The Problem With #TeamLawrence, Explained

HBO screenshot
HBO screenshot

Who is Lawrence?

Lawrence Walker is a character from Insecure, an HBO show which derives from Issa Rae's The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl web series. In season one, the unemployed and then underemployed Lawrence (Jay Ellis) was Issa's live-in boyfriend — a relationship that lasted for (I think) four years.


After growing frustrated with their inert co-habitation and Lawrence's apparent lack of drive — and apparent lack of sex drive — Issa rekindled a relationship with Daniel (Y'lan Noel), an old flame from high school. And after several weeks of allowing the sexual tension between them to build, sex was eventually had, and backs were impressively broken.

So Issa cheated on Lawrence?

She did.

Shit. So what happened next?

Well, this is where it begins to get even murkier and messier. Issa's frustrations with Lawrence were apparent and understandable. And while Lawrence didn't force her to cheat — no one has that power over another person — he didn't exactly present the most compelling counterargument. He didn't walk her through that door. But he did give her Waze directions to it.

But, Issa stepping out happened to happen right when Lawrence finally seemed to be getting his shit together; allowing their relationship — which had long plateaued — to be on the upswing. He got a gig at Best Buy. He started shaving and showering and shit. His dick even started working again!

(Also, somehow Lawrence got into extremely good shape. Like American Ninja Warrior-level shape. Or just started wearing better clothes to show what type of shape he'd actually been in the entire time. Which is a little peculiar because that type of shape requires countless hours at the gym — which he wasn't spending — and a membership to said gym — which he couldn't afford. But maybe Lawrence just spent all day every day doing push-ups or something. Who knows?)

Naturally, Issa appreciated this change, and wished to erase Daniel from her coital microfiche and submerge herself into this new and improved Lawrence.

Issa seems rather trash for that though, right?

No comment.

Ooooookay. So, moving on, did Lawrence ever find out about Daniel?

Of course he did!

Shit! What happened?

Both Lawrence and Daniel showed up to one of Issa's work events. Lawrence's spidey-senses went off after seeing Daniel and Issa interact with each other, and he confronted her about it later that night. She told him the truth, and he was naturally and understandably devastated by that. As was she. It was pretty damn intense. Furniture moved, and all doves present cried.


So far you've described a very typical and unspectacular relationship and break-up. A coupling fractured by Issa's (admittedly predictable) infidelity, which was in large part encouraged by Lawrence committing the mortal sin of impermissible brokeness.

The mortal sin of brokeness? Are you saying it's a sin to be broke?

No. Just that, if in a relationship, you can't be broke AND not breaking backs. Of course, anti-brokeness and frequent back-breaking is ideal. But if you're forced to choose a broke, you can't choose both.


I see.

Anyway, I'm bringing this up because I don't see why Lawrence even has a team. Nothing he's done so far make him — or Issa for that matter — team-worthy.


Well, Lawrence's team-worthiness is one hundred thousand trillion percent due to Tasha.

Tasha? Who's Tasha?

Tasha (Dominique Perry) is a cute and sexy bank teller who'd been very obviously flirting with Lawrence from the beginning of the season.


Wait, I thought you said Lawrence was broke and ashy as fuck for the first half of the season. How does he have cute and sexy women still flirting with him — particularly a cute and sexy woman who works at the bank and can see Lawrence's bereaved balance each time he swipes his sad-ass ATM card?

Because he's tall and has a nice beard. And tall niggas with beards have tall-and-bearded-nigga privilege.


This is true. So, what happened with Tasha?

After Lawrence and Issa broke up, we witnessed both of them crashing through the stages of relationship mourning. Issa wanted to get back together. Lawrence seemed to want to too. And some clever writing and editing in the season finale made us believe that might happen. But while Issa was waiting for Lawrence back at their apartment — after they'd agreed to meet there — Lawrence had actually already dipped out and was toe, foot, ankle, shin, knee, and thigh deep inside of Tasha, with a series of furious backshots that blasted atomic shock waves through the internet. Season two is basically the nuclear winter.


I'm still not quite understanding why this has given Lawrence a whole entire team. None of this seems whole entire team worthy.

Well, there's a couple things going on here. First, there's the fact that he responded to a quite humiliating break-up with the backshots of fury. For many men — shit, for many people — this is the dream reaction to that type of embarrassment. Get tripped up, but fall right into the arms of someone who's both attractive and has been waiting for your ass with open, um, arms.


But ultimately, Team Lawrence is about schadenfreude. It's not just that he's doing "better." It's that this doing better is directly hurting the woman who hurt him. Lawrence, essentially, is a proxy for all the men who believe (rightly or wrongly) that they've been played by women. And a proxy for the type of man who enjoys seeing women experience some sort of comeuppance. Team Lawrence exists to shame Issa.

And nothing exemplifies this contentious dynamic more than the infamous Best Buy shirt left at their old apartment, which exists as a virtual Rorschach test for your proximity to and feelings about general relationship-related fuckshit. If you're #TeamShitHappensBecauseRelationshipsAreHardAndCanBeMessy — which is the team I'm on — he just left the shirt behind because he didn't need or want it anymore. But if you're #TeamLawrence or #TeamIssa or #TeamFuckLawrence or #TeamFuckIssa, that shirt was an intentional sign; a message Lawrence delivered just to fuck with her.


And now, in season two, everything Lawrence does is seen through that Best Buy polo lens. Instead of the weird and awkward and raw post-break up quickie just being exactly what post-break up sex often is, both #TeamLawrence and #TeamIssa members seem to see it as some sort of message; a final fuck you to Issa. (Which, of course, #TeamLawrence loved and #TeamIssa hated.)

You seem to be pretty down on #TeamLawrence but actually sympathetic to Lawrence himself.


Well, I think much of this sympathy is due to Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore and whoever else was involved with the writing of these characters. As a guy who actually went through a similar stretch of unemployment and underemployment several years ago, I know how that type of financial purgatory can lead to an existential malaise and self-doubt, where you know what's expected of you as a MAN PERSON and you're very aware you're falling short of that. And while I joked earlier about the mortal sin of total brokeness, it's hard as fuck for some guys to feel like and be "the man" in the bedroom when you're not the man anywhere else. That sense of emasculation can be self-induced, but that doesn't make it any less real. So I get why Lawrence was depressed, and I also get why Issa was increasingly frustrated with it. And I get why she cheated. And I get why he entertained Tasha. And I get why they broke up. And I get why he was so devastated by it.

The canonization of Lawrence by #TeamLawrence, however, exists primary as a result of seeing Lawrence "get over on" Issa. Which means, for #TeamLawrence, "getting over on" someone just means leaving one mess and creating another. Because we know, and #TeamLawrence knows, that while Tasha seems to be cool with their Wendy's Value Meal and Weekend Backshots deal right now, she actually seems to like him and likely wants more. Which we all know he aint going to give her, because he's still not over Issa. Basically, while Lawrence's (and Issa's) dysfunction and messiness right now is understandable, #TeamLawrence aint rooting for Lawrence. They're rooting for his dysfunction and that mess.


Wow, that was deep man. Who knew a show about regular-ass niggas experiencing regular-ass shit could be so complex?

Issa knew, man. Issa knew.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Wild Cougar

Didn't watch it, too cheap for HBO. But I'm peeping how some people seem to think cheating is OK if the dude is broke and not giving you pipe. That's fucked up and you're trash if you think it's OK. If you not into your significant other, you break up.