Women in TV: Broad City and The Craft

Women in TV: Broad City and The Craft

When I was applying to college, I considered a couple of all-women’s schools, namely Barnard and Wellesley. I loved both, but I also had qualms about them. They were, indeed, all women’s schools. Surrounded by other women entirely (surely brilliant, beautiful ones for the record), how would I make guy friends? Or find dates? (I was comically set in my perceived straightness as a high school junior). Given my concerns about how an all-female environment might affect my social life, I knocked Barnard and Wellesley down low on my list.

I eventually decided on Vassar, which was an all-women’s school similar to Barnard and Wellesley until 1969, when it became coeducational. Clearly, Vassar has changed quite a bit – namely demographically – over the course of several years. And so have I.

As a current junior in college, virtually all my friends are women. My high school self might be disappointed, but I realize I gravitate toward other women at my school because they are brilliant, kind, and loving in a way many men I know, well, aren’t. Without these companions, I don’t know where I’d be.

Even though most of my friends are women, I’ve found myself seeking more women-centered spaces and programming in recent months. I used to consume action movies voraciously – thinking I was a Cool Girl™ for gritting my teeth through bloody scenes punctuated with sloppily-writen dialogue – but I’ve grown weary of watching women act on screen as mere accessories to their male counterparts. This set-up is boring and tired, and the television and film industries can do better. Luckily for the health of both, and for my sanity, programs like Broad City exist.

Over spring break and shortly after I had watched an episode of Broad City, a Comedy Central show about two twenty-something women, my mom saw me and asked why I was beaming. I hadn’t realized I was. That’s just the thing, though – there’s something joy inspiring about watching women act.

And the main characters of Broad City, best friends Abbi and Ilana, aren’t just any women – which is to say they aren’t tokenized mother-types or sex symbols. They are loving, particularly to one another, and they are hot – but in a way that’s authentic and relatable.

Abbi and Ilana are also gross. The two fart, burp, poop, and discuss their sex lives in graphic detail. Then again, so do most women I know. As Amy Poehler, an executive producer of the show, put it, “Women always have to be the eye rollers, as men make a mess. We didn’t want that. Young women can be lost, too.” On their show, Abbi and Ilana put themselves in situations that merit them eye rolls – and the results are subversive and delighting.

Another woman-dominated program I recently discovered is The Craft, which a beloved Wesleyan friend with a decidedly witchy aesthetic turned me on to. The Craft, a 1996 “supernatural thriller” (thanks, Wikipedia), follows a group of four girls who pursue witchcraft to improve their lives. The de-facto leader of the foursome, Sarah, puts a spell on a boy who spread a false rumor the two had sex, making him infatuated with her. Another girl, Rochelle, exacts revenge on a racist classmate who torments her with hateful insults. While these acts of magic-infused retaliation were, in my opinion, justified, the coven rapidly grows obsessed with the pursuit of power, with horrifying and spellbinding results.

I love The Craft for several reasons. Firstly, it follows a group of resourceful, badass teen girls – a group usually lambasted in media for their supposed flightiness or self-involvement. Secondly, its special effects are terrible and its scene transitions weak, but in a charming way. A scene in which Sarah must flee a deranged pursuer armed with a live snake exemplifies the films campiness particularly well. Finally, the fashion – if not the plot – gives me chills. Fairuza Balk kills the game (and several people) in cross jewelry, leather, and mini skirts. Black or red lipstick could also easily be the film’s fifth protagonist.

While clearly different, Broad City and The Craft have temporarily satiated my need for compelling representations of women on screen. But my relationship to female-inspired programming resembles my relationship with caffeine: the more I consume of it, the more energized I feel, but also the more of it I need to keep me going. So, if you have any personal recommendations (or want to gossip about Ilana’s crush on Abbi), please come my way.

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