Ten years after The Man Show mercifully went off the air, Comedy Central premiered Broad City, which began its final season this month, accomplishing a new feat: showing the network’s traditionally male audience that a show could be funny and feminist — and also super queer.
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s collaborative half-hour comedy starring the women as less successful versions of themselves doesn’t always mirror real life (it’s not exactly realistic that Abbi would be Shania Twain’s trainer and also pegging her neighbor), but one thing that has always felt realistic to me is the show’s “fluid” depiction of sex and sexuality. No one on Broad City really ascribes a label to themselves or anyone else. And while Ilana’s on-screen pansexuality was apparent early on (a high point: her narcissism-based relationship with her look-alike, Alia Shawkat) this season the L Word–esque story lines that some of us have been waiting for do not belong exclusively to Ilana. In this, the fifth and final season of Broad City, Abbi is also exploring her bisexuality.
The bar for this season is as high as Ilana and Abbi like to get on the show. Many of us have put an invisible pressure on Broad City to represent us dykes, because apart from Nanette and the moments spent pretending that The Favourite’s Rachel Weisz is actually a lesbian instead of James Bond’s wife, there are not as many opportunities to see our lives represented through humor as there should be. Also, Ilana and Abbi, more so than other TV-lesbians, are most like the queer women we know in real life, and less like those who exist as the singular Gay Girl Friend in a group full of heteros on shows like Grey’s Anatomy or TV Land’s Younger, or any time someone explored their sexuality in a way that opportunistically advanced an episode of Girls. Abbi is focused on her art and she also really wants a relationship, but she prioritizes her best friend. Ilana is less concerned about long-term anything — her constant is Abbi, and their friendship can border on co-dependent. They call each other out, take care of each other, they Facetime constantly, and they generally have the kind of emotional intimacy and openness that happens between two women when they have have fewer rules about what intimacy does or doesn’t look like.
In season five, episode four, we get to see Abbi interact, shyly, with a doctor played by (in some great go-to dyke casting) Clea DuVall. Afterward, Abbi shares her interest in the woman with Ilana, who tries appear happy for her friend, but is freaking out about losing her partner in crime. It’s an all-too-familiar situation for queer women — when your best friend finds another woman to spend all her time and secrets with, it can be threatening. How Ilana will deal with Abbi’s potential new love-interest the rest of the season remains to be seen, but seeing Abbi go through her self-discovery in a charmingly awkward and funny-as-fuck way this season has given me something new to appreciate about the show and these two characters.
Broad City had already established queerness as a central part of its world, so allowing another character to explore that aspect of her sexuality isn’t just a cool nod to queer chicks, but it also makes clear that two female friends can be interested in other women and not want to fuck each other. It shows that friendship, queer or otherwise, is not based on two lonely single people biding their time until they find life partners — that your closest friend can be your life partner, an integral part of your chosen family before, during, and after you introduce a new love interest to the fold. Any straights who didn’t already know this will be getting this education from Comedy Central, of all places, which is great.