Ever since I read an item about Issa Rae in Essence magazine, I’ve been following the ups and downs, victories and defeats of J, the central character on the hit Web series “Awkward Black Girl.” J is an appealing character, the type of woman who is intelligent, pretty, sensitive and operates with empathy for others. Despite her great qualities, she is still unsure of herself. The series follows her lie from her perspective.
SPOILERS AHEAD. If you would rather watch the episodes yourself to find out what happened, start here, and STOP reading!
J works at a call center for a company that markets a diet pill. While listening to her character narrate the goings-on of her daily life, I can’t help thinking that J is an intelligent, articulate woman who is sharing the ethos of her life and self with us. She should be doing a lot more with herself than selling diet pills. But the premiere season isn’t a story about how J lifts herself to a higher personal or professional plane. Goodness knows that awkwardness sometimes springs from, or perpetuates, a type of shyness and lack of social poise that can hold back people’s progress and future for years. For the moment, J figures out whether Fred, her Ideal Black Man whom she has had a crush on for a long time, or White J, a cute, sensitive counselor, is her match.
SERIOUSLY, SPOILER DEAD AHEAD …
The White J character wins J’s heart at the end of the first season, and it all unfolds without too many embarrassing love scenes, which awkward people seem to avoid whenever possible. Actually, for a romantic comedy the series kind of fell flat in the area of chemistry. I was neither Team Fred nor White J, because I never saw sparks fly with either couple. Love stories are supposed to have a little more warmth than what I thought I saw, even ones embedded in a comedy series populated by lovable geeks and oddballs. That’s a shame too, because by the time I stopped laughing at those charming alternate reality sequences, which had part “Sliding Door” and “Russell Simmons Presents” to them, I realized I didn’t really care who J picked. Neither storyline excited me.
If I am fastidious about the chemistry thing, it’s because those pesky Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker people made that endearing “Something New” a few years ago and nailed it. Had they only been a couple of script-reading cold fish I wouldn’t expect to be charmed every time other entertainers come along and purport to tell a love story. A few years ago I saw a ‘Something New’ type of film, but it starred two ill-matched actors who seemed lost and undisciplined in the piece, which disappointed me considering their obvious talents and accomplishments in other movies. And it was made in coastal France, for goodness’ sake! The perfect place to fall for someone.
Well, I’ll forgive J, White J and all the rest. There is a lot to like about Awkward Black Girl, a lot to root for as she embarks on other life journeys. It’s a yummy treat after a trying day, and I’ve seen every episode, some of them twice. I’m just not clicking through to find out if J and White J go the distance.
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