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How the friendship in the HBO comedy Insecure is a response to reality TV

How the friendship in the HBO comedy Insecure is a response to reality TV
Issa Rae, the star and creator of HBO's Insecure, in episode 2. (Photo by Anne Marie Fox/HBO)

A new comedy created by and starring Issa Rae debuted last night on HBO, and was born partially from her desire to challenge the portrayal of friendships she’s seen on reality television—specifically those between black women who constantly fight with each other.

The series, Insecure, debuted last night, and airs Sundays at 9. It was developed by Rae, the creator of the YouTube series Awkward Black Girl, and Larry Wilmore. HBO says the show “explores the black female experience in an unclichéd and authentic way” as “Issa attempts to figure out what she wants out of life and how to take control of it, while fumbling her way through this journey.”

In late July, at the Television Critics Association press tour, Rae was asked about the friendship at the core of the series, between Issa (played by Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji).

Issa Rae said:

“I just wanted to represent a purely authentic friendship. It’s based off of real friends that I have, and came about also during a time when watching a lot of reality shows and seeing black women pitted against each other and fighting and throwing chairs at each other.

None of my friends and I do that. I’ve never thrown a chair at my friend. I wanted to represent that. Yes, I fight with my friends, but at the end of the day and speak to each other in a specific way, but we love each other and we’re there for each other. And I think we wanted to portray just authentic black female friendship at its purist, and hopefully we succeeded.”

She did not mention any specific shows by name. Later, though, she talked about the larger narratives in media, and the way black people tend to be portrayed:

“Black people go through the same experiences as everybody else. And I think there’s a vibe in … news and media portrayal, almost like we are bringing it on ourselves—because we tend to be violent by nature, we are constantly approaching the police. There’s always a narrative that’s against us in a way. And I think with this show, it’s just an opportunity to take our mind off of things but also realize at the end of the day, we are all the same.”

Rae said it was a struggle to find a network to tell that story.

“In the past networks haven’t outright said no to diversity. That’s never happened. It’s been more just trying to convince people that people of color are relatable. It’s more about the content, and that’s where a lot of this a lot of my journey has had some ups and downs.

This isn’t a show exclusively aboutthe struggle of being black. It’s not a hood story. It’s not any of those things. It’s just regular black people living life.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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