It was during the first season finale of HBO’s excellent (and at times triggering, all too-real) romantic comedy Insecure that the #LawrenceHive was born. In the now-infamous, think piece-igniting scene from 2016, the series’ lead character, Issa Dee—played with understated comic brilliance and self-deprecating heart by its Emmy-nominated creator, Issa Rae—races home to apologize to boyfriend Lawrence Walker (Jay Ellis) for cheating on him with the seemingly all-together Daniel. For some time now Issa had been reflecting on the state of her going-through-the-motions relationship with her supportive, but depressed, perpetually unemployed man.
At his lowest, Lawrence is so broke that he can’t even take Issa out for her 29th birthday. But when he finally lands a job at Best Buy his confidence soars. Lawrence is a new man, yet Issa’s bombshell devastates him to his core. When she reaches the apartment under the assumption that he is ready to talk he has already moved out leaving only a Best Buy shirt behind. Savage. An on-the-rebound Lawrence doesn’t have time for goodbyes. Insecure then cuts to him gloriously smashing the back of Tasha, a cute, buxom bank teller, to smithereens.
Black Twitter still hasn’t fully recovered from the gender war that followed.
But there was no louder, passionate or more hilarious reaction to the shocking moment than the group of men who proudly pledge allegiance to the #LawrenceHive. Like Beyonce’s devoted #BeyHive followers, the largely male cult celebrated what they saw as the “good dude” finally getting some much deserved payback. “Lawrence is not just a story of victory. It’s a story of the oppressed finally overcoming the odds,” mused Twitter poster @robby305, as a flood of tongue-in-cheek and uproariously petty memes rained down on social media.
Fast forward. #LawrenceHive is now pouring out a little brown for their dearly departed leader.
After it was announced that Ellis’ character would not be returning for season 3 of Insecure, absurdity ensued. A petition, largely backed by the #LawrenceHive tribe, not only implored Insecure show runners to bring back Lawrence, but to give him his own spinoff as if he was Denise Huxtable.
“Over the past two seasons, Jay Ellis has portrayed the conflicted and realistic ways Lawrence has dealt with difficult and rarely explored issues for men such as infidelity, male friendship, depression, and toxic masculinity,” said the statement, which had been signed by over 10,000 people. “We want Lawrence back on Insecure…”
Never mind that the third installment of Insecure has already been filmed. An amused Issa Rae retweeted a screenshot of the financially backed statement (???) with a dash of side-eye: “Wow. A sponsored post, though? Like... money was spent?”
But when you cut through the lame histrionics, you begin to understand why Lawrence struck a polarizing chord with so many male and female fans. It starts with Issa Rae and her fearless writing team. Insecure routinely pulls off fully realized, unsentimental portrayals of the young adult black woman navigating the pitfalls of a professional career and relationships. There’s the running joke of Issa being the only black person who works at a nonprofit out-reach program for at-risk kids in the ‘hood’ laughably billed as “We Got Y’all.” She thinks that her best friend Molly(I would watch the delightful Yvonne Orji in her own foolish adventures), a successful corporate lawyer, has it all, a view that she later discovers to be far from reality. And there are refreshingly quirky African-American characters like Thug Yoda, Issa’s and Lawrence’s reformed gangbanger-next door neighbor, who offers some of the most insightful, head-scratching observations on the show.
But Insecure’s complex view of black masculinity is equally as important to the series’ success. When Lawrence finds himself in a threesome with two white women the usual stereotypical racial tropes are thrown out the window. Instead of the black Mandingo conquering a tag-team of Becky’s, his ego is bruised with the realization that he’s just viewed as a mere fetish.
The brilliance of Insecure’s Lawrence arc is that it lulled viewers (mostly males) into the safety of presuming that Issa was the bad actor in the dynamic who just didn’t appreciate a “good” man when he was around. It was as if Lawrence, who spent most of his days wallowing in his boxers in self-pity before getting his groove back, could have never imagined that his emotionally-starved, unhappy woman would have the unmitigated nerve to step out. Ridiculous, right?
Conversely, Insecure’s loyal female followers threw Lawrence in the f**k boy trash heap after he left his new girl Tasha hanging at her family’s cookout (“I’ll be right back,” he shamelessly says) after noticing her folks were more on the “ghetto” MLK Blvd. side of things. But Rae was simply making a point by highlighting Lawrence’s assh*le, classist behavior that black and white hats are interchangeable, sometimes even blurred. People fall in love and relationships crash and burn. And there’s enough blame to go around.
“Bye, Issa,” says Lawrence standing on the other side of a doorway next to his estranged significant other. There are no fireworks or cliffhanger plot twists. Just like that he was gone. At the Insecure Fest in L.A., Issa Rae put Lawrence’s exit in its proper context. “No, I don’t care!” Rae told Vulture when asked how some in the Hive would take his departure following their goodbyes. “We want to stay as true to life as possible. They had a great conversation at the end of season two and it was just about like, hey, she’s moving on. Sometimes we have those conversations. You never see the exes again. And it’s okay! You gotta explore life without Lawrence.”
Fans of Ellis will not have to wait long to see him on screen again. He has two films dropping later this year, Qasim Basir’s A Boy. A Girl. A Dream and In a Relationship. Plus, his character is gone but hasn’t been killed off, and you know they could have come up with creative ways to send him to the upper room, but they didn’t. So there is always the outside chance he can pop up in season 4, like all exes tend to do. Time will tell.
Lawrence is dead….Long live Lawrence.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO
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