Monday, June 8, 2015

YAS Queens: Broad City & Female Friendships

by Melissa Adamo

In Broad City, Abbi and Ilana, two single gals in NYC, work part time jobs and spend most of their time together, smoking weed and shopping in Bed, Bath and Beyond. When they are not with each other, they are FaceTiming one another—sharing meals or bongs and even having sex while talking to the other on the computer screen. Their relationship is constant; it has no boundaries. And it is a love story that I can identify with more than any other on TV. Broad City is often compared to Girls since both half hour shows feature twenty-something women living in New York, yet Broad City centers around a true friendship as opposed to separate characters who don’t really like each other. The only other sitcom I know that includes a strong female relationship like this is Parks and Recreation. (Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins forever!)

It is because of this friendship that Broad City, whose executive producer is Amy Poehler, seems to have more in common with Parks and Rec than Girls. Of course, Broad City’s main plots do center around Abbi and Ilana as opposed to an ensemble cast, and it airs on Comedy Central; thus their friendship goes beyond what we could ever see from Leslie and Ann on NBC. 

I never understood why Hannah Horvath of Girls or other fictional female characters past high-school age bickered over boyfriends. All of my adult relationships were healthy and did not rely on talking behind a person’s back—nod here to Ilana lovingly showing pictures of Abbi to strangers literally behind her back. I have friends I email weekly with inane details of my life, complaining about and celebrating work, men, family. Likewise, I support them and reach out when they are going through rough times. Cue scenes of Ilana running down the streets screaming Abbi’s name to find her after she hadn’t heard from her in a day or Abbi carrying Ilana’s limp body out of a restaurant like a slow action superhero shot after a quite intentional allergic reaction to shellfish. 

And when I meet new women, it always feels like the blossoming relationship I would have with a romantic partner. I am happy if the “date” goes well, get excited when she follows up after. When the banter is quick and quirky, I know love is in the air, hoping to one day say something akin to this Abbi and Ilana moment: “23 was pretty great for me. It was the year I met you.” Such stories bring me to another point regarding our star broads—the romance of friendship. 

In this way, Abbi and Ilana’s love story parallels Leslie and Ann: Abbi being Ann, the more traditional one, while Ilana being Leslie, the crazy one who loves her best friend almost too much. Leslie calls Ann many pet names (“beautiful, tropical fish” being my favorite) that all reveal how she admires Ann and is in awe of her beauty, much like a partner would be—Leslie even “chooses” Ann over her own boyfriend/eventual husband many times throughout the series.

Ilana depicts Abbi in a similar fashion, describing her as “a beautiful, sumptuous model type” with “long, silky hair like a horse’s mane.” Ilana takes this type of infatuation further than Leslie though, feeling her up while she makes out with her boyfriend, masturbating with a picture of her, or whining, “you said that if you were ever going to do same sex experimentation, it was going to be with me!” Clearly, Broad City can take this relationship to a somewhat more risqué level because it is on Comedy Central and is a show that tackles sex, drugs, and bodies in a more direct, honest, or—sure— raunchier way than allowed on NBC. 

The comedy trope of friendship as something more than platonic (think every bromance storyline ever) rings true and thus funny to many of us because such relationships are so similar—they both take effort, communication, and humor. So why does the blend between romantic and platonic love for these particular TV “couples” seem so striking? 

Maybe the Abbi and Ilana sexual tension reverses the all-too-common male comedy cliché that revolves around homophobia. Still in 2015, we are faced with jokes of men having to say “no homo” after they express any level of emotion to another man. Silicon Valley comes to mind here. In Abbi and Ilana’s womance, they get to use sex as a punchline yet do not lower the comedy by marginalizing a group of people. 

In fact, Ilana is bisexual in the show and is primarily characterized by her somewhat over-the-top social awareness. For example, her greatest fear is spending time in the Upper East Side, the biggest insult to sling her way would be saying she’s “intolerant,” and then there is always this titillating exchange: Ilana: “What’s hotter than a pink dick with a sense of humor? I mean a black dick.” Abbi: “Sometimes, you're so anti racist that you're actually really racist.” 

These blurred relationships perhaps showcase women’s openness with sexuality and emotions hence the lack of boundaries. As men on television often hide from anything that might seem emasculating or “too gay” according to cultural standards, women are often fighting to be recognized as complex human beings instead of eye candy or comic relief, women who laugh and love openly in ways that defy hetero-normative or feminine labels and can proudly say without being drunk, “I love you too, dude. This is like a moment. I feel like nobody else is here, ya know?” and mean it. 

In Broad City, the writers, creators, and stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, illustrate their own heightened version of their friendship, writing scripts that feel true. This is why the show is so fresh and funny and important because they aren’t trying to write female friendships; they aren’t trying to do anything other than make themselves laugh. 

Catch up on all of Abbi and Ilana’s antics on the ComedyCentral app before the third season airs. 

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