What Insecure Means to Me as an Inglewood Native
The release of Insecure's fourth season came while simultaneously isolating due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and fighting in a modern civil rights movement. I put off watching the finale as long as I could, because it's one of my favorite shows and a bright spot for me lately. The important discussion on mental health and the very dramatic, unexpected ending inadvertently got me thinking about other reasons why I'd miss the show so much, and what made me a fan in the first place: the personal and positive portrayal of Inglewood and South Los Angeles.
Not only did I feel represented and understood as a young Black woman, but where I was from was finally being shown in a beautiful way.
Before the show premiered in 2016, the area was usually portrayed in film and TV as a violent 'hood. Back then, it had been a really long time since anything mainstream was made in Inglewood, and Issa Rae's showcasing of my hometown was a breath of fresh air that the city needed. Of course, Inglewood would always have movies like Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, and Baby Boy — forever classics to our community — but this time was different. Not only did I feel represented and understood as a young Black woman, but where I was from was finally being shown in a beautiful way. LA being featured without b-roll of the Hollywood sign anywhere in sight was and is refreshing — especially as a native.
With the show's progression (and renewal for another season!) Rae's character Issa Dee is still the awkward Black girl from Inglewood, CA (same), but she evolves from struggling to figure out what she wants to making moves that will get her closer to her to her goals (same). Although I moved to San Francisco to do this, Rae showing a young woman going through this very normal stage of life while residing in South LA is extremely important; I hadn't seen that on screen before. Not only do I see the places I'd been and passed every day growing up on television, but I see the city portrayed in the way that I'd always viewed it myself.
In Insecure, South Los Angeles is a place where you can get things done, have fun with your friends, and be with your family — it's normal! It isn't just a gang-ridden neighborhood as so often shown on TV and usually the only time it's mentioned outside of local news. Each time a new season is released it only reminds me of my home, actively changing and growing along with the larger area over the years. Flashing through Slauson Ave and watching characters walk down Market Street was a treat I'd never expected to see on HBO or anywhere on TV apart from documentaries about riots and music artists.
"I wanted to display the neighborhood that I grew up in," Issa Rae told POPSUGAR back in 2016. "I just wanted to show my neighborhood and my part of LA is just as sexy as Beverly Hills or Hollywood."
The show's success has brought a spotlight for others to see the city's greatness as well. Insecure has brought more customers to local businesses, showcased many local artists, and I even see tour buses driving around from time to time. Mentions of Stuff I Eat, Hilltop Coffee and Kitchen, and The Savoy nightclub (and not shying away from the gentrification that's slowly progressing) make the show truly authentic and clear that an Inglewood native created the show, which means a great deal to Inglewood viewers.
Rae created a show that discusses Black love, Black friendship, and Black mental health in a very real way. Has it been done before? I guess to an extent. But it's never been done in my own city and not with a main character that I could directly relate to. Shedding light on real-life problems and showing that important discussions don't only happen in Sex and The City or Friends is important for the Black community and has allowed the show to often be referred to as this generation's Girlfriends.
Positive images of Black people are essential, especially now, and Insecure is the show that fits the bill — but it means a little bit more when you're a Black girl from Inglewood.