if she misses Dro or just misses companionship in general (probably a little of both).

Julia: Her situation reminds me of something my therapist told me: “If you don’t change the way you see yourself, you’ll never lose enough weight.” But you can swap “lose enough weight” for anything including ― “find a better job.” Molly’s interest in attaining rank over teamwork has always baffled me. I know it correlates to her ambition, but she’s more focused on where she sits rather than where she stands.

Taryn: Or a better partner. Or even a better attitude. Molly gotta switch it up cause she’s self-loathing at this point.

Exactly. Molly was probably one of the kids in school who was always on top. Best grades, best outfits, best after-school programs, popular, probably in Jack & Jill. I think the praise she gets from being on top outweighs actually being on top, for her. Life’s a competition in her eyes. But what she doesn’t totally get is that she can be competitive in a healthy way without making everything a match.

I also think that since her love life isn’t going how she wants it to right now, she’s pouring herself into work in ways that feel very forced. I’m not even sure if she’s healed from the hurt she faced late last season when she found out her dad cheated on her mom. I think we’re still seeing residuals from that pain in this season.

Julia: Molly, like so many people, doesn’t heal or give herself the space to. It’s really sad. And when she isn’t being praised, she doesn’t know how to value and worship herself.

Taryn: And like so many of us, when she doesn’t feel like life is going her way, she channels all of her energy into work. I’d really love to see her take a step back and give herself time to adjust, but she’s really a control freak and work is one think she feels she can manipulate to go her way.

Julia: Right. And instead of aligning herself with the women in the office she still wants to sit with the boys ― which is fine! But you can’t have all your eggs scattered in all these baskets. Like, don’t promise your colleagues that you’ll help them but then ditch them to help the dude who’s closest to the partner.

Taryn: From jump, you could tell that Taurean was full of himself. He literally cut off Molly while she was talking in the meeting to get his point across ― which I’d unfortunately expect from a man, but once they said he went to Morehouse, it made even more sense. She’s more intrigued with cozying up with those she perceives to be in the winners circle than sitting with those who seem genuine and could probably teach her a thing or two.

I want Molly to have more black women in her life who know better so it really upset me when she snubbed Felecia and Stacy.

Julia: Same especially when she knows that typically black women only have each other.

Taryn: Right. The self-sabotage just continues. It’s hard to watch. I really need her to stop omitting truths in her therapy sessions. The fact that she finally has a good relationship with her therapist yet she didn’t tell her about Dro was a red flag. Usually what you can’t open up to your therapist about is what you’re afraid to admit to yourself.

Julia: BOOOP!

HBO

 ****

While she’s out grabbing lunch, Issa runs into Nathan. He startles her and causes her to drop her taco. They laugh, and he buys her another one. The wait is an hour because of course it is. So she takes him on a tour of black Los Angeles. She shows him her favorite bookshop, a store where he can buy a Kente cloth, The Jungles and her childhood home. Throughout it all, they play a game of Truth or Dare which prompts Issa to admit that it’s her fault things fell apart with Lawrence and reveal how her parents’ divorce stunted her emotionally.  

Later, as a dare, Nathan challenges Issa to break into her childhood home. She unlocks the gate seamlessly — seeing how she used to, you know, live there — and takes him to the backyard pool. She dares him to jump in naked. He does and she follows. The water is cold, yet somehow she manages to tell Nathan how she used to rap. It spirals into a conversation about how he left Houston and everything he knew behind after Hurricane Harvey to follow his dreams. She responds with how much she hates her job and how she wants to do something with music. Issa begins to doubt herself before Nathan stops her and tells her to “make that shit happen.”

Julia: My fave part of the episode though was when Nathan popped back up and went on a lil day date with Issa.

Taryn: The hopeless romantic in me jumped right out. Nathan is such a sweetheart even though he made her drop her salmon taco, which sounds good af. Also, I refuse to believe Issa is that clumsy. I also refuse to believe that one taco would fill her up. She playin.

But for real, I loved every bit of Issa’s day with Nathan because it felt so pure. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Issa this free (figuratively and literally). Throughout this entire episode, Issa revisited things from the past (her old raps, her childhood, her infidelity) and with Nathan she was able to look at acknowledge the good times and the fuck ups. The way she showed Nathan around her stomping grounds made it clear that this episode was a love letter to LA. But also, it was a love letter to Issa’s glow up. She’s finally able to fall in love with the person she is now and move onto higher levels.

Julia: One taco is not enough. I appreciated how much we got to know about Issa’s background and that she finally admitted that she fucked things up with Lawrence by cheating instead of breaking up with him. It’s true growth to just say “I cheated and he didn’t deserve that.”

And this episode was specifically a love letter to black LA.

Taryn: Why do you think she was able to be so open with Nathan?

Julia: I think the stakes are low with him. She’s attracted to him but doesn’t know him and could cut ties with him at any second. And he doesn’t know her before this new growth. No baggage.

Taryn: I’m interested in seeing where this goes. Nathan is in LA (really Burbank) cause he needed a fresh start after Hurricane Harvey. She I think it’s interesting that he crosses paths with Issa who probably needs a fresh start more than anyone. I mean, she played hooky to spend the day with this man. I think she finally started to recognize the necessity of switching shit up for her own sake, too.

Julia: I also love how Nathan is pushing her out of her comfort zone already and that he peeped game and encouraged her to quit her job so that she could follow her dreams. I shouted when he said, “Sometimes you just gotta go for it even when it don’t make sense to anybody else.”

Taryn: I also like how it wasn’t framed in a savior kind of way. Like you know how a lot of shows bring in men to save women? This wasn’t that. He was a fresh perspective that Issa was already being pushed towards in a way that encouraged her to take that leap. If anything, Nathan is a reminder for Issa to not get comfortable in her discomfort like she’s used to doing.

Julia: YES!!!! I loved that it wasn’t some male savior bullshit too. It’s refreshing to see a show introduce a new male character but not have him be Captain Save A Hoe. Plus, Issa just got rid of a guy like that (Daniel), so it’s nice to see her romantic interests lining up with the overall life direction she’s taking.

I also wanna add that Southerners love to talk about how hood they are until they visit a hood in a big city lmao.

Taryn: He shut his ass up when that nigga threw a can at him in The Jungles. A lot of times, Southern hood niggas are Mr. Rogers in comparison to city hood niggas. I say that as a person from a family of Midwestern hood niggas, who are lowkey the same breed as Southerners.

Julia: I wouldn’t say Mr. Rogers considering that Zone 6 is in the South.

Taryn: See, I consider Zone 6 as big city-adjacent though.

Julia: But there’s something grittier about city hoods even down South. I’m not sure what, but I am sure that I’m not running a case study to find out. When I was reporting in Orlando, I had a resident with me because 1) I know better and 2) I know better.

Taryn: I’m from Dayton though, so anything bigger than that is big city to me lol. I need somebody to sponsor this case study cause I wanna see the results.

Julia: Sis when I moved to Chapel Hill from Lexington I thought I was in big-ish place.

North Carolina, not Kentucky before anybody scratches their fucking head.

Taryn: But shoutout to trash ass Kentucky! My second home. Bellevue stand up! Actually, don’t stand up cause y’all muhfuckahs like to fly Confederate flags and shit.

Julia: I do understand what Nathan was saying though, because down South the hoods don’t look the same since poor people down South have much less money. Like, you can get by on $40k with a family whereas in D.C. or Philly or LA you cannot. At all.

Taryn: When I first visited Compton, I didn’t know I was in Compton cause it looked nicer than the projects I’m used to off Stewart St I thought shit looked luxurious. Then I heard a “SOO-WOOP!”

Julia: Exactly. Same way I’ve felt about most hoods in major cities. Obviously, that doesn’t change ANYTHING about the experience. It just looks different and, to me, it often doesn’t look as bad for lack of a much better, more articulate way to say this.

Taryn: Right!

Julia: Down South and in the Midwest, you can see the poverty. And I mean you can see it. Like in shotgun houses and shit.

Taryn: That’s a different kind of poor, bruh. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it.

Julia: The most my great-granny ever brought in a month was $800. That ain’t even half my rent. But $800/month was doable. It wasn’t easy but it could be done. In a major city???? Nah.

Taryn: Shhheeeeeeeeit. Hell no. Inflated cost of living is real. *sighs in city-broke*

Julia: I’m city and country broke.

Taryn: I’m actually just broke. Payday tomorrow and it ain’t even hitting my account. Off to my landlord it goes. Smh.

Julia: DON’T REMIND ME I JUST FUCKING PAID RENT, AND NOW IT’S DUE AGAIN.

Taryn: But back to Issa, as much as we clown sis for her awkwardness (well, I don’t clown her cause same), she bring out the sauce when she needs to. She called Nathan the wrong name THREE TIMES and still got to size up his dick in damn near the same breath. She out here objectifying men, doing God’s work. I stan.

Julia: Wipes tears. That was so beautiful. She really put him in his rightful place but also let him go outside and play when it was required.

Taryn: It really was. But forreal, it really moved me to see black people in water. I can’t really think of the last time I saw black people be able to swim freely, like fully submerge and everything.

Black people have such a dark history when it comes to swimming in America that goes back centuries. I think of the civil rights swim-in when black protesters jumped into a white-only pool in Florida and the hotel owner poured acid into the pool. I also think of Dajerria Becton who was 15 when she was literally dragged and body-slammed by a cop at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. I think of the limited access that black kids have when it comes to be able to freely swim or even learn how to in the first place. It also reminded me of a baptism, a renewal for Issa.

Maybe this scene wasn’t meant to be political, but seeing them, with just their bare bodies, swim freely made my heart sing. It was the best kind of rebellion.

SN, I just found Nathan’s IG and not only was he on Shmura, I realize I might be in love with a light skin: 

Julia: jkabchuyfdghedvshjavc. But yeah there was something very freeing about seeing them in water, swimming around. I couldn’t put my finger on it but you were able to articulate my sentiments exactly.

Taryn: And can we please talk about the Chad ad? Cause it took me out when I saw his face on that back of that bench.

Julia: That damn bluetooth bruh. Also like Chad deserved to be clowned because he was a damn clown.

Taryn: That’s the only downside to not seeing he who shalln’t be named. We lose Chad.

He really is a clown. And I miss his clown ass.

Julia: Sometimes you lose people you love in order to get to where you gotta go. That’s why we lost our Chad.

Taryn: WOW. A WORD. You so wise.

Julia: Nah, I’m just one of two muhhhfuckas in the chat, breaking all the rules. 

Taryn: I really want NathIssa to become a thing so we can get a collab.

Julia: IssaN — LMAO that’s so ugly nvm.

Taryn: ghfidhujgmkvljnfhugjdf

Julia: Also I wanted to ask you about Molly being an AKA seeing how you are a DevaSTating Diva. Can I say that? Am I allowed? I know there are rules here.

Taryn: LMAO, yes you can say that. I don’t have any strong feelings towards Molly, the AKA. Especially since I completely forgot she is one. I mean, I respect sis. She’s made a great life for herself despite her poor decisions. That’s all I’ll say on that.

Julia: I was trying to be messy. I failed. Ugh.

Taryn: I know exactly what you were trying to do lmao. But you can’t kid a kidder!

Julia: More like I can’t kid a Delta but I knew that.

Taryn: See. I knew you were wise.

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