Eden Mackenzie

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Shows to Watch: Broad City and what women can learn from this Dynamic Duo

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everywhere! at home, at work, in the garden, in the beach. just not in the park, I swear.

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If you’ve run out of shows to watch and are looking for a recommendation, Broad City is a must-see. This series finished it’s final run in March of 2019. The whole series is available on Hulu.

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are not only the stars, writers, and directors of Broad City, but they are real-life friends. That is what makes their Broad City friendship transcend the screen. In fact, the two go way back. Apparently, Jacobson and Glazer were both attending the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy school, an Improv and Sketch Comedy Training Center, back in 2007. They weren’t in the same classes, but they were both auditioning for the improv and sketch teams. Neither of them made either team so they joined a team called Secret Promise Circle, hoping to gain more experience and practice.

photo credit: Eric Schwabel

 Ten years later, the two received a dual nomination for best comedic performance from the MTV Movie and TV Awards.  All the other nominees were men who received their own individual nominations.  It could be argued that it’s near impossible to split up this duo, but it’s hard not to see the situation as two women equating to one man in this category. Glazer commented about women in comedy saying, “People once wondered if women were funny. That literally used to be a question.”  Lil Rel Howery ended up winning the award for his role in Get Out.

Broady City was labeled as a form a “sneaky feminism.” Jacobson argued against this saying, “We’re both totally up-front and proud feminists. We’re not being all secretive about it. I feel we’re pretty blatant in our approach,” and Glazer added, “‘Diiiie, men.’ If you play any Broad City episode backward, that’s all we’re saying.” 

Abbi and Ilana are the two main characters in Broad City. They get into trouble and mess things up together, but at the end of the day, they remain friends. It is clear, that the two prioritize one another over men. Though the show addresses different love interests and sexual encounters, the main theme of the show is their friendship. The first episode of the fourth season is even dedicated to explaining how Ilana and Abbi became friends.

Beyond men, Broad City shows many examples of how these two lean one another, and from these situations comes the comedy. In one episode, Ilana searches all over New York to find a drugged out Abbi in Whole Foods who is hallucinating due to all the pain meds she took after her wisdom teeth surgery. In another episode, the two go out to a fancy restaurant for Abbi’s birthday. Ilana has an allergic reaction to selfish and Abbi storms through the restaurant carrying Ilana to get her outside, recreating a cinematic moment of the hero carrying the damsel in distress to safety.

Jacobson and Glazer have a way of addressing hard topics without coming across as preachy, due to their satiric genius. They address rape culture and the patriarchy. They sometimes caricature men to show the absurdity of one-dimensional characters in a way that makes a viewer question how women have been depicted on screen since the start of time. 

Broad City started off as a YouTube web series from 2009 – 2011. It was then picked up by Comedy Central and aired on TV in 2014. The New York Times reviewed the show saying that “For so long, women tried to succeed as much as men. Now, they have to fail as badly” and that it was a form of feminism as it appealed to slacker life. The Guardian labeled it as genius and said that “it was a departure for women-centric comedy” by focusing more on friendships than relationships.  The New Yorker referred to Ilana and Abbi as slapstick anarchists. Broad City followed in the footsteps of Girls, Young Adult, and Bridesmaids, all female comedies featuring characters that inevitably fuck things up.  However, Broad City proves to be different from these shows due to the lack of self-loathing, and the way in which the female protagonists build each other up.  Broad City has a strong and direct voice and made waves as a groundbreaking show due to its positive portrayal of female friendship.  Though the duo smoked a lot of pot, the friendship depicted on screen is one that women should take to heart.  Abbi and Ilana have a lot to teach us about what it means to be a good friend, to love unconditionally, and to accept and appreciate those who are different from us.

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