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‘Broad City’ Goes Campaigning

In dark times, Abbi and Ilana find comfort with Hillary

Sara Ivry
March 17, 2016

Right now I want to be in a vast field of soft, green grass with purple and yellow wildflowers. I want trees close enough nearby that I can hear the birds on their tall branches, chirping with delight over a clear blue sky and warming sun. I want to think of nothing. I want to sink into the soft earth and sleep, no shoes on, no bag on my shoulder, no phone nearby.

Anywhere but here, Mona Simpson.

My street at work has a brand new scaffold. Across the way, there’s dust flying out of what appears will be some enormous new restaurant. On the way to dropping off my kid this morning, workers were hauling steel beams into a brownstone. Last weekend on our first bike-ride of the new year, I pointed out the cranes to my son, and he did the same. I wished they were the flying kind.

This darkness that surrounds is not just a matter of physical deterioration, of debris. It’s cultural, too. And political. Right now, the world feels insidious, odious, and venal. I need a total detox, a full-body cleanse, stat.

On Tuesday I read Michael Tomasky’s story “The Dangerous Election,” in which he describes how the Koch brothers buy politicians’ silence on the issue of climate change, exposing a system that’s rigged to the point of self-destruction. On Wednesday I watched President Obama introduce Justice Merrick Garland as his nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. It was lovely to behold: Obama so forthright and well-spoken in his remarks; Garland so visibly moved by the honor that I myself choked up. Yet Garland may not even have an opportunity to ascend to the highest bench, not if Mitch McConnell and his obtructionist band of hooligans prevail. They refuse to even meet with Garland. Such a nomination, they say, should be left to Obama’s successor. Their posturing is infuriating, an unsurprising dereliction of duty.

Put simply, it’s depressing and dispiriting to live here right now, in a country where the leading Republican presidential candidate is a condescending, racist bully whose latest ad implies Hillary Clinton’s a bitch, and who incites violence but then, in true cowardly fashion, demures that he’s not responsible for it. Wink, goddamn, wink.

But there is faint hope, I see it here and there—look, crocuses! Last night I watched Look at Us Now, Mother! a forthcoming documentary about trying to mend the fractious relationship between a middle-aged daughter and her elderly mother, a woman who endured terrible traumas as a child. The film got under my skin—the poignancy and delicacy of parent-child relationships, the implicit call for empathy for people whose suffering we can’t know. The chaser: a restless night of too many blankets, too many requests for water, too little sleep.

Which brings me to the latest episode of Broad City, titled “2016.” I watched in the dark early this morning. (Thanks daylight goddamn savings.) Abbi wrenches her neck (or rather, an irked hairdresser does it to her in response to the news she has a coupon) and goes to see a chiropractor (Mr. Avuncular himself, Alan Alda!) who asks her how she’s sleeping.

“I mostly tussle but I get like six hours of tussling a night,” she replies. Gurl, I feel ya. Six on a good night.

Honestly, my brain is so frazzled that I found this latest episode hard to enjoy. There’s no doubt, Ilana as a bike messenger makes perfect sense. And who hasn’t gone, like Abbi, to the DMV and felt the need right after for fresh produce, a long, hot shower, and a stiff drink?

But somehow it doesn’t hold together. Or maybe it just took a while for it to come together. Toward the end of the show, Ilana makes a delivery to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, where, after a punctuated, enthusiastic salute in front of a bald eagle and American flag picture, she offers to be put to work. Her manager, played by Cynthia Nixon, goes through answers to a list of common questions volunteers are routinely asked.

“No, Hillary does not cry at the office.”

“Yes, Hillary can read a map.”

“No, Hillary will not enforce male pregnancy.”

“No, Hillary is not a witch.”

They’re totally absurd and yet we live in absurd times. End times, maybe, if Trump prevails. Definitely if climate change does. I’d bet good money—quarters even!—that these are real questions the Clinton campaign fields every day. Talk about dispiriting.

Then the candidate herself comes in, with a twinkle in her eye and an emerald coat on her back. Abbi and Ilana are agog, star-struck. “I pegged,” Abbi tells the candidate. Clinton thanks them, brings in the morale-boosting blow-up doll Ilana bequeathed to Deals Deals Deals, and in short order concludes her Broad City debut! Glorious and to the point.

Who knows how this election will turn out? Who knows if there’ll be rioting in the streets—or how much? Who knows why one needs to read a map in the age of Waze?

As a candidate IRL, Hillary has her flaws, sure. Who doesn’t? But on Broad City (and earlier this year on an episode of BuzzFeed’s podcast Another Round), she proves her mettle. No, she doesn’t toke up with Abbi and Ilana. She doesn’t let on if she knows what it means to be “pegged.” She doesn’t reveal to them, as Abbi does to her, her astrological sign. But Hillary does proves that she’s got game, a sense of humor, smarts, and a genuine appreciation for talented, bright women.

In this time of darkness, that goes a long way.

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Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.