When the first season of Broad City came out in 2014 I was ecstatic. Finally a show about some real-life, real-ass ladies; not the bougie unattainable thirty-somethings of Sex and the City, not the painfully quirky and kinda racist millennials of Two Broke Girls, and definitely not the pretentious and completely awful people in Girls. Broad City had characters that I could actually truly relate to. Abbi and Ilana were girls who were best friends without an agenda, girls who just wanted to fuck without looking for a prince, girls without a lot of money but who still managed to smoke weed every day. In two words: YAASSS QWEEEN. I don’t think there was a single person I didn’t recommend this show to when it first aired. I was so militant about it that I was that guy making you watch the thing while I watch you watch the thing, who turns to you after every punchline saying “HAHA, RIGHT?” It was a great first season of television, pretty much consistently laugh out loud and relatable, and the second series was pretty damn incredible too.
Upon first airing, Broad City was given the follow up slot to Workaholics in America. It made a lot of sense, and the former soon eclipsed the latter—I like Workaholics a lot, but I hate how immature it can be and I especially loathe whenever they throw in some cheap casual misogyny. Broad City was all the best parts of Workaholics, but with cute cool young women I could totally see myself and my friends hanging out with, and instead of sexist unfunny quips they had super funny jokes about how stupid sexism is. I liked that how, even though they were women in a male dominated television genre (remember, women can’t be funny), Abbi and Ilana never compromised their intelligence or their morals. They weren’t always right, but they were never mean spirited.
Slowly but surely everything began to unravel. I don’t know if there was something wrong with the ratings. I don’t know if the writing staff changed or maybe the show was meant to evolve like this from the beginning, but by season three my smart and sassy heroines seem to have become dumb, childish, and kinda bitchy. Several of the episodes open with gross-out body humour skits, and the “one of the boys” kind of attitude that I never wanted to leak into my perfect show. The girls got mean. Ilana especially became quite one-dimensional, reduced to a sexually aggressive narcissist who fetishizes almost everything about black culture. The refreshing intersectionality of the show’s feminism dried up to become extremely white and insular, going so far as to feature a cameo by Hillary fucking Clinton (serving Terminator realness). I used to treasure Broad City for being one of the only shows where I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t “woke” and ignore all my politics, but now it’s even worse because I find myself getting angry at these women for letting us down. We really need these strong, smart, and independent female characters, especially in sitcoms, and I feel a little betrayed to have that opportunity wasted by people who should know better. And where the fuck is Hannibal Burress?
I’ll continue to watch it though. The show’s still funny and I do still laugh, but there’s some sadness. I miss when Broad City didn’t seem afraid to tear into the male world we live in, and when their representation of being human and flawed didn’t mean being selfish and ignorant. I guess I’m not angry, just disappointed.
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