Barbie star calls out cancellation of Black TV shows: ‘Our stories are less of a priority’

Issa Rae at the Barbie premiere.

Barbie and Insecure star Issa Rae has spoken out about the recent wave of TV cancellations, suggesting that important Black stories aren’t being told because of it.

Emmy-nominated Issa Rae, who rose to fame with her YouTube series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl in the early 2010s, has made a number of successful series centred around Black characters and storylines.

The 39-year-old created HBO’s award-winning series Insecure, which was partially based on The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, and ran from 2016 to 2021.

She also produced and starred in HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show and created HBO’s Rap Sh!t, both of which have been cancelled in the last year.

Rap Sh!t was cancelled earlier this month, sparking a wave of outrage on social media.

In an interview with Net-A-Porter, Rae discussed how changes in the TV industry are affecting people of colour, with less Black-led stories being made.

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“It’s already happening,” she explained. “You’re seeing so many Black shows get cancelled, you’re seeing so many executives – especially on the DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] side – get canned.

“You’re seeing very clearly now that our stories are less of a priority.”

According to a new study by USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative, just three per cent of the top-grossing films of 2023 were directed by women of colour – and only one of those women was Black. 

Though Rae starred in the box office’s biggest hit last year, Barbie, which was directed by Greta Gerwig, a concerning 88 per cent of the top-grossing films of 2023 were directed by men.

“I am pessimistic, because there’s no one holding anybody accountable – and I can, sure, but also at what cost? I can’t force you to make my stuff,” Rae continued.

“It’s made me take more steps to try to be independent down the line if I have to.”

In addition to A Black Lady Sketch Show and Rap Sh!t, other Black-led TV shows to get the axe in recent years include voguing reality series Legendary, Love Life, Grown-ish, Ziwe, A League of Their Own and South Side.

Alongside Black-led shows, TV series with queer storylines and characters are also facing the chop at an alarming rate.

In the last year alone, shows including Our Flag Means Death, Glamorous, Willow, Queens of the Universe, and The L Word: Generation Q have been binned, leaving fans devastated.

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