Is Broad City The Feminism You’ve Been Waiting For?

Broad City

Broad City is a Comedy Central show starring its creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

The show is a penis-less Pineapple Express and the duo are akin to a busty Bevis and Butthead. Ilana and Abbi talk about sex, embark on hilarious hijinks, and smoke a lot of pot. Unlike Sex and City or Girls, the show is centered around two best friends who aren’t are obsessed with men, their careers, or consumerism but instead they are obsessed with each other. The show, whose third season is airing Feb. 17, is a proclamation of what feminism should be.

Women Can Be Funny

Despite how far women have come, the sentiment that “women can’t be funny” is in circulation. I’ve heard it again and again – my brother has said it, my male friends have said, even I have thought it. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling- to name a few comedic goddesses- are beginning to crack this glass ceiling. But, most opportunities for women in comedy still feel like a whimsical sub-genre on Netflix.

Often actresses are pigeon-holed into one of two comedic roles: the witty female protagonist a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars or the sex-obsessed slapstick star in the style of Bridesmaids or any of Melissa McCarthy’s recent roles.

Dating back to Jane Austen’s Emma, women have filled the role of the sardonic story teller. Classically the star, an outsider looking in, provides us with a digging commentary. Despite the comedic value of these shows, they would never be labeled as “comedies”. Most of these series appear under the Netflix category of “strong female protagonist” and are therefore labeled as the “chick lit” of television.

There is no doubting that ever since BridesMaids Melissa McCarthy’s IMBd page is full of comedies. But they are slapstick comedies- roles that accentuate her body and physical appearance as a point of comedic relief. In a similar manner, Amy Schemer’s humor relies on her discussion of sex- in other words it revolves around her body. As one of my male friends put it- “she is funny but all she talks about is how much of a slut she is.” This is not to say that women un-censoring themselves and entering the genre of slapstick comedy isn’t a huge accomplishment, feminist and otherwise. But these roles are still genreing women’s ability to be funny.

Broad City isn’t genred. Its not funny because the stars are fat, have horrible makeovers, or are self proclaimed sluts. Broad City is funny because it is real. We can all relate to having a less than desirable job like Abbi’s job as a cleaner, which requires her to have an all too intimate relationship with toilets and drain pubes. We all have or wish we had friends like Ilana- opinionated, impression aficionados who can get away with sleeping in the bathroom stall at work. Broad City is mesmerizing because it is a show which could exist in the real world – not some sepia filtered tv reality.

You Do You

The authenticity of Broad City probably has a lot to do with its origins. The characters Ilana and Abbi are based off of the real lives of the show’s creators. In 2010, Ilana and Abbi started off as stars of their own web series. The internet recognized the duo’s comic brilliance and so did Amy Poehler. Amy become an executive producer of the show as it moved from YouTube to Comedy Central. The show maintained its genuine origins and Ilana and Abbi claim that the lives of their fictional characters closely mirror their own lives.

Women Don’t Have To Have It All To Be Feminists

Part of the appeal of Ilana and Abbi is their roles as everyday feminist heros. Ilana and Abbi have been described as “femininjas” by Mic. They are not radical feminists like the man-hating-bra-burning-lesbians who are harder to find walking the streets than a blessing of unicorns. They are not superwomen who “have it all,” characters who perpetuate the myth that its possible to have that a high powered career, be home for the kids, and run the PTA . They are just Abbi and Illana. They work jobs that aren’t careers. They aren’t in serious relationships and they don’t want to be. They talk about sex. They have sex. They support each other publicly and behind each other’s backs. They don’t take shit from catcalling men. They demand to be respected. They live their lives as if they are equal members of society. They are feminists without having to tell us they are feminists.

Tune in to Comedy Central on Wednesdays at 10/9c to see this duo in action.

Feature image: Patrik Giardino/Courtesy of Comedy Central

Diana Advani
Diana is just writing for the meantime. In a Clark Kent fashion, she has a super hero alter-ego, The Lump. The Lump's super powers include: watching too much television, being sedentary, and snacking. Shoot, the whole The Lump thing was supposed to be a secret.