The masquerade of Broad City


Kathleen Rowe in her book “The unruly woman: gender and the genres of laughter” talks about masquerade as a strategy of danger that unsettles social hierarchies and diminishes the patriarchal notion of society. I think a modern-day example of this kind of masquerade can be considered the Comedy Central TV series Broad Citywritten by the main protagonists Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

Broad City as seen in the trailer above follows the daily life of two 20-year old women living in New York City. The series’ focus is on the mundane and ordinary events of their lives. It is concentrated on their actions and reactions towards the world around them and the way it functions.

Rowe argues that masquerade is a “form of self-representation”[1]. In Broad City, Abbi and Ilana use their real-life names in the series which deliberately blurs the boundaries of fiction and reality prompting the spectator to identify with an attitude and not a character. She also argues that “masquerade creates a politicised distance necessary for critique.”[2]In the series, feminism is implicitly or explicitly embedded into the scenario and used to justify certain representations of what can be seen as female incongruity. Hilary Clinton even makes a cameo appearance in one of the episodes. Lastly, Rowe argues that “Masquerade concerns itself not only with a woman’s ability to look, after all, but also with her ability to affect the terms on which she is seen.”[3] In Broad City, the girls tamper with the notion of femininity and masculinity gaining significant appeal as the makers of the joke whilst at the same time inviting the audience to laugh at them as they laugh at themselves.

In my opinion, Broad City highlights what Rowe argues to be the effect of the unruly woman as Ilana and Abbi unashamedly and very proudly question the politics of gender through popular entertainment.


[1]Kathleen Rowe, “Feminist Film Theory and the Question of laughter”, in The unruly woman: gender and the genres of laughter(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 6.

[2]Ibid., 7.

[3]Ibid., 11.

One comment

  1. I like this example because I think it confronts all the troupes of what we would expect from women, and turns them on it’s head. I agree that this show pulls you in to laugh with the characters. It’s absurdity makes it interactive, therefore the impact it has on the viewer is more genuine.

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