You may know Issa Rae from her web-series Awkward Black Girl, but her transition to television has been anything but awkward. The first episode of her HBO show, Insecure, has been available to ‘HBO GO’ users for a couple weeks, and has already gotten rave reviews. Critics are praising the show’s intimacy, honesty, and relatability, which are all very great parts of the show. For me, though, I can’t get over the fact that a Black woman is the creator and lead of a show like this.
In the past decade there’s been a surge in shows and movies with ‘adorkable’ girls as the lead characters. Zooey Deschanel and Anna Kendrick all but have a monopoly on that archetype. So it’s refreshing to see Issa Rae, a Black woman, fill that role instead of another copy and paste white girl. Whereas Black people are almost always relegated to the role of the ‘always-on’ or comic relief character, like Kevin Hart, white characters get to have more dimensions. When there actually are Black characters that are awkward, nine times out of ten they’re men and their Black female friends are the loud comic relief. In Insecure, however, there aren’t stereotypes for the sake of being stereotypes; it’s just another layer to a character.
Real depictions of Black people create a space for Black people to just be people. Not in the color-blind “we’re all just people” kind of way, but in a way that isn’t exploitation or harmful. In the past year we’ve gotten Luke Cage, The Get Down, Atlanta and now Insecure. Atlanta’s Zazzie Beats said it best when she said “in television, there is a lack of a place for people of color to just kind of be people. Friends isn’t about white people being friends, it’s about friends” (Source). That’s why these shows, especially Insecure as it centers Black women, are so important.
We’re reminded every awards season that Black people aren’t valued in entertainment, so this is our response. But Insecure is more than just a reaction to a white dominated industry, it’s also a reaction to the centering of Black men. This is especially relevant with the recent release of that one Nate Parker movie that doesn’t deserve to be advertised. People began to prioritize the story of a long dead Black man over the feelings of living breathing Black women who felt uncomfortable supporting Nate Parker. Issa Rae’s show came at the perfect time to give Black women a space whereas they’re usually put on hold for Black men and non-black people.
If you’re looking to support Black women this TV season, then look no further than Insecure. It’s unfortunately an HBO exclusive, but ask around until you find a friend that’s willing to share with you. Issa Rae is helping usher in the new age of Black media, and not only does she deserve your support, you deserve to watch such a great show.