"Broad City" has made enormous strides ever since its transfer from a web series to a Comedy Central hit sitcom.
The show follows Ilana and Abbi, both named for the show's producers and star actors, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, who use their close friendship to tackle the challenges of living in the Big Apple.
Though the two women are apparently opposites—Abbi a cautious, practical big-dreamer and Ilana a lazy, dysfunctional free-spirit—they developed into best friends through the misadventures that stem from their own bad decision making.
The girls depict an intimate, if not once-in-a-lifetime friendship, which seems to make up for each character's faults. This heartwarming relationship, paired with the eccentricity of New York City and a lot of drugs, makes for a totally unique, seriously funny and relatively touching TV show, especially for Comedy Central's standards.
But what made me a fan of "Broad City" was not the outlandish predicaments that Abbi and Ilana find themselves in or the obvious affection between the two.
This show, more so than any others that have aired within recent years, stood out in the amount of representation it had for typically ignored demographics.
Jacobson and Glazer themselves set the stage for this effect. The simple fact that the pair are both minority women who write, produce and star on the show stands out from the majority of media nowadays.
The characters, too, set it apart, bonding through their Jewish heritage, both fitting outside the box for traditional beauty standards and both having almost no regard for the modesty that is so often forced on women. Still more social constructs are disregarded in "Broad City" as interracial and polygamous relationships are celebrated without being exploited for comedic effect.
The character of Ilana encapsulated all of this.
Their original portrayal of the part-time server was so strong that they never even officially label her sexuality. Ilana moves back and forth from men to women, having a healthy dating life and regular hookups, all while maintaining a solid relationship with her eventual boyfriend, Lincoln.
Ilana seemed to be everything we had been needing—a bisexual woman shown in love and in lust and absolutely owning her fluidity. More unusual was that her friends and family knew about, and even supported her identity; when she would introduce any new partner, he or she was always met with open arms and no one would bat an eye at their gender.
Finally, bisexual folks had representation on TV that wasn't just subtly alluded to or appearing only during a threesome.
But then, they did the thing.
One of the most taboo things that non-allies of the LGBT+ community can do is equate homosexuality to pedophilia in order to encourage anti-gay sentiments and perpetuate homophobia as the norm in American society.
As a gay women, this is one of the most heartbreaking myths thrown haphazardly into conversations about LGBT+ rights, so I would never have dreamed that a show that had given so much to the gay community would ever cross that line, especially because bisexual and pansexual people face some of the most consistent discrimination both from within and outside of the LGBT+ community.
In Season 4, Episode 8 named "House-Sitting," they crossed that line.
The episode's problematic plotline centers around Abbi's date with one of her past high school teachers who openly admits to having had a crush on her whilst she was his student, and a minor.
Abbi ignores this first red flag and proceeds with her date, opening up a floodgate of jokes about pedophilia and child sexual abuse.
This in itself was not altogether comfortable to watch, but the show is notorious for blurring the lines between comfort and humor, so I decided these weren't bad enough to for me to stop watching. However, after the teacher tries to get Abbi to engage in sexual activity while pretending to again be his student, the date ends and they start to go their separate ways, but not without Ilana commending the predator for masturbating to his underage students.
I think that it's not so much them crossing that line because this is a regular occurrence on the Comedy Central network. What bothers me most is how they blatantly corrupted this character who had meant so much to me and probably many other LGBT+ folks.
I know that losing my support probably won't affect Jacobson and Glazer whatsoever, but these kind of occurrences are what do subtle but irreparable harm to the advancement of LGBT+ rights and the disbandment of rape culture in the media, and the character of Ilana would probably agree if she had a say in it.