In the span of one morning, or from the viewer’s side, five minutes, Ilana Wexler, played by Ilana Glazer, transforms in the episode “Mochalatta Chills” from a low level do nothing-worker, to the Queen B of the hive.
Ilana is tasked with the job to sell at least one deal during her work day. First she rallies out of pity to her boss, as well as the fact that he finally threatens to fire her (I say finally, because honestly Ilana should have been fired her first week). But secondly, and most importantly to her, she rallies to make a pretty buck off of commission and be a part of the “Fat Cats” club.
But, resorting to her idea of productivity she “hires” interns to do the work for her and forces them to stay there as she wine and dines at a fancy schmancy restaurant.
She is not only holding unpaid workers hostage, but they are unpaid, diverse workers. Ilana hires a young black woman, a tattooed Asian man, and a middle-aged man from an exotic part of town in New Jersey, “I mean he’s a modern day gypsie,” Ilana explains to coworker Nicole (of course Nicole is rolling her eyes at Illana). She not only gets people to work for her, but she also diversifies her workplace… a win, win, right? In her mind, she was a warrior to social injustice in the workplace. The only problem, Ilana was acting like Thomas Jefferson in her “white power suit” gossiping with Abbi over a “fat cat’s” lunch date. It was like modern day slavery with Stockholm syndrome.
Broad City, known for making its viewers comfortable with being uncomfortable, brings up hot, controversial topics while still making their viewers laugh. The hilarity comes when their 20 year-old young minds don’t even realize that they are being inappropriate. “I just ruined a perfectly clean white power suit,” Wexler says. While ruining her “white power suit”, she is also ruining the status she made for herself in a day’s work. “I don’t know if I would call it a “WHITE POWER suit.” Especially after you just talked about that ethnic shmorgous board of unpaid workers that you have,” Abbi Abrams, played by Abbi Jacobson, explains.
The fact is though, diversity in the workplace was a bold move on Broad City’s part to discuss and joke about. Google, pressured by civil rights groups, released a report last year on the diversity of its workforce. Somewhat unsurprisingly the company’s staff was dominated by predominantly whites. With only 2% of its workers being Latino and 1% being black, it was disheartening for civil rights groups and minorities across the nation. These statistics were seen in other mega technology companies as well such as Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo (1).
The “white power suit” won’t be able to rule for long., Demographers predict that in less than 30 years, African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos will collectively constitute the majority of the United States population (1). Even with their presence right now though, whites still dominate the high wealth households. 91% of the top 5% of wealth distributions is white compared to 71 percent of all families. (6) The only way this could change is if minorities hold a more prominent stance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematcis areas because of the economic growth and survival on technology. (1)
As Broad City faces the topic of diversity in the workplace, they are also inadvertently placing focus on minorities in higher education roles. One of the main reasons, researchers say, that there is a lack of diversity in the workplace is because of the lack of minorities with a degree in higher education. There is a severe lack of color in the fields of science, mathematics, technology, and engineering (1). With a severe growth in technology and the demographics changing in the United States, if Latinos and blacks are incapable and unqualified of taking over these jobs, where will they go?
“Hey, the company can afford it [the three interns],” Wexler announces to annoyed coworker Nicole.
“Yeah, because you aren’t paying them,” Nicole retorts back.
“Exactly,” Wexler says with a chuckle.
Ilana’s three diverse unpaid interns seem to be under the Stockholm syndrome. Graduating from Cornell, “the worst ivy,” the black intern, as well as the other two interns, was just thankful to have a job, compensation or not.
Is unpaid work legal though? To get that answer, one might consult with Fox Searchlight Pictures and the unpaid workers that sued the company. Black Swan, the movie that Fox Searchlight produced, went on to make more than $300 million. With that much money, there were still over 20 unpaid interns that worked hundreds of hours on the set performing necessary and crucial tasks. The judge fully vindicated the interns for Fox and held up their rights as workers (2).
Unfortunately, unpaid work is not all that uncommon. For young professionals, it is almost expected. To a college student hoping to land a job after walking across the stage, an internship gives them work experience, a future reference potential, and a foot in the door.
Most of the times, the young professionals bite the bullet and work for a future instead of compensation, but in the case of the workers of Black Swan as well as the interns at “Deals, Deals, Deals”, the fictional company in Broad City, there was no future potential openings. They were almost literally working for nothing, except of course an index card with the letters I.O.U on it.
While unpaid work is a hard hit to the wallet for the employees, it is quite the opposite for the employers. Instead of employers treating an internship as a learning environment, most treat the interns as first year, entry level employees, gaining real time benefits from the employees. Ilana had her interns doing the same work that Nicole, her collegeue, was performing on their first day.
The era of unpaid work is on the downslope now. The judge in the Black Swan Case, as well as others in similar cases, have ruled that unpaid work is indeed illegal. Interns are entitled to at least minimum wage when working for an at for-profit company. “If a person has entered into an employment relationship with a company, they need to be paid for their work,” a U.S. Labor Department spokesperson says, especially if the business is directly benefiting from the work (3).
“Deals, Deals, Deals” is indeed an at for profit company and so, realizing what she had done, Illana, races to work from her lunch with Abbi to release her interns from their holding cage that is the office.
Trying to show some form of compensation, Ilana hands them index cards as a form of payment, something of a loose, unbinding I.O.U, because we all very well know that Ilana will more than likely never be a true worker bee. Part of her problem is her high disregard for authority, impulsive personality, and desire to do anything but grow up and work in a cubicle.
It’s the epitome of the Generation Z in the making. Instead of looking towards a future filled with doctors, lawyers, and cubicles, Generation Z’ers are looking to be immersed in experiences that take them outside of their comfort zones (4).
Ilana and Abbi play this part well as the show basis itself on the adventures of the best girlfriends through New York. They both value running around the city looking for odd jobs, like house cleaning for an adult baby in the episode “What a Wonderful World”, to get Lil Wayne tickets more than actually getting paid the big bucks and saving money.
Is this the new feminist movement? Abbi and Ilana show that women can fail just as badly as men as critics have described Broad City as the female version of Workaholics. And Ilana and Abbi are proving that it is not just a man’s world anymore to be loafing, selfish, and disturbingly open sexually (5). These two best friends show the importance of the ‘bro’, but with a female twist. The true love story of this female leading cast is between the two best friends, and it is seen in almost every episode. In “Mochalatta Chills,” while on Bevers watch, the two discuss childbirth and their need for each other.
So as Illana rushes into the office, “white power suit” and all, and watches in astonishment as her young black intern is cleaning the floor and singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, she realizes her Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton alter ego is not for her (of course she had a run in with sexual harassment).
They are not “fat cats”, but Generation Z’ers, they are not share too much, impulsive, do nothing-men, but share too much, impulsive, do nothing women; Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are breaking the way for women comics and controversial topics with laughter that leads to tears. They will not show you the value of hard work in an every changing, innovative world, but they will show you the simple importance of a best friend, good sex, Bed Bath & Beyond, adventurous spirits, and some good weed.
- George Sanchez with co-authors Carlos Grijalva and Maggie Werner-Washburne. “Crisis and Opportunity,” Huff Post Latinovoices, November 18, 2014/February 3, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-sanchez/crisis-opportunity_b_6181290.html
- Ross Perlin. “Black Swan Event: The Beginning of the End of Unpaid Internships,” Time,June 13, 2013/February 2, 2015. http://business.time.com/2013/06/13/black-swan-event-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-unpaid-internships/
- Katherine Reynolds Lewis, “Unpaid Jobs: The new normal?,” Fortune, March 26, 2011/February 3, 2015. http://fortune.com/2011/03/25/unpaid-jobs-the-new-normal/
- Amanda Slavin, “Brand Strategy for a New Generation,” Huff Post Business, Novemeber 26, 2014/February 7, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-slavin/brand-strategy-for-a-new-_b_6222646.html
- Alessandra Stanley, “They’re Young, Female, and Darn It, Need to Work,” The New York Times, January 21, 2014/February 8, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/22/arts/television/broad-city-brings-a-female-twist-to-failure.html
- Jeff Thompson, “Wealth and Demographics: Demographics by Wealth and Wealth by Demographics Using the Survey of Consumer Finances,” Princeton Edu, March 11, 2013/April 26,2015. http://paa2013.princeton.edu/papers/131484