English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: William Marchant

Cinemat(Broad)ography and Dir(City)ection

Broad City is a really well shot show. Paying attention to the cinematography has especially enlightened me to the variance of shots and mise en scene particular to the show. The camera can be shaky in one scene and pan in the next. I most recently watched season 4 episode 1 of the series, and the show’s visual direction is often non-distracting but sometimes an aide to its humor. In the episode Ilana and Abbi are meeting each other for the first time, and the show explores their lives without each other and how much better they are in that same immediate day in an alternate scenario where they spend the day together. Over the top dvd movie menu esque transitions convey which reality is being displayed as it switches between each repeatedly until they eventually run into each other, no longer needing the transition to differentiate between realities. It definitely helped me keep track of what was going on as the characters wear the same clothes the entire time and the plot is only held together through these transitions.

In other episodes of Broad City, different areas of New York will have different lighting to give one a more gross, uncomfortable feeling when a man bothers them on the street compared to better lighting when they later stumble into a wealthy neighborhood. The use of lighting to convey meaning and emotion is an interesting tool. Broad City generally seems to use it as a tool to physically display the character’s anxiety. In one episode the power goes off in Abbi’s building, and her not being able to flush the toilet is heightened through the dark surroundings and shadows in the following scenes. A mundane inconvenience is better allowed to be thought of as more by the viewer because of how the show visually treats and accompanies the situation.

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Here is an interesting use of lighting from behind Abbi to highlight the revelation that she becomes a singer in an old bar when she blacks out.


Last Names on Broad City (easter egg!!)

Today when thinking about ideas for my free choice blog, I decided that I would write about how Judaism plays a role in both Abbi and Ilana’s comedy, identity, and the plot on Broad City. Researching to confirm both were jewish, I stumbled upon the maiden names of both of the stars’ mothers. Wexler and Abrams were both maiden names. This blew my mind as these are the last names of their characters on Broad City. As both characters keep their first names on the show, using their mother’s maiden names seems to be a clear nod to feminine power or something of the sort.
Rather than switch my topic to how being a woman affects the show’s comedy and plot, I am choosing to explore this new found trivia and its connotations. The fathers of both on the show do not represent the typical patriarchal role the father figure displays on Television. Ilana’s father is meek and defers decisions to the mother, and Abbi’s father dances with both women in the kitchen during the only episode he has featured in that I have seen thus far. Ilana’s mother is powerful and often loudly incorrect about things but never challenged.
Perhaps this is all leading back to my original direction for this blog entry. Judaism is matriarchal in the sense that having a jewish mother makes one jewish, but having a jewish father does not. Again though, this could just be a open yet hidden facet of the show, an easter egg of sorts, a nod to the representation of women apart from past barriers rejecting the symbolic ownership men had over women when women had to take the man’s last name. There names on the show differ from their names in real life, but only our social construct of taking the man’s last name makes this the case.

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Here, Abbi and Ilana are shown boarding their birthright trip to Israel.

Writing about Writing

The writing in Broad City is always very strong and funny. Particularly, in season 3, episode 7, the writing simultaneously explores two directions for a night ending that are completely different as Abbi and Ilana leave the club without each other. Abbi goes through an epic and eventful night that she is not proud of. Meanwhile, Illana sleeps with Blake Griffin and has a night that is more comical as Griffin is shown to be the perfect person. The writing is impressive as the viewer feels for Abbi who was robbed and laughs as Griffin and Ilana interact in over the top ways. Few shows have writing that can elicit more than one emotion effectively. The Ilana and Griffin storyline seems to have come straight from a Female writer’s fantasy. There interactions begin with both bringing up that they need to stretch before physical exercises which they both decide is getting undressed. Griffin undresses, censored to the audience, and Ilana laughs for a very tense time as Griffin crosses his arm. Later revealed to the audience that Griffin is too big, the two get creative with yoga and other clearly non-sexual activities til both climax. Their pillow talk includes Griffin talking about how women’s basketball is better than men’s and saying that women make everything better. As good as the scene is, an individual writing that amuses me more.
As always the show makes multiple callbacks near the end of the episode, similar to the function of a callback in stand-up comedy, it reminds you of how smart the writers are. As impressive as they are funny, it reminds you all the places the episode took you and that you accepted that two regular people went on a ridiculous journey often spanning large areas of New York.
The writers articulate the purest forms of comedy in their writing for Hannibal Buress as Lincoln, a dentist with a mind that scopes and works like no other. There is not a scene he is in that does not bring me to laughter.

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Here is Blake Griffin swaddling Ilana Glaser because his member is too big for traditional goings on.

The Non-Serious Theme of Marriage and Serious Relationships in Broad City

In season two, episode seven of Broad City, the show takes on the concept of marriage and romantic relationships. One character on the show, Bevers chickens out of proposing to his girlfriend of three years because Ilana convinces him that he is too young and more so his girlfriend is too young to be constricted by marriage. Shortly after, Ilana herself struggles with the concept of being with someone for a long time. She realizes that she had not slept with Lincoln in four days and had just been hanging out with him. At the realization that that was a sign of a more serious relationship she breaks down for a small period of time, overwhelmed by the idea that she could be soon constrained to her relationship with Lincoln as Bever’s near proposal brings to light.
Marriage and serious relationships are not praised or desired on Broad City as they often are in American media. The show’s female creators and staff have written female characters that can talk about other things and are driven towards a goal of marriage. The episode before episode seven featured a dog wedding where two gay men married their dogs seemingly as a ploy to get more intimately acquainted with one another. The show puts more emphasis on enjoying life than traditional relationships, critiquing America’s romanticising of romance.
The show provides a view of two young women that want to get high, have fun, and engage in sexual actions sometimes outside of relationships, and it is displayed as completely fine. Broad City displays alternate desires that women and people can have and refreshingly so. Ilana and Abbi from episode to episode have different goals and desires that often do not include men: going to a concert, getting out of work, or enjoying a good restaurant.

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Here is the dog wedding referred too earlier.


I annotated the bibliography

There were indentations in my Google doc. I can not figure out how to fix that on here, but I hope it is fine!

Desmond, Roger and Anna Danilewicz. “Women Are On, but Not In, the News: Gender Roles in Local Television News.” Sex Roles, vol. 62, no. 11-12, June 2010, pp. 822-829. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9686-5.

This peer reviewed source argues that women that appear on TV news are used differently than their male counterparts. It found that women were on TV less, and women were less likely to present political stories and more likely to present health and human interest stories than men. Male experts were also used more often than female experts. The source provides evidence across 580 news stories that women have a different role on screen at news agencies than men. It displays that the way women are represented in news is less authoritative than men, extending women’s gender roles to the jobs of on-screen televised news members. It provides recent evidence of a disparity between men and women’s roles on TV in the United States, as well as touching on women’s roles behind the scenes in news, less likely to hold most positions compared to men. The data charts may also be useful in an infographic about women in the news.

Emeksiz, Gulcin I. “THE REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN ON TV NEWS.” International Journal of Arts & Sciences, vol. 6, no. 2, 2013, pp. 715-730. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1496695623?accountid=11107.

This peer reviewed source reinforces some of the same points that the source about local news made while looking through a more historical lense. Women appear less on television news and especially less where men traditionally dominate the field or does not involve certain subject areas: social news, art, crime and violence. It includes statistics on representation in Turkey and internationally as these trends of women’s gendered participation in news pervades borders. This provides important context as women’s limited role in news and society pertains to a larger systemic patriarchal system. In Turkey, it even found that women appeared more on TV at times where a traditional homemaking wife would be cleaning, waiting for her husband to come home, and kids would be at school. This is a glaring point as those at the top of news agencies are aware of this lack of participation and are manipulating women’s air time to suffice the bare minimum to continue at such a low amount.

Freeman, Hadley. “Why Do All the Women on Fox News Look and Dress Alike? Republicans Prefer Blondes.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Feb. 2017, www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/feb/20/women-fox-news-dress-alike-republicans-blondes-pundits-ann-coulter-kellyanne-conway-rightwingers.

This enjoyable fashion piece by Hadley Freeman disguises itself as looking into why Fox News hosts and those in the right wing media that are women all dress in the same style and have long blonde hair, while harpooning the conservatism it is based in. It suggests that the look is both because that is what appeals to Republicans and that it is a backlash to feminism and liberal women. Also pointed out is the diverse looks among liberal women on TV in both race, hairstyle, and fashion. While being an enjoyable, light read, it also discusses the problems of representation in right-wing media, perhaps at the expense of looking at the flaws in representation in left-wing and neutral media. Nevertheless, it points at a problem, and Hadley gives her reasoning, aiding in research on representation of women in the media as it can even factor in their hair color.

Meyers, Marian. “African American Women and Violence: Gender, Race, and Class in the News.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 21, no. 2, June 2004, pp. 95-118. EBSCOhost, prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=13308007&site=ehost-live.

This peer reviewed source discusses how violence against non-student African American women was represented differently on the news than violence against students. It uses a black feminist perspective to analyze the intersectionality in the wrongful verbal absolving of criminals who committed crimes against African American women. The news allowed women of color to be looked down upon and blamed for their situation as they would normally be in conversation and other dynamics. With little representation of women of color on the news during this time, the narrative was able to continue. Lack of representation of women of color in news writing rooms and television personalities is harmful to the fair portrayal of news stories and narratives that involve the depiction or experiences of women of color. This aids the argument that women and women of color not being equally represented in newsrooms has harmful consequences not only socially but also in the quality and nature of the news produced by the newsroom.

Moniz, Tracy. “A Woman’s Place is in the News.” Journalism History, vol. 42, no. 2, 2016, pp. 81-90. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1812628062?accountid=11107.

Aptly named, the non-peer reviewed source argues that women should be covered in regular news stories and not just the women targeted articles or magazines. In a historical view of Canada during WWII, women were not being mentioned as much as they should have been when they constituted such a strong percentage of the labor force. This article serves as evidence that it is not just TV news that does not include and talk about women enough, but news sources as a whole struggle and have had struggled with this issue through a feminist lense. While it is not TV news, it does beg the question that all news must be fixed, and it displays that the problem of representation and stories from the female perspective historically have not been heard and that that is not a uniquity of the American or any other TV news system. It strengthens the argument that this is one particular field that needs fixing, but it is part of and a result of a larger problem

Price, Cindy J., and Shaun S. Wulff. “Does Sex make a Difference? Job Satisfaction of Television Network News Correspondents.” Women’s Studies in Communication, vol. 28, no. 2, 2005, pp. 207-234. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/198297768?accountid=11107.

This non-peer reviewed source argues that women are less satisfied with their jobs than men as television news network correspondents. Even as women tended to be significantly younger and less experienced, when controlled for years worked at the network, the result remained true. The lack of experience also meant that women earned less as a result. As older women seem to get pushed off TV, the result is lower paying jobs with less earning potential than men. The source also contains data sheets which provide valuable data and visuals for an infographic. Understanding that women are less happy about their jobs and work environments at TV networks should be a concern and it should be acknowledged so that as a society we can attack that problem as clearly with people like Matt Lauer and Bill O’Rielly in powerful positions in the past, there is very good reason for the trend of women being less satisfied with their jobs than men when they are subjected to such an environment.

A Broad Gender Overview in Broad City

Broad City is unique in that female representation exists at the forefront of each episode in Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, but there often are more male characters in any given episode. The male characters tend to provide obstacles or annoyance like Bevers or comedic relief in a show that is mostly comedy, Lincoln. Abbi and Ilana’s characters often have to work around the stubborn and problematic male characters, yet they still have a high degree of agency. Characters like Lincoln, Ilana’s friend with benefits, are strung along at the whims of whatever Ilana is pursuing. At one point Ilana says that they had been together five months; Lincoln corrects her that has been eighteen months. Lincoln, played by Hannibal Buress, is the only character in the show with such little agency, and he is the most prominent male character.
Gender is often connected to the class of the characters. Abbi and Ilana struggle to fund all of their escapades, and in one episode they clean a strange man’s house in their underwear to fund their Lil Wayne concert dreams. The man is shown to be creepy, but Ilana still has much of the agency and desire to do so as she had advertised her and Abbi online. Abbi usually has her agency limited for comedic effects: her dead end job, following Ilana’s impulsive lead, and living in an apartment with her roommate’s boyfriend that she hates. Still, there are moments where she has agency such as when she fakes needing to get AIDS test results to get off work.
Race has little influence on the show as Ilana’s boyfriend and her roommate both are successful dentists and drug dealers respectively despite being minority males. Ilana’s character is the primary queer character, and it is never shown to impede her or slow her down. It more often comes up as she tries to get Abbi to do small vaguely sexual things. And while the bosses on the show are male, they have little role in keeping Ilana and Abbi from cutting work, so the show appears to represent gender and other representational axes in a very fair and often funny way.

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Here is an example of Lincoln being held at the whims of whatever Ilana wants to do.


The Will Marchant Story: Abridged and Stuff

I’m Will Marchant, and I am a public policy major that will graduate in 2022. English courses tended to be my favorite classes in high school, and this is my first and sadly last English class at Georgia Tech. I imagine my ideal minor would be english or screenwriting related. My favorite form of communication is that of the individual or small group conversation. Currently, I am paid to speak with voters about a political candidate, and a good conversation with a voter makes my day. Similarly, making a few people laugh will do the same. When the group is larger however, I become nervous, especially when I am directly addressing a crowd or class. That is something I must improve with.
I imagine I have watched more TV than most of the class. This is not bragging. Trust me. This is not bragging. Atlanta, Ballers, Master of None, Opposite Sex, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, House Hunters, Chopped, House of Cards, The West Wing, Veep, Silicon Valley, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Queer Eye, Ugly Delicious, F is for Family, Bojack Horseman, The Good Place, Big Mouth, Ozark, Last Chance U, Unbreakable with Kimmy Schmidt, The Office, Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, Workaholics, The IT Crowd, Mad Men, Luther, and anything with Anthony Bourdain all come to mind as shows I love. I notice some trends in what I have watched. Serious shows, unless they are really good, tend to not hold me in. There is no way I am going to watch another crime show, but I loved Luther. I love funny TV shows with smart writing, and I also like Stand Up which is on TV sometimes and meets the funny and smart writing criteria. I also do not know many people who have seen many of those, so if anyone wants to talk after class about any of them, I’d love digging up my thoughts on all of those shows. I also watched shows like 30 Rock and Red Dwarf when I was young, and those shows might have been the ones that turned me onto valuing funny people and funny shows as much as I do. I cannot laugh at plays or musicals, and I feel like enjoying such pure comedy so early could be blamed.
I have chosen to review Broad City because I have seen a few episodes, but I know it is meant to be better watched in order because of its clever writing. It stars some of the funniest people in TV as they play regular dysfunctional friends in NYC, which does not sound original but somehow is.

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This is Abbi Jacobson and Llana Glazer from the show Broad City.

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