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  • Writer's pictureKayla Williams

HBO's "Insecure" Carries the Torch for Black Storytelling


Photograph by Justina Mintz / HBO

It can be said that Insecure has picked up the torch for humanizing the stories of women of color. Premiered in October of 2016, the show made its way into the hearts of its viewers, receiving praise from critics, and even winning notable awards since its airing. In 2018, the star of the show and creator made an important statement while accepting her Peabody Entertainment Honoree Award.

“To win an award that represents storytelling, that’s for the culture. It’s just a huge honor for us…we want to thank every single writer of color who has come before us who worked on a show that they didn’t want to be on, just so we had the opportunity today to tell and create our own stories. To have an opportunity to show that we have doubts, fears, insecurities, and can be just as basic as white women is a joy.”

Insecure tackles themes that the everyday woman of color experiences. From relationship woes and triumphs, the complexities of friendships, harmful stereotypes, and workplace inequality. As the seasons progress the more vulnerable, tough, and relatable the show gets. It’s an honest portrayal of black women and men that are not perfect. Showcasing faults or as the title suggests, “insecurities” that play out in their lives creating comical but even heartbreaking moments, capturing a vulnerable side of the black experience that continually needs to be explored in the media. Especially, to reach outside of just the black community and have other cultures see a black female lead narrative, which is exactly what the show is doing. According to TV Critic Iris Brey as of 2018, 62% of US viewers of the series were non-black, which even surprised Issa Rae.

“It makes me want to go back in time and find that person (who said) ‘No one’s interested in watching these shows about people of color. Even white people are tired of seeing white-people shows.”

Approaching its fifth and final season, Insecure, although not the first of its kind to focus on a group of young black women living their lives, has made a deep impact in pop culture allowing black narratives to move from sitcoms to a scripted series on HBO. Pushing the envelope further than what was started by shows like Living Single or Girlfriends. Back in the ’90s, not many narratives centered on the black experience or showed black characters in different careers until those sitcoms came along.

Issa Rae was heavily influenced by those sitcoms and continued building on well-rounded representation with Insecure. Writing real black women with different body types, hairstyles, careers, insecurities, and skin tones that give their black audience something to feel proud of and identify with.

Restarted from ep 1 in honor of szn 5, but i remember when first watching #InsecureHBO and fully being #teamissabecause i saw so much of myself in her. uh uh girl, you MESSY.

— (@MeeAndYoDawta) Feb 8, 2021

The reveal of the GoldenGlobes 2021 nominations earlier this week, doesn’t change the fact that Insecure and storytelling like it should be celebrated and honored often. It is a timeless show and will be seen and felt for years to come.


Resources:

“How ‘Living Single’ Influenced Everything From ‘Friends’ To ‘Insecure’”. Entertainment Tonight, 2020, https://www.etonline.com/how-living-single-influenced-everything-from-friends-to-insecure-151597. Accessed 10 Feb 2021.

“‘It Was Important For Black Women To See Ourselves Normally’: How Insecure Changed TV”. The Guardian, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/jul/31/issa-rae-insecure. Accessed 10 Feb 2021.

“Issa Rae On ‘Insecure’S Impact: ‘We Haven’T Really Had Our Stories Told In A Modern Way’”. Just Jared, 2021, http://www.justjared.com/2019/05/29/issa-rae-on-insecures-impact-we-havent-really-had-our-stories-told-in-a-modern-way/. Accessed 10 Feb 2021.

Wells, Veronica. “Did You Know That 62 Percent Of “Insecure’S Audience Is White?”. Madamenoire, 2018, https://madamenoire.com/1044558/did-you-know-that-62-percent-of-insecures-audience-is-white/. Accessed 10 Feb 2021.

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