Insecure's Beyoncé Complex: "Shady as F—" Reveals the Pros and Cons of Romantic Drama

(Episode 1.05)

TV Features Insecure
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<i>Insecure</i>'s Beyoncé Complex: "Shady as F&#8212;" Reveals the Pros and Cons of Romantic Drama

Every week, critic Hari Ziyad breaks down the mechanics of a particularly excellent Insecure scene, joke or character. This week, it’s all about character versus caricature.

A friend recently pointed out that, for better or for worse, Insecure is beginning to feel a lot like Beyoncé’s discography. Both bodies of work are absorbing immersions in the lives of Black women, which racism and sexism often allow the rest of us to overlook. But as compelling as they are, they revolve mainly around just one aspect of those lives: romantic relationships.

I love Beyoncé. I’m an unofficial member of the Beyhive. I have a Google Alert set for the next time she drops a surprise album in the middle of the night and snatches the world’s collective lace-front. I went out of my way to bombard Ann Coulter with bee emojis when she confused Beyoncé with Nicki Minaj in a laughably bad (and laughably white) attempt to smear Hillary Clinton by association. But I also know that people’s lives are more than the problems between them and the people they sleep with, even if those problems are real as fuck. Like, “Trying not to let the fact that all relationships ultimately seem to fail and make you feel like a failure in turn,” real as fuck.

By midway through “Shady as F—,” I found myself rolling my eyes at a situation I know all too well. Molly invites Chris—a guy she met on an exclusive dating app and for whom she left her previous, college degree-less fling—to her coworker’s engagement party, and he reluctantly obliges. Before the event, he texts to let her know that he is working late and that she should go to the party without him, leaving the over-eager Molly defeated.

After she arrives at the party alone, embarrassed when people predictably begin interrogating Molly about her dating life, Chris surprises her by showing up anyway, and for once it seems things are going Molly’s way. He even calls her his girlfriend in public.

As anyone who’s ever dated can attest, these magical moments are rarely as good as they seem, and as soon as Molly gets Chris alone and asks if he was serious, he acknowledges that all of his actions were done out of pity. “I just got the sense that, and don’t take this the wrong way,” he confesses, “You really needed a win.” And because Molly can’t ever seem to win in love, like Issa and the Beyoncé we know through her music—and me—I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, even when I empathized deeply with that feeling of disappointment.

But it’s moments like these that make Insecure—and Beyoncé—so great, even when you find yourself exhausted by their romantic drama. Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore have been able to capture everyday relationship moments in such a real and often humorous way that you can’t help coming back for more, even when you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Molly is still jealous of her partnered friends and falling victim to her own dating standards. Issa is still stuck in a love triangle with Lawrence and Daniel. Jidenna is still fine as hell in the most inexplicably annoying way. And here I am, laughing and loving it and continuing to find something refreshing in each episode.

I watched Lemonade about five times, and each batch was different. Even recognizing it wasn’t necessarily for me, as someone who is not a Black woman, could not obscure the profundity of its many layers. And perhaps Insecure isn’t for me, either. There’s certainly something said for a series that’s unapologetically centered on Black women. Still, I can’t help but wonder what else is going on in Issa and Molly’s lives, or wishing Insecure would explore how Issa got into rap and Molly became a lawyer. I can’t help wondering about their family and histories. Perhaps these will be subjects for the series down the line. Or maybe I should just watch OWN’s Queen Sugar for that sort of thing, and take this one for what it is. After all, Solange’s A Seat At The Table gave me everything her sister’s Lemonade did not: It’s their differences that give each their strengths.

In the meantime, I want to acknowledge the important fact that I’m finally getting to the point where dating isn’t just about winning and losing, and my life isn’t just about dating. It took me a long time to get here, but Lord, does it feel good to leave the likes of Chris in the past.

Hari Ziyad is a Brooklyn-based storyteller and the Editor-in-Chief of RaceBaitR. Their work has been featured on Gawker, Out, Ebony, Mic, The Guardian, Colorlines, Black Girl Dangerous, Young Colored and Angry, The Feminist Wire and The Each Other Project. They are also an assistant editor for Vinyl Poetry & Prose and a contributing writer for Everyday Feminism.