From its first airing, the Comedy Central hit show Broad City has been both lauded and criticized for pushing boundaries. When Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson created this 25-minute sitcom, I am not sure if they realized at the time how much of an impact they would have. The show, which just completed its third season, has touched on many hot-topic controversial issues in its few years of running: sexuality, gender roles, racism, sexism, representation, non-traditional relationships, and body positivity to name a few. Mallory Carra writes in a quirky article that the dynamic comedic duo “have totally nailed covering issues like sexual empowerment and reversing gender norms in relationships — and there’s so much more to explore”. This sentiment is strikingly accurate, and with the amount of boundary-pushing that has gone on so far in the show it is exciting to see where the creators take it from here.
One issue that has come up multiple times in course reading from this semester that I believe could benefit from the likes of a Broad City mentality is the value placed on sexual purity, specifically for young women. In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Pecola’s first sexual encounter results in the adult in her life expressing the extremely detrimental but not uncommon view that this act has “ruined” her. Though this specific case involves rape and forced loss of innocence, the emotional distress is furthered beyond the physical nonconsensual invasion of Pecola’s body with the attitudes and ideas of sex as an act that destroys one’s self worth. In a more contemporary setting and under different circumstances, Danielle Evans’ short story “Virgins” presents a similar poignant critique of the distorted views on young bio-sex female sexuality. One conversation in particular highlights the problematic ways sex and comfort with one’s sexuality is taught to girls. One of the men from the club questions in the car,
“Y’all are probably virgins aren’t you?” “No” Jasmine said. “Like hell we are. We look like virgins to you?” “Nah” he said, and I didn’t know whether to feel pissed or pretty.
This occurrence demonstrates the way sex and comfort with one’s sexuality is taught in a conflicting way to young women, where we get one side of people are claiming purity should be highly valued and sex somehow taints this. The opposing view purports that sex is a liberating act that means-in a very narrow heteronormative context-that a women somehow gain beauty or worth from being with a man.
Broad City‘s steps to remove the stigma from and normalize sexual comfort for women has started an extremely positive shift in the public outlook on female sexuality, something that the situations of the characters of Pecola and Erica in The Bluest Eye and “Virgins”, respectively, could have benefitted from. Having visual representation of young women who live life, not hiding their queer sexual tendencies, masterbation habits, opens to experimentation, all in a very organic and real way that was written by women and in no way plays into the male gaze, is incredibly influential. This show’s place on the forefront of fighting for social issues in an effective way through comedy has now been established, and its influence is powerful and clear. I’d like to suggest that Broad City, and shows like it, are bringing the public into a new age of general acceptance and positivity to previously misunderstood and under-represented issues.