Saturday, May 3, 2014

Gender Bender

Abbi & Ilana

The comedy Broad City started as a web series, created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.  In 2014, it was picked up by Comedy Central with executive producer Amy Poehler.  The series tells the story of two best friends, Ilana and Abbi, as they go about their daily lives making ordinary tasks entertaining.  They are in their mid-twenties, living in New York on a low budget income, while still trying to spice up their lives by attending various functions around the City.  Broad City gives a modern representation of females defying gender norms, while illustrating the Millennial generation’s lack of desire to take on responsibility.

Ilana is the carefree, spunky one.  She likes to smoke weed, hang out with her friends, and constantly comes up with creative ways to get out of work.  She has an office job, but she never takes it seriously.  She shows up to work hours late, dressed in crop tops or see-through shirts, and has a routine of sleeping in the bathroom.  She is never actually seen doing any work.  Abbi is the more quite, artistic one.  She likes to draw and hopes to one day make a career out of it.  Until then, to pay the bills, she works at a gym called Soulstice as a cleaner.  She constantly has to do bitch work, like unclog toilets or deal with “pube situations” in the locker rooms.  Even though she is older than Ilana, Abbi hides behind Ilana’s shadow.  She is more reserved and needs some time to break out of her shell.  Ilana and Abbi are very close and comfortable with each other; their friendship resembles that of an intimate relationship.

The girls on Broad City closely resemble the guys on Workaholics.  They’re both about a group of close friends in their mid-twenties that like to do drugs, get drunk, and mess around.  The guys on Workaholics work in an office, but are never actually seen doing any work.  They like to play games in the office or pull pranks on each other.  Their cubical resembles the opposite of a professional workspace.  This is similar to how Ilana is at her job.  She has mastered the art of sleeping with her eyes open and has a pillow that she stores under her desk so she can sleep in the bathroom.  She consistently finds excuses to leave the office for hours at a time and never takes her boss seriously.  The guys in Workaholics are often shown smoking bowls and drinking in their house, while the Broad City girls are often seen smoking blunts and parading around the City.  Broad City is like the girl version of Workaholics, exemplifying that Abbi and Ilana can be just as carefree and crazy as Blake, Anders, and Adam.

Video chatting during sex
Abbi and Ilana are the best of friends.  They are constantly together and are very open with each other.  The first episode opens with Ilana video chatting Abbi looking at her vibrator with a Post-It note attached to it, saying “Tuesday 7am.”  We soon find out Ilana is in the middle of having sex, with the computer rested on Lincoln’s chest.  Lincoln is the guy Ilana is casually hooking up with.  He has mentioned a few times that he would like to be more than a hook up with Ilana, but she is not really interested.  Broad City shows females in a typical male role.  Normally girls are the ones depicted as the more relationship-oriented ones and are not often shown using vibrators or being the dominant one during sex.  Generally, guys are the ones shown objectifying women, but in the second episode, Ilana and Abbi sit in a park and check out the guys in the surrounding area, stating whether or not they would sleep with that guy.  Most women are taught they need to act like ladies and do “lady-like” things, such as, not sleeping around or not talking about bathroom issues.  In the fifth episode, “Abbi is sick of being Abbi so she kicks open a stall door in the men’s bathroom (after she bypasses the women’s room) and spots a pale, horrified guy doing cocaine, she happily decides to join” (Viruet). Then in the seventh episode, Abbi has people over at her apartment, one of them being her neighbor Jeremy, whom she has a huge crush on.  After she uses the bathroom, she realizes it won’t flush and freaks out.  Ilana says she will take care of it so that no one has to know.  The two girls do not hide anything from each other and are more comfortable with each other than most people would admit.

Ilana and Abbi have a girl version of a bromance.  Ilana has made many comments about how she would hook up with Abbi if it were possible, but the two girls are very affectionate toward each other.  “Ilana and Abbi have a dedicated best friendship that is a constant source of delight and support, a co-dependence that’s sustaining, not undermining.  It’s a relationship that trumps crappy jobs and bad roommate situations and niggling worries, and permits both women to be exactly who they are” (Paskin).  Ilana is constantly encouraging Abbi to step out of her comfort zone and explore new things.  Abbi is not respected at her job, and Ilana disagrees with how much Abbi puts up with.  In the finale the girls go out to a fancy seafood restaurant to celebrate Abbi’s 26th birthday.  They get all dressed up, smoke a blunt, and start ordering the seafood platters Abbi’s dad already paid for.  Midway through dinner Ilana’s face starts to break out and swell because she is allergic to seafood.  When Abbi goes to use Ilana’s EpiPen, she misses and then decides to pick Ilana up and carry her to the hospital.  The scene ends with the two girls cuddling in the hospital bed together.  “Abbi and Ilana are not an odd couple, but perfect partners in crime” (Paskin).  They always have each other’s back and would go above and beyond for one another. 

Broad City like Workaholics shows a group of friends in their mid-twenties that aren’t really ready to take on the responsibilities life throws at them.  Ilana refuses to take her job seriously and is constantly doing anything she can to get out of doing any actual work, similar to how the guys are in Workaholics.  Ilana does not have concrete career goals.  Even though Abbi likes to draw, she never does anything that can help advance her career.  She continuously hints at work that she would like to become a trainer, but she never actually tries to advance on becoming one.  Both the girls live in apartments with random roommates and don’t really care to change anything.  Abbi lives with a girl that we never see but her boyfriend is constantly in their apartment playing video games and eating Abbi’s food rent-free.  “Today’s twentysomethings are taking longer than their predecessors to complete school, leave the nest, become financially independent, and start families” (Williams).  In one episode Ilana decides she is going to try to do her taxes.  After trying for a short period of time, she gives up and mails them to her parents, saying last year they got me like $600.  Abbi says I think they are just sending you money.  The girls are content with how their lives are and don’t really care to take any big steps towards adulthood.

Ilana and Abbi love to party, smoke weed, and mess around.  They are best friends that can always count on each other for support or a good time.  They don’t need a dating relationship when they have each other to fall back on.  They often refer to each other as “dude” or “bitch” but mean it in an endearing way.  They strive to bring out the best in each other, while neglecting to take on any major responsibilities.  The comedy appeals to the Millennial generation that can relate to the desired lack of growing up.  Broad City demonstrates that girls be just as easy going as guys. 


  1. Sources:
    Paskin, Willa. "How Broad City Became TV’s Funniest Comedy." Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2014.

    Viruet, Pilot. "'Broad City' Season 1 Episode 5 Recap: "Fattest Asses"" Flavorwire. N.p., 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 May 2014.

    Williams, Monica. "Why Millennials Aren't Growing Up." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 May 2014.

  2. This was an interesting read about a show I know nothing about. I liked your parallel to workaholics and would agree that this show seems to operate the same way from your description. I would like to some sort of argument as to if our society as a whole is headed towards these show's mentalities and what that reflects.

  3. First off, this sounds absolutely hilarious and I need to start watching it for sure. I liked the ideas you brought up about them having a girl version of a bromance and how they are basically dating so they don't need a man. The ideas about how millennials really do not have any desire to grow up is really interesting, I wish you built off that a little more but I can definitely see that trend in this show, workaholics and even stuff like Girls..and possibly myself but hey I've still got a year, right?

  4. I've only watched the first episode of the series, but seriously i laughed the entire time. i really like where you went with how this show defies gender norms, i think it is a really important concept. the only thing is i don't think you (or maybe i didn't follow) your argument was strong. it seemed like you compared it a lot to workaholics, which helps. and also you describe what happens in the episodes..i think a little more expanding of some of the issues you brought up would be very helpful on your blog! but you really do a good job on explaining the show and now i really need to go get caught up on it!

  5. I really found your analysis interesting since I also wrote on this topic and we took very different approaches to analyzing this show. I really liked how you tied workaholics into this show because it is the male version of Workaholics and I never made that connection before. I also think it would be interesting if you elaborate on millenials not having the desire to grow up. I only bring this up because it is so difficult to get a job because college students are doing better in school and getting more experience making it more competitive.

  6. This was a really interesting topic! I have never heard of this show, but now I want to go and watch it! I love how you compared it to Workaholics to show girls can be just as easy going as guys. It would be cool to see how society overall feels about women acting in such manner since it is usually directed towards solely men on television.

  7. I also have never heard of this show, but it was a very interesting topic to read! I liked that you were relating this show to the girl version of workaholics. This show seems really funny and i'm definitely going to have to watch it sometime. I also liked that you talked about the whole not wanting to grow up aspect, because i think that is something that people can really relate too and connect with. good job!

  8. I have also not seen the show yet. However, I am extremely interested in it now. I think that your comparison of them to the characters in Workaholics is a great and creative way to support your claim of the characters on Broad City defying typical gender roles. I also think this comparison to Workaholics helps people who haven't seen Broad City to have a better understanding because Workaholics is so popular.

  9. I enjoyed your blog post as you were able to parallel the structure of workaholics with Broad City. From the blog I was able deduct the challenging of gender norms through an analysis of both expected feminine behavior as well as the comparison to "bromantic" relationships. I also think it is interesting how you tease out the current trend of people in their 20s struggling to leave the nest. The only thing I would suggest is adding academic sources to reinforce your position of gender norms and how the women of Broad City challenge them.


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