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




One thought on “Funny Broads

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

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 »

only-the-animals-book-cvr

Claire Hielscher

A joyous deception: Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals

In visual art, the compulsion to surrender to the belief you are falling either into or out of an image is known as trompe-l’oeil, French for ‘deceive the eye’. Ceridwen Dovey’s story collection Only the Animals encourages a comparable state of joyous deception. Read more »

9781555976712

Carody Culver

Everybody hurts: Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams

There’s a difference between identifying someone’s malady – or lack thereof – and understanding their experience of it. To what extent can we truly imagine being in another person’s skin? Read more »

1560682_10153899026420591_499501666_n

Eli Glasman

Just a number: The literary world’s obsession with age

I used to be obsessed about what age I would be when I had my first novel published. I’d go on the Wikipedia pages of every famous writer I could think of to check how old they were when their first book came out. Read more »

blue-ombr-speckle-liner

Julia Tulloh

From the outside in: the beauty vlogger phenomenon

A current cohort of beauty bloggers are helping to break down distinctions between internal and external expressions of self in ways that allow them to generate new ideas of beauty on their own terms, rather than according to society’s expectations of what women (or men) should look like. Read more »

The Tunnel TV review

Julia Tulloh

The Tunnel vs The Bridge: The ethics of TV remakes

A body is found in the Eurotunnel, neatly laid across the border between France and England. When police attempt to move the body, it splits in two with the top half in France and lower half in England. 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 »

stepup5poster

Anthony Morris

Let’s Dance: unapologetic repetition and Step Up: All In

A franchise of movies based entirely around good-looking people performing unlikely and oddly aggressive dance moves wouldn’t seem to require heavy continuity – or any continuity at all – but Step Up: All In is surprisingly effective. Read more »

lead_large

Rochelle Siemienowicz

On Boyhood, parenting and the passing of time

Since its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival, film critics have been falling over themselves to lavish love upon Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. 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 »

Streisand_Estate

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Don’t Look: The emergence of Streisand criticism

In the wake of the recent nude celebrity photo leak, I noticed something strange about the ways different publications skewed their coverage. Tabloid-style publications tended to be honest about their motives. The behaviour of left-leaning broadsheet-style outlets, however, was more complex. Read more »

owl1

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Speaking with pixels

On the Facebook Newsfeed, it’s now possible to click a tiny smiley face inside almost any textbox to bring up a series of thumbnail images: an alligator bawling into a tissue, say, or a whistling fox dropping a turd, or a green owl vomiting rainbows. 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. Read more »

Inky Awards

Danielle Binks

By teens, for teens: the Inky Awards

The Centre for Youth Literature’s Inky Awards are amongst the most important book awards in Australian literature. Read more »

9780987507013

Review: The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew

This is a coming out story but one that desperately needed to be told on two counts – one because it’s an Australian YA coming-out story, and two because it’s a coming-out story about a young man questioning his homosexuality alongside his Jewish faith. Read more »

Untitled

Danielle Binks

How to buy books for young adults

‘Excuse me, where are the boys’ books? I’m looking to buy for a 16-year-old.’ When I overheard this question while browsing in a bookshop recently, I felt insta-rage. Read more »

free-u2-album-on-itunes

Chad Parkhill

The Perpetual Undeath of Rock

 ‘Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die.’ Depending on your own tastes and cognitive biases, Neil Young’s famous lyric will now seem more prophetic than ever before – or profoundly misguided. Last week saw the release of U2’s Songs of Innocence in what Apple … Read more »

arthur-russel-beckman

Chad Parkhill

Calling out of context: The perennial appeal of Arthur Russell

When Arthur Russell died in 1992 at the age of forty, he did so in relative obscurity, having released four commercially unsuccessful albums and granted a single print interview: not exactly a promising oeuvre on which to build a legacy. 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 »

please-like-me

Stephanie Van Schilt

Mental illness and Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me

While the jury is still out on the success of Please Like Me’s efforts to address ideas around mental health, the discussions both its seasons have provoked and continue to encourage are incredibly important. That, I definitely like. Read more »

DP

Stephanie Van Schilt

Idle hands and Devil’s Playground: Going to the movies to watch TV

I recently went to the movies to watch TV. I bid a reluctant farewell to the comforts of my couch and heater and ventured into the frosty evening in search of Devil’s Playground. 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 »