Black television has come a long way; shows like “Atlanta,” "How To Get Away With Murder," “Orange Is The New Black,” and “Black-ish” are staples for black television now. Most of these shows are good in their respectful right, but even “Orange Is The New Black” has supporting black characters.
“Black-ish,” on the other hand, is a black centered show; so, of course, it would have black characters. Last but not least, "Atlanta" is a black centered television show and great at that, but it is not female-led. While I love Donald Glover and everything he does, we needed more female-led black television.
This is coming from the 90s and 00s – the staples we had were “Martin,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” "Living Single," "Moesha," "The Parkers," “The Steve Harvey Show,” “A Different World,” “Fresh Prince Of Bel Air,” and the list goes on. We had staples for black television that are hard to surpass in any way. There are two shows on the radar at the moment that are tackling what it means to be an awkward, insecure, sex-driven black female in this world while adding a little comedy along the way.
"Insecure" is a show on HBO -- you may have heard of it, or it is probably not even close to being on your radar; however, it is a show and a force to be reckoned with. “Insecure” is a black female-led television show that stars Issa Rae as Issa, Jay Ellis as Lawrence, and Yvonne Orji as Molly. What “Insecure” does is show us the awkward, insecure lifestyle of a black girl, something we can all relate to in some way.
It shows us (black viewers) the struggles of being a black woman while doing so, we are developing a relationship with the life and situations of Molly and Issa. The soundtrack and style are prominent in the show, and they often guide light to established artists of color. The show is doing so much for black television right now.
Although, “Insecure” is a staple of black television, another show that should be on your radar is “Chewing Gum.” “Chewing Gum” is a British show set in London, and it is utterly hilarious. One of the things “Chewing “Gum” does right is provide that comedic relief in every aspect of the show.
The main star of the show, Michaela Coel who plays Tracey is a delight in every aspect. She reminds me of Issa in many ways, just younger and slightly more religious. What I love about both leading ladies is how they represent this black female-led characters, not only in the show but outside of it as well. These shows are what is making black television lit. And, by lit, I mean, some of the best television we have seen since “Martin” and “A Different World.”
“Insecure” provides that black love on television that we know and love. It shows black girls, loving black men, and it is beautiful. More importantly, we see an awkward, not so confident, black girl on screen.
We are not getting that cliché, “big butt, confident” stereotypical black girl. We have someone that is showing us that it is okay to be uncomfortable and awkward, but you just got to deal with it and be who you are. Even more importantly than that, “Insecure” is showing us hard hitting topics in between the lines.
“Insecure” touches on cheating, honesty, awkwardness (in all situations), and learning that you just got to hella go with the flow. Issa, the main character, is someone that thinks things are going to go so right, all the time, but she could not be far from wrong. Often, they go the complete opposite, and she ends up creating a bigger mess than she wanted to. Throughout season one’s seven episodes, she turns a mess into a complete tornado.
The comedic relief is what keeps you from feeling so awkward about all the situations that happen to Issa and Molly. Awkward situations that include being a black female in a white driven world. Molly is constantly in a battle with herself and her job, where predominantly white people work.
She is often battling with how she acts and putting on a “persona” so she does not look “too ghetto.” While, on the other hand, Issa is battling with her blackness while working for a school that has predominately white people working with her. They are awkward and, more often than not, say some awkward, weird things to Issa on a daily basis.
Things you would have to sit and think about if they are borderline offensive and racist or not. The battle of being a black female in the middle of a white driven world is what it awkward too. The show is centered perfectly around what it means to be a black woman. It is a constant battle with awkwardness in all situations, it just so happens Issa is terrible at pretending the awkward does not exist. Some are better at it than others. We all have a little Issa in us.
Throughout the first season, these seven episodes show Issa cheating her on faithful (so we think) boyfriend who is temporarily unemployed. It is her battle trying to figure out if she wants to stick it out with her long-term boyfriend she lives with or not.
That gets her in trouble, in more ways than one. In the first season of “Insecure” Issa treats Molly poor, that is not to say Molly was not treating Issa poorly either, but they had their fair share. This results in an awkward turn of events for their friendship.
“Insecure” is doing absolutely everything correct. It is showing a new look on black television. This is a woke black television show, but it is charismatic; and, season two does nothing but keep proving that it will stay charismatic.
Issa provides perfect dynamic for that black female awkward lead but coming from her YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl” that was expected. She, of course, would be the perfect girl for the job. So, I asked at the beginning of this, “Why “Insecure?”” Well, why not?
Why "Chewing Gum?"
While “Insecure” is providing us with that perfect black-on-black love dynamic, I am a sucker for a damn good interracial relationship dynamic. With the main character, Tracey in “Chewing Gum,” we get just that. Tracey is dating Connor, well was dating Connor…it is complicated. Her mother and sister are extremely religious, and this is based strictly on her real life as well as she has stated in interviews.
While her mom and sister are extremely religious that leaves Tracey wanting more, and questions like, “What is sex like?” Since she never had it, never made-out with anyone, never even touch a guy – she battles with her yearn for sexual advantages.
Her first boyfriend and long-term relationship at the start of season one is a bust. However, she does not know that because love blinds her. In reality, is a homosexual – we, as watchers, know this right off the bat.
This dynamic continues and finishes off season one of the show – somewhere in the middle she meets Connor, and they have a cute, but short-lasting relationship. You will laugh entirely too much watching this show, Coel plays an enjoyable part in being that over-the-top eccentric black girl. There is even a moment in season two, episode two titled, "Replacement" where she is dating a white man named Ashley; and, he is unaware, but he is fetishizing her..sort of.
Ashley thinks it is entirely rational, and this is the way he is, but, as watchers, we can see it from a mile away. That leads Tracey to put on an incredible African costume and chanting for this guy; which, is an utterly hilarious scene.
There is even a point in the episode where Ashley asks, "Where are you from?" Tracey thinking he is asking where she resides or did reside says, "London." The guy proceeds to ask again, "No, where are from?" This leads to Tracey saying the hospital she was born at, without realizing the guy is hinting for her to say, Africa or another place that indicates she is "black-black."
A few moments later he makes a comment about her boobs saying, "Your tits are so gorgeous. They are so black." What makes this scene entirely too funny is the fact that Ashley has children by another black woman. Instead, she is more on the "conservative side" appearing as she works as a lawyer of some sort. His line "I have never been with a black girl before" is not the first time it has been used as his previous significant other indicates.
The scene following this is one of my favorites. The entire time Ashley was not actually "fetishizing" her. I mean, he was, but in a weird way. He is just a white guy who likes the African-American culture. It is entirely way too funny how it is played out, and it is one of my favorite episodes to date.
Throughout the show, you will soon realize you are addicted to the life of the main character. From her being kicked out of her mom’s house from her escapades to living with her best friend, Candice and her boyfriend, to residing in a homeless shelter with Connor, it is a full-blown mess. However, what is a mess without some laughs? That is exactly how I would describe “Chewing Gum.” A wonderful black female-led, taking television by storm.
These two shows, in particular, are written by these wonderful black main characters. Similar to “Insecure,” Coel’s mother makes all of the outfits in the show “Chewing Gum.” In the same light that “Insecure” is giving black artists a chance, Coel is showing off her mom’s fantastic clothing just the same. These black females are using their platform to bring light to black art. That is purely enjoyable.
What Does This Mean For Black Girls?
This means a whole lot more than just “good television.” This means we can finally, relate to a character – not just because they are black, but because they are talking about things that relate to us.
We have come a long way in black television, and even more so in black female-led television. These shows are really, and I mean really, bringing to light quality television. It is not some “stereotypical” reality show or anything – it is real.
These black females like Issa and Coel are writing these shows based on experience; based on what they know and what they dealt with. That is what makes these shows so special for black girls. We, finally, have something that we can relate to.
Every aspect of it, not just one part or certain parts. These two shows deliver exactly what it means to be a black girl, whether that be awkward, sexual, or confident. We experience it all between these six to seven episodes. I could not be happier with where black television is going.
Where Can We Watch These TV Shows?
These incredible TV shows can be caught on Netflix and HBO. While “Insecure” releases one episode each on HBO (like a regular TV show) – “Chewing Gum” releases all at one time on Netflix. It is a British show so in America we only have the ability to watch it on Netflix. I am unsure if it comes on television in the U.K.
Even if you are POC or not, please give these shows a watch. This is not just for black girls, but, I want to explain how exciting it is for black girls to be able to have these shows. Anyone can watch these shows, and I would advise anyone to watch them, they are quality television.
...And, hey, you may just learn something.