Roseanne, Broad City, and the Masquerade – Joe Mendenhall

In the chapter “Feminist Film Theory and the Question of Laughter” in her book The Unruly Women: Gender and the Genres of Laughter, Kathleen Rowe speaks on Roseanne Arnold and masquerade. Rowes says, “masquerade creates a ‘bottom-up’ distinction based on shared recognition within a subcultural group. … Roseanne Arnold, for example, fashioned her Domestic Goddess persona out of clichés in U.S. culture about the fat, noisy, and vulgar working-class housewife in order to make those clichés both visible and positive. Because she so convincingly conveys her own control over that performance, it succeeds as masquerade.”[1] This description of Roseanne Arnold owning and changing previously known clichés to make them positive reminds me of the television show Broad City. In which, two young women (Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glaser) take control of stereotypes in much the same way as Roseanne Arnold is described as doing. Their personas are broadly based upon those of the average American millennial woman.

The above clip shows Abbi and Ilana walking into a bank to cash a check of Abbi’s. The beginning of the clip shows their idealized reenactment of the event. They are shown how the wish to be, loud, unabashed, confident, happy, and rich. They are the heroes of their idealized reality. The break into reality shows them as how they truly are, broke, and a little bit lost in the world. These are the clichés of the modern millennial, that they see themselves as important and larger than life, when really they are not. The pride and sassiness displayed in the clip is a theme throughout the entire show, with Ilana and Abbi using these personality traits to gain ownership over their millennial selves. Throughout the show they reject how others see them, instead trying to project their idealized selves onto the world. In this way, like Roseanne, they have control over their representations, and have created a successful masquerade.

[1] Rowe, Kathleen. “Feminist Film Theory and the Question of Laughter.” In The Unruly Women: Gender and the Genres of Laughter, 1-22. Pg. 6-7

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