Issa Rae: Revolutionizing Black Television with Authenticity and Humor


Jan. 25 2024, Updated 10:50 a.m. ET

For years, Black stories on mainstream television have primarily been told through a narrow lens, but over the past decade, a new wave of Black creators have been working to change that. If you're a big fan of classic Black shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, and Moesha, you will appreciate how Issa Rae brings a fresh perspective and fun new voices to Black comedy. With hit shows like Insecure and Rap Sh!t under her belt, Issa has made a lasting impact on television.

An Unapologetically Black Creative Vision

For too long, Black stories have been limited to just a few familiar tropes, but Issa’s shows are challenging that. Her shows feel like a conversation between friends — they tackle issues we're all familiar with in a relatable yet insightful way. Issa is changing the game by writing complex, fully realized Black characters and storylines that don't shy away from real-world problems but find the humor in our shared experiences.

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Her show Rap Sh!t is about two black female rappers, and it challenges how Black women are policed in the media. While male rappers are allowed to talk about guns, sex, and women in derogatory ways, Black women are only respected when they play it safe. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion have been victims of this very trope. When Black women have sexual agency, they are demonized by society and considered to be "only good for one thing." Issa made a point of developing these characters thoroughly to show that Black women are multi-dimensional. One is a mother; they both have regular day jobs, and neither has a college degree. It's essential to show that Black women don't have to be corporate baddies with multiple degrees to be included in the narrative.

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Representation of Our Lives Empowers Black Women to Share Their Stories

Issa Rae's work is creating a space on television where Black people can see themselves reflected accurately and authentically. Shows like Insecure, which show Black women navigating regular, everyday experiences in their unique way open up space for dialogue. The episodes touched on police brutality, mental health, natural hair, gentrification, and dating. When the show ended in 2021, fans shared sentiments like:

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“To feel seen as a single, black, dark-skinned woman figuring out this life thing. To show that black people are not monolithic and the beauty of our differences and culture. To see black joy on my screen on a regular? Thank you #Insecure.” Comments like this show the impression that Insecure had on Black women by depicting them in a realistic way that was very relatable.

What's Next for Issa Rae?

Issa Rae is a household name in the world of Black television. Her creative ventures have always been a breath of fresh air in an industry that often lacks diversity. Since creating the popular web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa has only continued to grow and change as a creator. And we can expect nothing but the best from her in the future. With several upcoming projects already in the works, including an HBO limited series titled The Vanishing Half, the sky is truly the limit for Issa Rae.

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