My ancestors were enslaved. Enslaved people were taught to believe that slavery was their place. They were supposed to be owned by White people, but their situation was not entirely hopeless because of one of the most dangerous words in the English language. IF. If they were good, obedient slaves, then they should go to Heaven and have an everlasting vacation from toil. Once the enslaved population was freed, racism and bigotry against them persisted. Once again their situation could be lightened by “IF.” In 1895 Booker T. Washington suggested that if we “cast down our bucket where we are” and do what we can where we can, we should eventually be treated as equals in this foreign land.
Well…That may have worked for some, but not all. Black Americans, no matter how upstanding we may be as individuals are still discriminated against as a collective. To cope with that bleak reality, we clothe our souls with ifs and shoulds. If I go to school, I should get a good job. If I get a good job, I should be financially stable. If I get my finances together, I should find the right person. If I find the right person, I should settle down. If I settle down, I should be happy. Right?
The second episode of Insecure “Hella Questions” dives deep into respectability politics and magical thinking. As Molly is talking with her therapist, she noticeably frames her statements with ifs and shoulds. Both words are conditional. The speaker has no control, but is ruled by circumstance. Molly is practicing magical thinking: when we believe what we want will influence the external world as opposed to accepting things as they are. Can Molly accept the harsh reality that her White, male colleagues will never accept her as their equal no matter how hard she works or how many hockey games she attends?
At Tiffany’s art show, Issa embellishes (LIES ABOUT) her situation with Lawrence. She doesn’t mention the five stroke wonder as simply sex. She portrays their exchange as a meaningful conversation about the future of their relationship. She is positive that they will reunite soon, therefore, she is not interested in going to a bar this weekend. If Issa and Lawrence can put the past behind them, they should be able to reconcile their relationship.
Tiffany can relate to Issa’s sentiments. She has done some magical thinking of her own. She starts, but abruptly stops sharing her struggles with her husband Derrick. We get the idea that he may have been unfaithful and lived half of the year in a hotel. None of that matters. If Tiffany and Derrick can put the past behind them, they should be happy.
Tiffany and Issa’s willful ignorance is reflected in the Teedra Moses song “You Better Tell Her,” which is featured in this episode. The speaker knows that her man is cheating, but ignores the details.
I don’t give a damn what’s real, what’s fake
What’s truth, what’s lies
See darling I don’t feel it’s relevant to me
The details are reality and the speaker is quite comfortable in the world of magical thinking. Because at the end of the day “I know whose name is on the account.”
But why? Why are the details of no concern? Why is Issa lying to her friends about Lawrence’s visit? Why is Tiffany trying to portray a perfect marriage? Validation. Black women are constantly looking for validation to combat the negative stereotypes that we try to disprove every second of our existence. Molly wants to join the boys’ club to prove she is capable. Issa wants Lawrence back to prove she is lovable. Tiffany needs her marriage to work to prove she is Claire Huxtable and Vivian Banks simultaneously.
When we peel back the magic, the truth is Issa and Lawrence may never get back together. Molly will never be a boy in the boys’ club. Tiffany and Derrick need counseling. The truth is it’s a lot more fun being Peggy Bundy.
By the end of the episode, Molly talks to Hannah about her career and gets much more positive feedback. Molly is transitioning from the world of “IF” and “should.”
Issa also comes to the realization that Lawrence may not return. She symbolically moves her clothes to Lawrence’s side of the closet. Then, lays in the middle of the bed, a slight gesture that acknowledges she is the only one sleeping there.
SZA’s song “Supermodel” plays during this final scene. The speaker in this song mirrors Issa’s feelings. She reluctantly faces the reality that her relationship was temporary. Yet, she is not comfortable with this realization. If given the chance, she would be his supermodel. She still needs his love, his forgiveness, his acceptation, his validation. She laments “I wish I could be comfortable just with myself, but I need you.” She still craves his attention and affection. The void is large and deep. How can she fill it? We’ll have to tune in Sunday to see.
What was your favorite moment from this episode that I did not mention? Comment below and as always like, follow, and share.