Why Broad City Gets Polyamory So, So Right

It’s not exactly news-worthy that Broad City did something progressive. This is a show with a diverse cast, including an interracial couple, that celebrates female friendship above all else. I watch this show every week, and I’ve half-joked that my life is just killing time until the next episode airs. I’m pretty much their key demographic but well, they get me. The most recent episode, however, had me going YAAAASSS KWEEN a little harder than usual.

A little background: Ilana and Lincoln are sex friends. They’re not exclusive, and if you suggest he’s her boyfriend she will make a huge scene. But they care a lot about each other. He drove her to Long Island to get her HPV shot and packed the car with snacks and a blunt. She stole an NYU dining hall card for him for his birthday. He replaced her crown for free after she bit into a jawbreaker (he’s a dentist). On last Wednesday’s episode, he told her he hooked up with someone else. She asked for the dirty details and she got them. Then she pulled some plants from the ground, threw them, climbed a tree, and jumped onto the hood of his rental car. “THAT. IS. SO. HOTTTTTTT!” She yelled. Later on, she and Abbi are sharing a joint on the couch. “You’re not jealous?” Abbi asks. Ilana explains that “when you love something, you let it have sex with other people, and then all that comes back to you.” Abbi nods before taking another hit, admitting she had never thought of it that way.

I’ve probably had some version of that (paraphrased) conversation at least a hundred times. I don’t mind having it at all, but damn was it cool to see it played out on my favorite show. Sure, Ilana has always been a little out there, and it’s not exactly shocking to see polyamory portrayed positively on a show that has plotlines featuring pegging, hiding your pot stash in your vagina, and hooking up with a woman who looks just like you. But with so many plots of TV, movies, and books revolving around love triangles it was pretty refreshing to see someone on a buzzed-about show remind us that there’s another way to do it. That for some people, it’s possible to get joy and energy from someone you love having a good time hooking up with someone else.

Polyamory literally means “many loves.” So it makes sense that Broad City’s central relationship is just as essential to the show’s portrayal of poly life as Ilana and Lincoln’s relationship. Sidenote: how cool is is that we get to watch a female-driven show on a major network that doesn’t put a romantic relationship at the center? Abbi and Ilana deeply adore and admire one another and are there through all the weird trials and tribulations that happen when you’re 20-something in a big city. I know I just implied otherwise, but their love is romantic in a way, even though it’s not sexual (much to Ilana’s chagrin). Does that mean it’s less meaningful than a more traditional romantic/sexual relationship? Is Lincoln more of a partner to Ilana than Abbi is? Are Abbi and Ilana not deep in friend love?

We should all be so lucky to have an Ilana to our Abbi, or vice versa.

Love doesn’t have to equal sex, nor does it have to equal monogamy. Your person can be your platonic best friend, and you can love them as much as you would a romantic partner. It’s just a different kind of love. I think that’s what draws me to Broad City so much. It’s not that I don’t laugh out loud at the shameless physical comedy, whip smart writing, or fantastic hidden jokes you only get on a rewatch. It’s that there’s just as much heart as there is humor. For a show that takes place in one of the toughest cities in the world, there’s not a lot of cynicism. Each episode centers largely on a strong female bond, and the love that these two women have for each other and their people. That’s ultimately what makes the show’s exploration of poly life so meaningful to me. It‘s not just about being in an ethically nonmonogamous relationship, it’s about valuing all different kinds of love that come into your life.

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