Watching Broad City

Mallory Burns

Visiting my sister this past weekend, she introduced me to Broad City, a show I have been meaning to watch for quite some time. Aired on Comedy Central, it tells the fairly simple story of two New Yorkers named Abbi and Ilana, and focuses on their day to day lives in the Big Apple. Watching this show in my sisters cozy apartment on east 92nd street, I found myself laughing hysterically at their various mishaps, feeling almost as if my sister and I were Abbi and Ilana for that one weekend. My sister would often turn to me and say “I relate so much to this part right here,” and in that moment I loved thinking that my sister lives a similar life to these two comedians, making light of ridiculous situations in incredibly clever ways.

As this show’s popularity has stemmed from their arguably more realistic plot twists and focuses, I kept thinking, “Wow! If I moved to New York, my life could be like this all the time!” which then made me incredibly jealous of my sister and her life in the city. I wanted to move to New York right then and there so that I could experience that weekend all the time, but as we started our fourth episode of the day, a few more thoughts came to mind….

The night before, I remembered feeling incredibly small and out of place and unhappy as my sister and I struggled to find our way through a slightly dangerous part of New York. I kept wishing for the simplicity of North Carolina, walking straight to my car and driving a few short minutes home. I know this makes me sound like a wimp—and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the excitement of New York and the diversity and wide array of people and places you see—but I started panicking and wondering why I couldn’t just accept the situation as it was and turn it into a sort of Broad City mini sketch. I kept on thinking “What would Abbi and Ilana do?” and “Why can’t I find the humor in this situation right now?” After all, this is New York! The great thing about it is the weirdos and strange things you see that wouldn’t happen anywhere else!! Right?

Thinking about this moment as I sat in my sister’s safe apartment, I realized the New York I was dreaming about and yearning for was the one represented on TV and movies. I began to feel more excited about being in New York as we snuggled on the couch and watched two fictional characters experience the city instead of actually experiencing it ourselves, and I found myself in a very deep never ending spiral of escapism. I couldn’t figure out why, after dreaming about New York for so long, I felt so opposed to the idea. I’ve always known New York is difficult and expensive….was I really so blinded by the exaggerations presented by severely contrite sit-coms and rom-coms?

I then realized that given my past experiences in New York, I’ve in a way created my own sit-com situation in my head: Mallory’s Unrealistic New York Weekend Extravaganzas. I’ve traveled to New York five times now, all for long weekends in which my parents treat me to shows and meals, as we walk through the neighborhoods for hours on end without a care in the world. They’ve been some of my all-time favorite memories, and for some reason, I expected the potential of a future life in New York to mirror these vacations. Growing up with my eyes glued to the screen as Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks discuss bouquets of sharpened pencils and charming bookstores in the city, I saw myself in a few years meandering through the autumn leaves strewn about the sidewalks in some sort of fashionable coat/hat combo.

I’m not blaming shows like Broad City or any movie set in New York for these unrealistic expectations, for I’ve always recognized the importance of distinguishing between these fictional settings and reality. Furthermore, I realize that I can’t necessarily make any absolute assumptions about a place I’ve never lived in based on my few visits there and my sister recounting her life there. I do know, however, after pairing viewings of Broad City with my obsessions with When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail, that whether I like it or not, I often submit to escapism in terms of fictional lives on screen. I view New York as a fantastical world created by Nora Ephron and Frank Sinatra, and I enjoy this indulgence. I love watching Broad City and pretending that if I lived in New York I would also attend dog weddings and sneak onto boat parties. It certainly won’t help me if I actually do move to New York, but for now I don’t mind escaping into unrealistic worlds created for me on TV.

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