‘Broad City”s Decision to Bleep Donald Trump’s Name is Tokenistic and Tone-Deaf


Halfway through the first season of Broad City, a couple of years back, a thought struck me: that I couldn’t imagine the show ever becoming uncool. Ilana and Abbi were so funny, so relatable, and so real, that it seemed impossible that they could disappear up their own assholes the same way that Lena Dunham, to whom they were so often compared, had done.

Fast-forward to June 2017, which yesterday brought the news that in its next season, Broad City would bleep out Donald Trump’s name. It’s a gesture that could have come straight off the drawing board of Dunham herself (along with wearing an orange sleeping bag for National Gun Violence Day, and wishing she’d had an abortion so she could identify better with women who had done, or something.)

In reporting the news, the AV Club suggested that bleeping “Donald Trump” sounds like “a fairly funny and delightfully casual way to dismiss any power Trump wields.” That’s one way to look at it, I guess. Another is that it’s silly, tokenistic, and tone-deaf.

The thing it calls to mind immediately is the whole ill-fated “Drumpf” joke from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. The days when Trump was just a figure of ridicule have long since passed, though; he is doing real, objective damage to millions of people across this country and the world right fucking now. He isn’t to be ignored, or bleeped out, or called “Drumpf” in the hope that he’ll go away. He is to be resisted.

Of course, I don’t exactly expect the resistance to start with Broad City. But nor would I expect Abbi and Ilana’s characters to be so clueless about this. Part of the problem, I think, is that the real Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are increasingly removed from the characters we see on the show. Broad City‘s Abbi and Ilana are perpetual twentysomethings, always scrambling to cobble together the money for their next rent check, always waking up with a belting hangover on someone else’s floor.

Their creators, though, aren’t about that life any more. And why should they be? They’re successful comedians in their thirties. But if they’re going to keep playing these characters, they need to understand the people they’re depicting. In reality, this generation is politically engaged and smart, and they’re living under the most terrifyingly corrupt, nepotistic and frightening administration in living memory. A real life Abbi and Ilana would probably listen to Chapo Trap House, go to DSA meetings, and attend demonstrations.

Sadly, it feels like their creators have lost touch with the lives of their characters, and with them, of the people those characters once represented. (I guess the warning signs were there with last year’s Hillary Clinton cameo, wherein Clinton is presented as a glowing avatar of the sort of lame centrist feminism that Broad City once seemed it’d have nothing to do with.) Never fear, though: there’s always a guest spot at Lenny Letter to be had!