She had me at “I’m awkward.” Such a simple admission -- such a reflection of a significant amount of self-awareness on the speaker’s part. J, the protagonist in Issa Rae’s “The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl,” uttered this phrase at the end of the insanely hilarious web series’ first episode. I was hooked by the fourth episode, during which she and her Indian co-worker, CeCe, invoked Nettie and Celie in a game of The Color Purple-esque patty cake at a staff meeting, in honor of their budding interracial friendship.
After the fifth episode, I went on an unsuccessful iTunes virtual hunt for the Doublemint Twins’ “Booty Shawts,” from the MABG soundtrack. There is much to love about this show, beyond J’s frackin’ funny internal monologues that morph into soliloquies, and the classic, clever one-liners woven into each scene. Case in point: there’s a completely random reference to The Mystery Team, which -- from a personal perspective -- provides much appreciated assurance that I’m not sole black body guilty of adding that flick to my Netflix que...and enjoying, rather immensely, its simultaneously slick and uncouth humor.
Rae’s show is a refreshingly cathartic addition to a narrow public discourse on black woman-ness that considers few descriptors, and perpetuates a debilitatingly limited definition of beauty -- one encapsulated in Weezy and crew’s unending fascination with the “long-haired, thick, red-boned” among our ilk. It’s also complex -- problematic, even -- particularly around issues of queer identity. Yet, J’s voice is just as relevant as that of Lucille Clifton and as resonant as those of other black woman warriors who appeal to our more intellectual and political selves. It adds another chapter to the collective narrative of black womanhood, and functions as a reminder that we all want to be known, seen, valued, and, oy vey, loved for our authentic selves. And our authentic selves are a little weird -- from time to time. And richly textured -- all the time.
In ten-minute-or-so increments, J demonstrates the versatile, dynamic, and multi-faceted nature inherent to personality, giving us permission to laugh with and at ourselves. Most importantly, perhaps, she offers legions of old, young, and somewhere in-between black women more reason to embrace ourselves, and announce our weirdness -- and smartness and silliness and fickleness and mightiness and loveliness -- to the world, while harboring neither hesitation nor apology. Yes, my Liberator friends, I’m the proprietor of multiple selves -- several stories threaded together by a solitary unifying theme. Yes, I’m awkward. Although -- just FYI -- I prefer the less loaded, less judgy, term, “quirky.”
Interview with Issa Rae; Writer, Star and Producer of Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
(SOURCE: Black Girl With Long Hair)
First off, how did you come up with the idea of doing a web series about being black, female and awkward? So many black women instinctively know that they’re awkward, but few think to express it in media.
I: I came up with the idea a couple of years ago just from my own “secret” thoughts and experiences with people. It was during a time when I was frustrated with the black female characters I was seeing in the media and I realized that this “awkward” character hadn’t really been explored or portrayed in anything I’d ever seen. I feel like social awkwardness is universal and I thought it would be funny to portray it from the POV of an awkward black girl.
Are any of the awkward events taken from your own life? Is there a real-life Fred, D, J, Nina or Cece?
I: It’s definitely an exaggerated version of my life. There isn’t a real life Fred, D or Nina in my life currently, but they’ve all existed at one point in my life, whether middle school, high school or college. CeCe is based on one of my real life best friends but, again, she’s an exaggerated version. The boss is a combination of encounters I’ve had with “wiggas” and overly-curious white people.
A lot of black women complain about lack of representation in the media. As someone who is actually creating a positive representation, I’m sure you have a unique perspective. How can we, as black women, go about creating media that is affirming to us?
I: I think we, as black women, need to just create the media ourselves. If you have an idea, get a crew or get your friends together and make it happen. Right now, pitching your idea to a network exec or an industry liaison just isn’t working, because they have this limited perception of black women and what they THINK black women want to see on screen. I think the web is the best way to go right now, and I’ve seen a lot of GREAT shows come off of the internet. (source/full text)