Bidding farewell to the Comedy Central show that tackled identity politics, feminism, and queer relationships with refreshing insight.
No other show spoke to our times like Broad City did. Last Thursday, Comedy Central aired the finale of the hit sketch comedy series starring UCB alumni Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. For its five-year run, Broad City was for twenty-something women what The Golden Girls was for their grandmothers. The show flagships a niche for urban, twenty-something, left-leaning, weed-smoking women learning how to “adult.” The final episode bids the show a bittersweet goodbye, as Ilana says goodbye to Abbi before Abbi leaves New York to begin an art residency in Colorado. It was a particularly heartfelt farewell to a normally quirky show.
The heart of the show was always in the friendship. Together they navigated young adulthood: hustling for money, sleeping with strange people, taking mushrooms, getting bed bugs, and making all the mundanities of daily life funny in a way that their audience connected to. Fans connected with them because Abbi and Ilana were exposed. They talked openly about sex and masturbation. They Facetimed together while on the toilet and viewers felt like they were there, too. They had mediocre jobs and annoying roommates. Broad City is the anti-Sex and the City. Nothing is polished, nobody lives in an unrealistically nice apartment, and everything feels real.
Broad City is more than just a buddy show. Second only to its feminist contribution, Broad City's biggest legacy will be its normalization of identity politics.The show presents the world creators Jacobson and Glazer want to see, so instead of creating cringey, contrived attempts at diversity, they depict the world that’s obvious to them. They centralize queer relationships without overplaying them and cast people of color in authority roles without tokenizing.
Admittedly, it’s a show about two white girls, but the creators of the show work with what they can. The show is rife with examples of delightfully unexpected social power reversals. Abbi and Ilana are white women whose often have black men or women as bosses. Abbi gets told off by the young hijabi girl who works at the convenience store. Their circle of friends and lovers is Latino, black, white, and gay, and at separate times, Ilana and Abbi have romantic relationships with women. Yet, there is no talk about coming out or reckoning with a sexual discovery. It just is. Nobody makes a big deal out of it. There are no queer characters, just characters who have queer experiences. Nobody is assigned as a stand-in for a message; they’re just people.
it’s impossible not be struck by how rare this kind of normalization is. It makes Hollywood seem out of touch because Broad City gets closer to real life than Hollywood. Every major character in the show gets to be a fully-fledged and complex personality. In 2019, Broad City makes me wonder why anything other than this could be okay.