FML. Creeper. Awkward. These are the go-to utterances of the bottom dwellers among us, the flip-cup braggarts, the BBM-addicted, remember-that-time-in-high-school-when groupthink dregs who struggle to think original thoughts, let alone communicate them. Instead of articulating how they feel, they substitute catchall buzzwords for more nuanced human emotions.
It’s not “My dad just called to tell me he’s concerned about how much I’ve been drinking and that makes me feel loved, but a little invaded too.” It’s “My dad’s being a tool. FML.” It’s never “Wow, this girl seems to be really intent upon contacting me, what with all the texts she’s sending.” It’s “Creeper. Creeper. Creeper alert. Creeper.” And, very rarely do we hear or read “This is making me uncomfortable and I’m having trouble dealing with it.” Instead, it’s almost always: “This is soooo awkward, haha.”
Of all the really dumb words, I hate “awkward” most. Its overuse has become a signifier of a crumbling American lexicon, a pernicious marker of teenage laziness and, to be honest, when I came across The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, a flag went up. I almost didn’t want to watch. The series’ title suggested a thrown-together collection of overused or semi-inside jokes, the core of a rushed up YouTube job — a sad prayer for speedy web fame. Once I got over myself and gave it a try, I realized it was anything but.
Written and created by LA based producer/director/writer/actress Issa Rae, Awkward Black Girl is great for all the reasons that embolden the anti-awkward front. It’s raw and unusual, in both narrative and cinematographic form. Awkward Black Girl pulls off a difficult marriage between the understated style of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the more boisterous, often race-driven humor of Ice Cube’s Friday or the gold-standard Chappelle’s Show.
Episodes are long and exploratory, but always funny and never without purpose. Character development, story arc, and inter-episode connective tissue is strong. Awkward Black Girl is cool because it feels uninhibited, authentic, and unafraid — the very opposite of anyone who peppers their sentences with the insufferable “awkward.” No wonder the show’s Kickstarter campaign attracted support from 1,960 backers and raised $56,259 to successfully complete its 8-episode premier season.
While you watch, keep in mind three selling points:
4. Supporting cast
7. Political incorrectness
Episode #1: The Stop Sign
More than moving the plot along, a good narrator makes the audience feel personally connected to a series. The narration technique is courteous in a way. It’s like a “making sure you’re still on board” check-up and, hey, it’s always nice to be nice! When used appropriately, narration is also unparalleled in setting up deadpan scenarios that might not be as apparently funny on their own.
Episode #4: The Icebreaker
Lead characters attract an audience. Supporting characters keep one around. Awkward Black Girl does a fantastic job of texturing all its players’ personas — a big reason why episodes are interesting for their duration, despite considerable length.
Episode #7: The Date
Being safe isn’t funny. Real humor is brave. Real humor goes for it, no matter what the consequences. In her sophisticated commentaries on racial tension, deprecation, and affinity, Rae does a pitch-perfect job of showing us she’s not afraid to “go there.”