12 Feb 2015

Broad City, Taylor Swift and the power of female best friendship

8:17 am on 12 February 2015

For a lot of people, their twenties is a tumultuous and overwhelming experience. While we circumvent these (hopefully!) temporary inconveniences of insecure housing, careers and romantic relationships, it’s often our friends who are the stabilisers.

Accurate representation of female friendship has been missing from the media until recently, where it now seems to be everywhere, fearlessly taking up space.

Comedy Central’s Broad City is one such programme, created by and starring IRL besties Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Starting as a YouTube channel, it gained the attention of Amy Poehler, who stepped in as the show’s producer when they made the leap to a cable network.

The main priorities of Abbi and Ilana’s only-slightly-exaggerated on-screen counterparts are smoking weed, getting tickets to a Lil Wayne concert and their best friendship. Romantic conquests are delegated to the sidelines.

Ultimately, Broad City is a love story. Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is the underlying constant on the show as the two lead each other astray around New York and as men enter and leave their lives. Nothing is off-limits.

They video chat during sex, discuss stray body hairs and what to do when the toilet gets blocked in the middle of a hurricane while your crush is in the next room. They are completely unfiltered and unapologetic. There is no judgement and they gleefully egg each other on with a “yaaaassss”, a wink and a slap on the ass.

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Photo: Unknown

The pair casually use every euphemism for the vagina, aka “nature’s pocket”. It’s a stark contrast from the uproar that occurred in 2012 when ‘feminine hygiene’ brand Carefree used the word vagina in an ad. You know, the scientific term for what their products are designed for. It’s the subtle use of language and the creators’ confidence to broach raw subject matter that has seen Broad City referred to as “sneak-attack feminism” by the Wall Street Journal.

Like Broad City, the discussions on Call Your Girlfriend are unashamedly frank. Co-hosted by Aminatou Sou and Ann Friedman, CYG is billed as a podcast for “long-distance besties everywhere”. Listening to an episode feels like eavesdropping on a conversation between two super smart and hilarious friends, who are clearly having these discussions even when the microphone isn’t turned on.

Named after a Robyn song, Call Your Girlfriend explores women’s issues in an inclusive way, referencing Susan Sontag and Kim Kardashian in equal measures. In one episode, Aminatou’s intense period cramps lead into a discussion for their regular ‘This Week’s Menstruation News’ feature about how a woman’s monthly cycle is the last taboo in sport.

Another reoccurring theme of the podcast is ‘Shine Theory’. Rather than perpetuating the tired tropes of girl-on-girl rivalry, Shine Theory champions the notion that surrounding ourselves with powerful women makes us better. It’s about “being your best self and encouraging your friends to do the same”.

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Photo: Unknown

I have put this theory into practice in my own life, where I have a group of female friends who are some of the most ambitious, supportive and intelligent people I know. It’s an empowering group to spend time with. All similarly positioned on our career trajectories and ranging in age from 21 to 31, we discuss career advice, offer real talk when it is needed and encourage everyone’s personal and professional projects. 

We double-tap each other’s Instagram selfies, share insightful articles in a Facebook group and get the dance floor started later in the evening. Knowing that my friends have confidence in me helps me to have confidence in me.

Taylor Swift’s “squad” consists of some of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry. On Instagram, she shares photos from her Hawaii holiday with Haim; baking with Lorde; partying with Beyonce and taking her high school best friend to this week’s Grammy awards.

There’s also 11-year-old Sophia Grace, who shot to viral fame after a video of her rapping Nicki Minaj’s Superbass was posted on YouTube then featured on The Ellen Show. Her girl-power anthem ‘Best Friends’ includes the lyrics “I'm your number one girl, I'm your best friend And I'll always be there, right 'til the end”.

Television’s other favourite BFF couple Ann and Leslie from Amy Poehler’s Parks and Recreation celebrate Galentine’s Day and live by the mantra of “ovaries before brovaries”. These are the kind of friendships where you could entrust your gurrl with the task of deleting your entire internet browser history if anything ever happened to you.

In a culture where the male gaze is the default point of view, Broad City and Call Your Girlfriend are not only drop-down, flipping and reversing it, but ignoring it entirely, continuing on their path to world domination with their best friends by their side. Remember: I don’t shine if you don’t shine.

Cover image: Comedy Central
This content was produced with funding support from New Zealand On Air.