What “Insecure” Gets Right About Bad Friendships

What I like most about the Issa Dee character on “Insecure” is that I don’t like her.

And to be even more frank, I can’t stand her.

I mean really, what is there to like about her: she’s arrogant, passive aggressive (um, because staying in a bad relationship and then cheating to “scratch an itch” is some pretty wack sh*t), she’s a ghoster (starting an intense side-relationship with Daniel and then bailing, is also some pretty wack sh*t) and she’s a bad friend.


The latter is what bothers/enchants me the most about her.

I started to pick up on Issa Dee’s bad vibes during the very first episode, when she threw her very best girlfriend Molly under the bus with the “Broken Pussy” open-mic rap. Besides using her own girlfriend’s personal insecurities as fodder, what also bothered me was the erroneous reason why she invited her along for the humiliating experience in the first place.

She didn’t insist Molly go with her to the club that night as a way to cheer up a friend, who had been down in the dumps over a string of bad relationships. Nor was it a way to thank Molly for allowing her to crash on her couch while she made her mind up about her relationship with Lawrence.

Instead, Issa’s real motivation was to use Molly and her situation as an excuse to meet an ex-boyfriend who “just so happened” to be at the same open-mic night.

When the situation required it to be about her girlfriend, she made it about herself. And when Molly was already feeling down on herself, Issa mercilessly kicked her some more.

In short, Issa was being competitive, mean and shady as f*ck.

Later in the episode, the best friends are stuck together in an uncomfortable car ride home. Unable to take the silence, Issa rolls her eyes and flippantly asks why Molly is still upset about the rap song. And when Molly explains why she’s rightfully upset, the gist of Issa’s response is to laugh it off as a joke before sheepishly asking if she could still sleep on her couch.

If it was anyone else, Molly might have taken Issa’s overnight bag and dropped it off by the nearest curb. But because of her own insecurities about herself (or more specifically, the shame she now feels about her vagina), along with her own desire to be a good friend, she played it off.

Of course, Issa is welcome in her home. After all, she is her best girlfriend. Why would she say something to intentionally hurt her?

And yet Issa’s reign of bad girlfriend terrorism didn’t end there. Episode after episode, we witness her ridicule and snide, making belittling remarks about her best girlfriend’s personal choices. She laughs off Molly’s self-care plan as frivolous in episode two. In episode six, Issa is chiding her friend for having unrealistic expectations in relationships. And by the season finale, she blatantly hinting to Molly about her obvious need for therapy.

Throughout the season, we watch Issa trample over, and take Molly’s feelings for granted. Even as it is always Molly who shows up whenever Issa is in a crunch. And even as it Issa who still can’t seem to make heads or tails of her own life, both personal and professional. Yet somehow Issa still believes herself a better person, as well as more adjusted, than her best friend.

At times, it’s hard to understand what Issa actually likes about her alleged best friend? And at times, it’s hard to understand why Molly puts up with any of it, at all?

And yet, there is an accuracy to their relationship, which is hard to ignore.

As noted in this Boston Globe article from May of this year entitled, “Are you sure you’re friends? New study says maybe not,” there is research which suggests only about half of the people we call friends actually consider us one back.

This certainly could be the case for Issa and Molly.

But there is also another reality to friendships that we rarely address. More specifically how even when our feelings are mutual, our friendships ain’t all about holding hands and conjuring up magic.

Sometimes people called friends can be competitive with each other. Sometimes we are catty, mean-spirited and ready to gas light them right back. And the truth is, most friendships can be just as hard to maintain as marriages. And when they end, they can be just as hurtful and lonely as romantic breakups.

Even in my own life, I can recall many times when I have been jealous or envious; when I failed to show up and be compassionate; and when I had unnecessarily policed or shamed my friend.

I can also recall times when my best friend did pretty much the same to me.

But through trial, error and maturity, we have both learned patience and to be accepting of one another. We have learned the importance of being sincere in our truthfulness and the value of being kind over being right. And through it all, we learned to just keep showing up – just like Molly and Issa do for each other.

And this is what I feel “Insecure” gets right about friendships. Issa is at times a bad friend. But there are times when I have been a bad friend too.

And while their friendship isn’t idyllic, the truth is neither are most of ours.

Image via HBO

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and the reigning queen of unpopular opinions. She is also from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit