Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Television

Funny Broads

by Stephanie Van Schilt , March 27, 20141 Comment

lead_large

 

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Either Broad City is just ‘Comedy Central’s version of Girls’ – because they’re both humorous depictions of young white women in NYC. Or Broad City is pitted against Girls to determine which of the two is better/funnier/more relevant/wears 90s crop tops better.

It’s not the research methodology that irks me about these contrast/compare/compete dynamics. In her considered retort to Christopher Hitchens’ bombastic sexism, Alessandra Stanley notes that women in comedy are made to compete or subvert the form in an effort to make themselves likeable or appealing. Investigating the intrinsic ties between image, female comedians and gender politics, Stanley brings attention to the tacitly accepted gap generated by traditional patriarchal social structures. Intentionally or otherwise, this is the framework within which the either/or discussions of Broad City and Girls operate.

You all know about Girls by now, the HBO show lead by ‘generational voice’ Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath. Broad City stars creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as Ilana and Abbi. Developed for television from a web series, with the help of executive producer Amy Poehler, it premiered earlier this year. Like countless other shows, they may share a common interest in the lives of twentysomething New Yorkers, but Girls and Broad City are primarily being lumped together because they feature – and are created by – funny women who present their abject physicality and sexuality without fear and with purpose.

To compare them in such a limited dichotomous sense reinforces assumptions about women in comedy, particularly as agents in control of their own lives and bodies. These shows may be united in their interest in gender and sex politics, and their focus on female friendships and on similar (not the same) demographics – but they do not depict a singular universal experience. They undermine standard gender roles in idiosyncratic ways because, contrary to popular belief, women are capable of doing this.

It’s vitally important to acknowledge that Broad City and Girls can coexist without being cannibalising forces. Broad City is not the ‘anti-Girls’. While sharing superficial similarities, they are diverse and distinct cultural products from different television and comedy lineages and deserve to be acknowledged for their multifaceted aims and voices. Essentially, Girls is a dramedy, while Broad City is borne of the stand up and sketch comedy traditions.

It’s hard to imagine this would be a point of conjecture if these two shows were ensemble casts with male leads. Flight of the Conchords and Bored to Death shared a network, NYC setting and a dash of whimsy, but weren’t considered mutually exclusive. You don’t hear Curb Your Enthusiasm versus Entourage polls continually taking place, though they share showbiz DNA. There’s an unspoken awareness that these male driven comedies are distinct, just as there’s unspoken gender inequity in the form. After all, we have kings of gross-out or crude humour, of physical and sexual comedy but, as Stanley acknowledges, ‘[t]here are still limits to how high a female comedian can climb—the crass ceiling’.

At times, Girls mildly rises to the ‘crass ceiling’, which always leads to some kind of inflated exposure or undue controversy. Meanwhile, Broad City smashes through the ‘crass ceiling’, taking its lead from the multitude of likeminded, filthy female performers who have long existed on the cultural fringes.

Glazer and Jacobson groomed their comedic chops as part of the renowned improv and stand up group Upstanding Citizens Brigade; it’s shameful that they, and other female comedians, are still treated as second-class citizens in pop culture commentary. Many female performers have paved this trashy, abject path long before Bridesmaids hit the box office, including the likes of Roseanne Barr, Amy Sedaris (particularly in the underrated Strangers With Candy) or even Janeane Garofalo, each of whom are either mentioned or featured in a guest role in Broad City’s first season. Emphasising the show’s tenuous affiliation with Girls undermines these women’s history and the greater tradition of female performers.

Women in comedy must be acknowledged as more than an amorphous, universal culture-producing blob, or as limited antagonistic forces. Women are capable of shared and diverse voices, comedic or otherwise. There’s no neat, two-pronged scale upon which all females must compete or stand in perfectly packaged solidarity. Broad City’s filthy attitude is awesome and hilarious as its female characters fuck, fight, snort and eat bagels from the dumpster without apologising. Nor should they have to.

Stephanie Van Schilt is Deputy Editor at The Lifted Brow and a freelance writer. She tweets @steph_adele.

ACO logo




Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

1397733525000-TheOppositeOfLoneliness-600

Carody Culver

A published afterlife: Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan looked set for literary stardom. For an aspiring writer, her credentials were so perfect they could have been lifted straight from fiction. Read more »

warning

SA Jones

‘Weather is never just weather’: Sophie Cunningham’s Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy

We’ve had national disasters in the forty years since Cyclone Tracy, but Tracy’s iconic status in the national consciousness endures. Read more »

The Fictional Woman

Carody Culver

Learning from semi-charmed lives

When famous public figures take a step further and use their personal experience as a literary vehicle for exploring wider social issues, I can happily check my celebrity memoir prejudice at the bookshop door. Read more »

1398878478_lea-michele-brunette-ambition-zoom

Julia Tulloh

How to be beautiful, according to Lea Michele

Lea Michele’s new book, Brunette Ambition, is what you might expect from a fairly young television and musical theatre star. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Julia Tulloh

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

wetlands_poster

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Lucky Dip Diving: an approach to film festivals

I wanted to let go of the grasping desire to watch everything and be part of every conversation. But with the Melbourne International Film Festival in full swing, anxieties arise again. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

hbo-silicon-valley

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Silicon Valley will eat itself

  At a certain point in the lifespan of any subculture, fiction and reality start to blur. Members of the subculture begin to model their character and appearance on the idealised representations of themselves they read about or see on screen, and the loop continues until nobody … Read more »

inbox

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Death to the Inbox

The primary source of our ‘email problem’ seems to lie in our belief that email is a vastly richer and more capable medium than it is. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

detail

Danielle Binks

Fan-Girling Over Super Heroines

The testosterone-fuelled BIFF! BANG! KAPOW! of classic comics can seem uninviting, filled with spandex-clad men and swooning damsels who hold limited appeal outside the stereotypical 18-35 year-old male demographic. But things are changing in the world of comics. Read more »

9780143305323

Danielle Binks

Australia Needs Diverse Books

The ‘We Need Diverse Books’ team is made up of authors, editors and publishers from North America, but the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and campaign has reverberated in youth literature communities worldwide. Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

Jabberwocky1

Chad Parkhill

The carnival is over

Jabberwocky, scheduled to take place last weekend, was the kind of festival that wasn’t supposed to fail. Read more »

Robin Thicke

Chad Parkhill

Why has Robin Thicke’s Paula flopped?

What, exactly, has caused Paula to sell so poorly that it has already positioned itself as this year’s most memorable flop? Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

2014-07-03-theleftovers

Stephanie Van Schilt

TV pilots: The good, the bad and The Leftovers

With the wealth of shows on offer, committing to a new TV series can feel like a big deal. It’s often during a pilot episode that audiences determine whether the program is appealing enough to stick with for the long haul. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »