Girls are idiots too
FEBRUARY 20TH, 2016 — POST 047
I kinda messed this one up. My thoughts are still a little underdeveloped.
When Ron Burgundy steps up on stage to play jazz flute, he’s convinced he’s got it worked out. In his own eyes, he’s sophisticated. In the eyes of the audience, he’s dominant. In the eye’s of Veronica Corningstone, he’s utterly sexual. But really, as we see him, he’s big dumb idiot. For the most part, that’s why Anchorman works: all the guys are idiots. They all think they have being a man figured out completely. Their sense of their own infallibility only serves to make them easy targets of the ridicule bound up in each laugh from the audience.
When Anchorman director and co-writer Adam McKay was recently on KCRW’s The Treatment, he expressed how critically his work studies masculinity. His directing work with Will Farrell, not just in Anchorman but also Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys, are exercises in prospecting the rotten foundations of male arrogance and bravado. Even his recent The Big Short has plenty to contribute to this discussion. Generally speaking, McKay and Ferrell bring to the screen a picture of masculinity typified by its dogmatic self-assuredness. In holding this picture up for ridicule, however, they afford the audience the space to find truer, more nuanced definitions of masculinity. As importantly, McKay and Ferrell afford themselves the space to search for the same, to work out for themselves a more authentic picture of masculinity.
Broad City started up for its third season this week. The first episode, Two Chainz, brought a lot of the first two seasons into focus for me. Specifically, one of the many things Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer succeed in doing in Broad City is a re-drawing of femininity by means of a question mark instead of a full stop.
For much of the first episode, Glazer’s character Ilana is spouting venom about an article she read which centred on the oppression of Syrian women. Her position isn’t radical, in fact it’s intentionally recognisable as liberal. The bulk of her sentiment is generally accurate, but some of her exaggerated vitriol is misguided, and frankly idiotic. Having lost the key to her bike chain, Ilana wears it locked around her waist for most of the episode. In one of her spouts on this article she read, she claims she understands the plight of these Syrian women because of this chain locked around her abdomen (which is only there because she lost the key). Ilana has now been pushed too far: intentionally recognisable as a millenial social justice warrior whose opinions, whilst well-intentioned, indicate a naïve view of the world and her place within it. Furthermore, she’s self-assured in this position, and Abbi backs her up. Jacobson and Glazer understand the value in opening up the characters of Broad City for ridicule and Ilana’s perceived infallibility is the perfect mechanism to have her weaknesses exposed. It’s in their exposing that the space for the audience, as well as Jacobson and Glazer, to evaluate femininity opens up. Broad City is all about the really dumb fucking shit girls do. From Abbi’s artist friend taking two and a half years to paint a single piece with the soft end of a feather, to Abbi and Ilana’s ernest wonderment at this idiotic practice, Jacobson and Glazer are less concerned with defining modern femininity than depicting modern girls.