Issa Rae is making big moves in Hollywood with two shows coming down the pipeline for HBO: affluent black teen 90210-esque drama Sweet Life and Him or Her, written by Travon Free, which focuses on the dating life of a bisexual black man. It’s the latter of the two that has been needlessly dissected by some, and Rae talks about dealing with that level of criticism in her new Deadline interview.
“I remember just being pissed all day,” she said. “Sometimes you live in a bubble; you live in a liberal bubble where you think that everyone is open, and in my eyes progressive in a way where there are so many human experiences, black experiences, gender experiences. There are so many stories to tell. The fear that a story like that would be told when it’s the story of so many other people is just absolutely ridiculous. The censorship and the idea that black men can’t be all things and still be black men is just absurd, it is.”
She said she wants to see all types of stories onscreen, whether or not the experience shown is one with which she identifies. “I want to see all kinds of stories,” she said. “We’re just scratching the surface, and there’s plenty of voices beyond me that are going to do that anyway.”
As we reported last December, Him or Her could be the first TV show focusing on a black LGBT male experience since Noah’s Arc, so the vacuum that Him or Her would be filling is expansive. It’s highly necessary for a show like this to exist, and the amount of pushback Rae has received probably illustrates just why it’s so important. If the main issue is some people only want to see the black male experience in one way (or in the way they experience their black manhood), then that’s limiting. If anything, Him or Her could open up viewers’ worldviews and help make them realize everyone deserves to tell their stories.