Remember The Man Who Said Issa And Nola Darling Weren’t Goals? He Wants To Explain
Last week, Eldredge E. Washington caused the collective ire of Black women to rise up and strike out when he posted this status on Facebook.
In fact, Issa Rae herself hopped on the post to share her thoughts about not being #goals.
Washington’s post inspired the piece I wrote about the ways in which both characters model attributes more women could benefit from exercising in our real lives.
After reading the comments he received on his Facebook status and our piece, Washington wanted to explain, so he wrote the following essay.
I just should’ve been clearer.
Days ago, I was lying in bed watching Spike Lee’s new series “She’s Gotta Have It”, while simultaneously scrolling through my social media. Throughout the week, I had skimmed over enough “I am #NolaDarling” posts from so many beautiful, intelligent Black women on my timeline that my interest was easily peaked. I needed to see it for myself. After watching the first episode (which, I admit I should have finished prior to commenting), I found myself somewhat annoyed by the hypocrisy of this “I Am #NolaDarling” movement. I took to Facebook to voice my opinion, as I often did after watching episodes of “Insecure.”
I made a post stating that “Issa Rae and #NolaDarling are not goals” and advising women not to “play [them]selves” by immolating these characters or their lifestyles.
Let me start by saying, it was crazy to watch my post take off in such a major way. There was no way for me to foresee or prepare for the level of traction that was created by what I perceived as a simple statement. Call me a masochist, but I’m glad it happened. Men and women came in droves to hold me accountable for my words and how I’ve offended so many women nationwide. So much knowledge was dropped and so many feelings were shared. I have spent the vast majority of these past few days talking about Black women. Now, I’d like the opportunity to talk to you all directly about what I genuinely meant and where I stand on it now as a Black man.
First and foremost, Black women, I love you. All of you. Even after days of being dragged relentlessly on numerous social media posts, called every name in the book, and made into a meme, I can’t help but admire the fire in you. The queen, Issa Rae, even stepped in to check me herself. Before I break down my perception of both characters, I have to break down what I meant by “#GOALS”.
The definition of #goals says “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”. Thanks to recent discussion, I can now enumerate a few more ways that these characters and their lifestyles could be admirable. I’ve also learned to tailor my comments on what is or is not a “#GOAL” for Black women. For a collective who have historically been emotionally, professionally, and sexually oppressed, any time you all see a woman owning her humanity, it’s a celebration. Bear with me as I’m still choosing to briefly expound on the things that I just don’t think should be overlooked in this analogy.
My post was solely referring to the character roles of Issa Dee and Nola Darling. Both actresses are clearly defying the social norms of Hollywood with their natural beauty, chocolate skin, and unhindered personalities.
Mastermind Issa Rae (the actress/writer/producer) is a goddess with incomparable talent. Her fervor for her craft, while remaining authentic and loyal is…there are no words. Issa Dee (the character), on the other hand, is a brilliant young lady, beautiful and confused. She cheats on her long-term boyfriend instead of leaving him when he was no longer meeting her needs (like we often encourage men to do if they are unsatisfied). Her actions and choices after the breakup are questionable at best, i.e. involving herself with a random neighbor, dating solely for sexual gratification (nothing wrong here, if disclosed), and even moving in with the man she cheated with after she realizes there will be no reconciling with her ex.
In reality, Issa Dee is no different from any of us stuck navigating through the process of figuring ourselves out in the midst of heartbreak, underemployment, and overall adulting. While many of us may be able to relate to her journey, I am sure we can agree that we don’t aspire to stay where she was in the last episode of “Insecure.”
Thankfully, Issa Dee was written as such a resilient character, we can only hope that she comes out full of self-realization a few seasons down the line. But as of now…#GOAL status is debatable.
Likewise, Actress Dewanda Wise is dope. She’s charismatic and multi-dimensional, such a perfect fit for #NolaDarling, the face of feminine independence. Aside from Nola’s stringent rules of engagement, dedication to her art and living on her own terms, she was engaged in “situationships” with three different men and a woman, all conscious of the others. Nola seemed to be with three kinds of men that you, as women, would publicly drag your sister or best friend for even entertaining. How is that #GOALS?
The self-indulgent (borderline metrosexual) Greer is smooth and clearly interested in Nola but has obviously been interested in a lot of women as well (I’ve been here, too). He shows up at her house to beg her to let him take her to dinner, she agrees, and they intentionally end up in a restaurant full of his “past experiences”.
Mars is full of personality and candor and clearly rides for Nola in every situation. Let’s not overlook that he is still living “at home” (with his sister) and he is her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. That is a cardinal sin for men, so I can only imagine how much of a violation that is for women.
Jamie is successful but he is MARRIED. There is no need to argue, discuss, or even validate this point. At the end of the day, Jamie and Nola ain’t $%*# for this relationship. There is NOTHING complicated about it. I hold Jamie accountable the most because he is the one who took vows but it’s not like he is lying to Nola. She is fully aware that she is with a married man. Nola makes sure to keep all the men within the confines of her rules but questions Jamie as to why he never introduces her to his business friends. The irony. Yes, he spent 10K supporting her art and that’s all well and good…until you’re in the position of his wife and that 10K is coming out of your household to another woman.
Nola completely sabotages the healthiest situationship she has, with Opal, by being selfish, immature, and inconsiderate. Involving someone’s child in a situation that you don’t see progress shows a huge lack of maturity (I’ve been there) common throughout the series.
I’m not here to take away a cinematic “she-ro” because I understand Nola’s feminine value now. That’s where the lesson comes in. Regardless of how I feel, it’s not my place to speak (prematurely, especially) on who or what you should or should not look up to, what you do with your bodies, or how you feel. Even in simply posting a personal opinion on my personal page, I subconsciously triggered hundreds of women. While reading the comments, I didn’t see women talking to me directly. I saw women expressing the frustration, hurt, and anger they have towards men who have hindered them from being their true selves their entire lives. This message, substantiated or not, should not have come from me (a Black man) in this way. Our society already doesn’t grant women rights to their individual sexuality independent of a man. I acknowledge and I am sorry that Black women have to fight for themselves in every arena.
Secondly, as a man who has done my fair share of “exercising my sexual freedoms” at the expense of Black women, I am not the ideal messenger. Watching strangers, friends, church family members, and scorned exes comment telling me how unqualified I am to speak on the subject was interesting. I haven’t always fully appreciated the glory that is the “Black woman.” I haven’t always honored her or considered her aside from myself. We are all here recovering from our own personal traumas. Myself included. Sometimes you need to see it firsthand…even if the entire internet has to tell you.
I don’t mind being the butt of the joke for a week if it opens up the doors to a conversation about topics we’ve shied away from as a community: such as sexual assault, women’s sexuality, double standards, and male privilege. I can only pray we continue to dialogue and get to the root of obvious hurt and misunderstanding on both sides.
All in all, “we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams”. Black women contain such pliability and strength (shoutout to my mom). You are beautiful beyond recognition, divine beyond comprehension, and you don’t need a man (especially not me) to define who you’re allowed to be. I realize that not all of you are fighting to be in Issa or Nola’s shoes, per se. You’re fighting for the freedom to take “the journey”, whatever journey you choose, whatever that consists of, wherever it takes you, and for however long, without being considered “unredeemable” at the end of it. Carry on. Don’t let me interrupt. You are #GOALS.
P.S. Issa Rae, I love you.