As a teenager whose primary methods of communication were eye rolls and imperceptible shrugs, I never thought I’d grow up to be one of those women who cry all the time. And yet at age 31, it appears the encroaching tenderness my mother warned me about has fully arrived.
Here is a brief list of things I cannot endure without getting choked up: Singing along to “Honor to Us All” from Mulan; driving by a majestic field with a bunch of majestic horses in it; merely thinking about Kerri Strug’s heroic vault in the 1996 Olympics; trying to explain to someone why I love Broad City so much.
Yeah, Broad City,the extremely goofy comedy that aired the first episode of its fourth season on Comedy Central last night. Since it made its debut in 2014, its it’s been difficult to articulate how a show that is categorically funny, with only a handful of slightly serious moments, could bring me to tears (I’m rooting for you, Al Dente Dentist), but after several seasons of reflection, I’ve narrowed it down to two things:
- My hormones are Benjamin Button-ing me to an excessive degree and I have the emotional reactivity of a six-month-old baby.
- Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is unlike anything else I’ve seen on TV before.
I mean, it’s obviously option one. But there’s something to option two, too.
Anyone who knew me growing up would’ve described me as quiet, bookish, and polite. As an Olympic-level introvert and the daughter of a Korean immigrant in a middle class, predominantly white community, it seemed the default state in which it would be wisest to reside.
And yet over the years, abiding under that persistent politeness and the notion that there are certain topics and actions that are unacceptable for girls — especially girls like me — began to itch.
Because there comes a time in every adolescent’s life in which we are all forced to acknowledge an incontrovertible fact: Humans are gross. The various things our bodies emit are pretty much across the board terrible-smelling.
If we’re lucky, we poop every day, and just about every woman will leak menstrual blood in a public space several, if not many, times in her life. (Deal with it, dudes. You’ve probably sat on public transit or a park bench that has period blood on it.)
The only one way to counteract the shame we’ve been told to feel about these things? Talking about them openly, and laughing about them loudly.
Hence, the catharsis of Broad City — a show whose first season featured a scene in which Abbi is unable to flush her giant poop down the toilet while her crush is sitting in the living room. Ilana volunteers to dispose of it for her “by any means necessary.” It’s but one standout poop-centric scenes among many, peppered between an endless stream of dick jokes, vagina jokes, shots of the girls throwing up, having the sex they want to have, and exhibiting all manners of freewheeling “impoliteness.”
But what is perhaps striking beyond the subject matter is that it manages to be a thing without being the thing. Broad City isn’t the first show to acknowledge that girls poop, of course, but there is a singular lack of self-consciousness that sets it apart from shows that came before them.
It’s not a show about two impolite young women, but rather, two young women.
Where Girls or Sex and the City made pointed efforts to normalize the female body, it was woven into the fabric of Broad City before we even had a chance to read the statement du jour on one of Ilana’s many crop tops.
Of course, it’s not just a good poop joke that makes me well up a little every time I try and explain why I’m so attached to the show. It’s ultimately a love story between Abbi and Ilana, and judging by the sweet meet-cute episode that kicked off its new season last night, there’s no indicator that it’ll ever be anything but.
And it is this — the idea that the love between two female friends is worthy, that they can be young and brilliant and fearless and gross as fuck — isn’t something we’ve been handed very often by pop culture.
Is it weird to get emotional over a show that is absolutely intended to be a lighthearted comedy? Probably. But judging by the response to Broad City, it’s something a lot of us needed in a serious way.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go text my own gross best friend to tell her how I’m on my period and I also have diarrhea and also my nose is dripping snot and I have the Hercules of cold sores on my chin — and can she please just come over and smother me with a pillow because humans are miserable creatures.
And knowing that’ll make her laugh, and that we get to go through these things together, will make me feel at least a little better.