To Be Young, Awkward + Black - OZY | A Modern Media Company

To Be Young, Awkward + Black

To Be Young, Awkward + Black

By Eugene S. Robinson


Despite what we’ve seen on Friends, Girls and Seinfeld, smart, funny women under 30 don’t always live in magical, ethnically homogenous enclaves of continual Caucasian merriment.

By Eugene S. Robinson

Issa Rae gets it all out of the way right upfront with the title of her workplace-mockumentary web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black GirlShe’s awkward, black and a girl, but that’s the least of what makes her cool. Or funny. Or interesting.

Rae’s show was born out of the 29-year-old Stanford grad’s indecision about whether to go biz school or law school, and not really wanting to do either. Each episode revolves around dating, McJobs, friends and Rae’s ability to do what Seinfeld did so well: make a show seemingly out of nothing. Or not nothing, really: The show is made up of meditations on diminished opportunities — career and relationship — and, in a not-so-weird way, race.

“Not-so-weird” because America tends to get weird around race, particularly in scripted shows that either completely ignore the topic à la Friends, Girls and Seinfeld, or completely obsesses over it in shows with any racial dimension at all. Rae’s series “handles it” in a way that befits a person who wakes up, goes to sleep and spends every minute in between being black: by not making it a thing. And certainly not a thing that would get in the way of a good joke.

Of which there oodles. About bad boyfriends, crappy jobs, even crappier bosses and life in L.A., the land of endless aspiration.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may be one of the last: The show has racked up over 20 million views and damned near 150,000 subscribers on YouTube. Rae made it onto the Forbes “30 Under 30” list and won a 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show. Add to this an ABC TV series she’s working on with Shonda Rhimes, a 30-minute comedy show she’s doing for HBO and a book of friggin’ essays scheduled to come out in 2014, and you have the makings of a very good 2014 for at least one super-talented and awkwardly inclined black girl.

Photography by Christina Gandolfo.


Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories