Broad City has been in the news in anticipation of its fourth season, which premiers in August on Comedy Central and Hulu. In the first three seasons, creators and stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have made a point of countering the superficiality of “girl-power” feminism, albeit with one glaring exception (a cameo by Hillary Clinton, which I’ll get to shortly.) Jacobson and Glazer play younger versions of themselves: two Jewish-American twenty-something women in Brooklyn. Together they stumble into wacky situations, get really high, coach each other through hookups, and do as little work at their terrible jobs as possible. They celebrate each other’s successes (which can be as minor as surviving the subway, or as major as getting Abbi’s paintings into a gallery) and entertain each other through hard times (like getting conned out of $200 by a creepy man-baby, or realizing that Abbi’s “gallery” is really just a sandwich shop).
In their everyday lives, Abbi and Ilana expose the problems with the faux feminism of the upper class. Women are encouraged to “lean in” by projecting ambition, competence, and responsibility to achieve material success. But Broad City’s feminism is less worried about saying the right lines and appearing independent than letting women be who they are—people with needs and imperfections.
Lucky for us, who they are in public doesn’t diverge too much from who they are in private. On the most basic level, Abbi and Ilana are regularly sort of gross—on camera they go to the bathroom, tweeze their pubic hair, and do other things when no one is supposed to be looking. But the women’s loud, obsessive love for each other is the best thing that they don’t have to hide. Women’s characters are often written to undermine or compete with each other, or to dissolve into emotional puddles while the main characters move the plot forward. But Abbi and Ilana show us a strong, healthy friendship between women. They’re honest about their flaws, don’t hesitate to ask each other for support, and know how to have mindless fun together. They’re each other’s biggest fan.
Nick Paumgarten at The New Yorker observes: “Abbi and Ilana embody the freedom, debauchery, ineptitude, and fellowship that people, particularly young women, must give up, or at least hide from view, in order to function as adults.” On television and in real life, strong women have to be responsible and competent, free of needs and totally in control. They roll their eyes at men’s antics and clean up other people’s messes. On Broad City, they’re at their mess-making best.