Women have always been in the spotlight when it comes to comedy on TV. From “I Love Lucy,” which was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons to “30 Rock,” which won 16 Emmy awards, women have ruled the comedic silver screen. Yet despite how successful sitcoms lead by women are, women continued to be shut down and told they aren’t funny.
However, the success of Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and Netflix’s “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” show that women have always been — and will always be — funny.
“Broad City” follows the life of two twenty-somethings in New York. Played by Upright Citizen’s Brigade alumnae Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the two leading ladies themselves in the most ridiculous situations and show what it’s really like to be young and broke. [Hint: It’s nothing like “Girls”]
While “Girls” depicts four twenty-something women with low-paying jobs living in posh Manhattan apartments they clearly cannot afford, “Broad City” depicts the reality of recent college grads who live with shitty roommates (or shitty roommates’ boyfriends) and understand the importance of bargain hunting.
Like many leading ladies today (thank you, Leslie Knope), Abbi and Ilana identify as feministsand champion sexual freedom. Perhaps the most progressive moment from the past season was when Ilana refused to put labels on her sexuality. In “Coat Check” Ilana freaks out while hooking up with her doppelganger Adele, played by Alia Shawkat. Ilana ends the relationship with a monologue as ambiguous as her sexual fluidity: “I have sex with people different from me. Different colors, different shapes, different sizes. People who are hotter; people who are uglier. More smart; not more smart. Innies; outies. I don’t know, a Catholic person.” Ilana is a true modern woman who seeks her own happiness despite societal standards. As Jenny Kutner wrote in an op-ed for Salon, Ilana “challenges viewers to accept a female heroine who is never going to fit neatly into a box.”
“Broad City” isn’t the only female-led comedy on TV post-“Parks and Recreation.” “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” premiered on Netflix on March 6 to critical acclaim and internet excitement (I can’t even count how many of my Facebook friends have made screencaps their cover photos).
The show follows an extremely optimistic woman (played by the adorable Ellie Kemper) as she attempts to start her life over in New York City after being trapped underground as a kidnapped member of an apocalypse-fearing cult. Schmidt was only 15 when she was kidnapped and 15 years later, she must navigate adulthood in the big city while also recovering from abuse and trauma.
But what sets “Kimmy Schmidt” apart from other shows that deal with sexual abuse is that it focuses on recovery and optimism rather than horror and sadness.
“I was kept in a bunker for fifteen years by an insane preacher. I thought the world had ended. I thought I would die there,” Kimmy tells her real-housewife-of-New-York boss, Jaqueline (played by Jane Krakowski), “But I survived, because that’s what women do.”
And women truly are unbreakable. In a piece for The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg writes, “‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is the rare show that recognizes you don’t have to break a heroine on-screen just to show strong she really is.” Kimmy is a survivor, not a victim and her optimism is not only hilariously adorable, but also inspiring.
It’s no surprise that “Broad City” and “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are incredibly successful. They are produced by the queens of comedy, feminism and girl power, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Both women are out-and-proud feminists and use comedy to build women and girls up, not tear them down. Poehler is the creator of “Smart Girls at the Party,” which is an organization dedicated to empowering girls to follow their dreams with self-confidence and happiness.
Poehler and Fey’s dedication to female empowerment shines in their work and the success of their shows prove that you don’t need to be a woman to enjoy female-led comedies.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the adorable kittens in the season 2 premiere of “Broad City”? Skip to 1:45 for the hilarious clip.
Corinne Falotico is a passionate advocate for women's rights and she's not afraid to identify as a feminist. She's currently the Operations and Projects Assistant at Catholics for Choice. In addition, she's the founder and editor-in-chief of "The Feminist Feline," a politics and pop culture blog where feminist commentary is combined with adorable cat videos, pictures and memes. She has a bachelor's degree in Political Communication from The George Washington University, as well as a minor in Theatre. Corinne has had her original work published in several news blogs, including BlogHer, The Indie Chicks, SheNOW, The Rival and HauteMess Magazine.