After binge watching Comedy Central’s “Broad City” on a whim, I expected to have a few laughs and maybe a new connection to others in that inside joke kind of way. But what actually happened was that I found myself very provoked, and I was finally able to narrow down what exactly I was feeling after experiencing this insanity: envy.
The women in Broad City were absolutely, hands-down, the most unpredictable, unapologetic, aloof and even gross female characters I think I’ve ever seen, but I wanted more than anything in the world to be more like them. It wasn’t their romantic relationships I was drawn to, and most definitely not their careers. It was the connection between the two main characters that made me want to live in their fictional – but not-too-far-from-real – world. Their story, if it can even be described as one, means something to me and a significant amount of other people I have come across. I mean something completely different now when I say “Hey, you really need to watch this show,” because believe it or not, I learned a lot.
The show documents the everyday chaos that is the lives of Abbi and Ilana, two twenty-somethings living in Manhattan. It can only be described as unparalleled in female comedy history. The uniqueness of Abbi and Ilana is rooted entirely in the characters’ priorities, which are quite a contrast to traditional female roles. They are two post-graduate millennials working hardly bearable jobs and spending their free time getting stoned and turning whatever everyday event they come across into something absolutely ridiculous. The dynamic between work and play is ironically reversed, giving the illusion that the two spend much more time hanging out and finding every dysfunctional adventure possible (refer to the episode where the two celebrate a successful day of sitting in the park and brainstorming app ideas). This is where the hit and miss concept applies to Broad City: Society is at a transition point in its sentiment toward drifty millennials and their more self-involved approach to achieving success. This show forced me to revisit what I imagine success to look like.
“I’ve always envied male platonic friendships for several reasons, but the one that stands out is the ability to maintain an impressive level of commitment in an entirely silly way. The Bro Code, if you will.”
These characters are heroes to feminism on every level; they send a clear message to women that not only is it okay to make up our own rules, but that it’s also incredibly fun and fulfilling. Abbi and Ilana are out to try it all, including off-the-wall sexual experiences and bucket list worthy accomplishments that have no innate meaning. Obviously this speaks volumes to women who feel confined by certain stigmas, but there is another message accompanying that feminism that is very tangible but difficult to define. Abbi and Ilana are nothing short of obsessed with each other, and for whatever reason, a significant amount of viewers find themselves obsessed with the obsession.
Never once in the show’s three seasons is there any indication that Abbi and Ilana think they should be in committed romantic relationships in their mid-twenties, and this is something that an overwhelming amount of women in their twenties, including myself sometimes, use to calculate their worth. Ilana maintains an 18-month casual open relationship in which she not only accepts anti-exclusivity but almost fantasizes about it. Abbi finds herself dreaming of that monogamous horizon, but always seems to be let down and finds that commitment in her best friend. It’s definitely a purposeful evasion of that traditional thought process. Abbi and Ilana reroute that engrained need for commitment toward their friendship with each other and away from the frantic search for “the one”. The word “important” doesn’t do this message justice at all.
Female friendship is a tricky subject for me to understand because I have always been uncomfortable with drama. Not even bad drama specifically, just the general emphasis on the sentimental “you mean so much to me” attitude. I’ve always envied male platonic friendships for several reasons, but the one that stands out is the ability to maintain an impressive level of commitment in an entirely silly way. The Bro Code, if you will. Why do women feel so unsatisfied by their lives without a classic romantic relationship involved? Broad City captured that specific sentiment and made me realize that I needed to completely rethink my approach to friendship. Ironically, the show was suggested to me by someone who became my best friend, and I’ve been able to find a similar mentality in that friendship to Abbi’s and Ilana’s.
This brings me back to what I learned about success: It’s the most useless thing that exists unless you have your person. The person. As scary as it is to abandon the centuries of societal trends that have placed us in this awkward place in history, Broad City showed me that I have everything I ever need to live a creative, impulsive, fun life no matter where I am or what I spend my time doing. I’ve learned that women need each other, and I’m finally comfortable with the idea that my personal successes are made so much more fulfilling when I allow myself to see the value in myself through a best friend’s eyes.
I’ve always envied male platonic friendships for several reasons, but the one that stands out is the ability to maintain an impressive level of commitment in an entirely silly way. The Bro Code, if you will.