The entertainment industry is rapidly evolving, but according to Issa Rae, it is not necessarily for the better. In a recent Time interview, she expresses her frustration with an industry that seems to prioritize factors other than creativity and inclusion. This sentiment stems from her own experiences, particularly the cancellation of her TV series Rap Sh!t by Warner Bros. Discovery. According to Rae, this is just one example of a concerning trend she has observed. She laments, “I’ve never seen Hollywood this scared and clueless, and at the mercy of Wall Street.”
Last year was a tumultuous one for Issa Rae. On one hand, she received the prestigious Peabody Trailblazer award, starred in acclaimed films such as Barbie and American Fiction, and released the second season of her highly regarded Max show, Rap Sh!t. However, she also had to lay off eight employees during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes and witnessed the cancellation of her own series. These events served as a stark reminder to Rae of the unwavering influence of those who hold the purse strings. This unfortunate reality reflects the age-old adage: “he who has the gold, rules.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Rae is determined to make significant changes. She is currently developing at least two new projects for HBO and actively working towards establishing a studio campus in South L.A. However, she remains mindful of the valuable lessons she has learned. Rae firmly believes that her show, Rap Sh!t, would not have received the green light from WarnerMedia in today’s climate, where executives prioritize safety over innovation. She perceives this shift as a direct threat to the industry’s pledge to enhance diversity and representation. She expresses her disappointment, stating, “There is a bitterness of just like, who suffers from you guys pulling back? People of color always do.”
In the past, executives typically refrained from interfering with creative decisions. However, according to Rae, this dynamic has changed dramatically. She asserts, “Now these conglomerate leaders are also making the decisions about Hollywood. Y’all aren’t creative people. Stick to the money.” Rae maintains that platforms like TikTok, where risk-taking is embraced, are currently capturing the attention of younger audiences. In her view, the industry is inadvertently sabotaging itself by stifling creativity and straying from what truly resonates with viewers.
Despite acknowledging the winds of change in the entertainment industry, Rae is determined to maintain her unique voice and creative edge. She recognizes that the competition among streaming services has led to a shifting definition of success and branding. Amidst this uncertainty, Rae remains steadfast in her own brand identity and artistic vision. However, she acknowledges the complexity that arises when her personal goals do not align with what those who fund her projects expect.
Issa Rae’s candid critique on the state of the entertainment industry is a reflection of the challenges it currently faces. The shift towards prioritizing financial considerations over creativity and inclusivity threatens to undermine the progress made in recent years. As industry leaders grapple with the complexities of this changing landscape, it is crucial to remember the importance of nurturing diverse voices and allowing space for innovation. Only by doing so can the industry reclaim its reputation as a bastion of imagination and originality.