The Diary of Anaïs Nin While Binge-Watching Broad City

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Season 1, Episodes 1–3

Ah, to see New York, city of life and love. How I long for it, city of neurosis! But wherever are our heroines, Abbi and Ilana, on that phallic island of Manhattan? Astoria, Gowanus—familiar names, but I cannot place them.

Oh, the young and wild now frolic across Queens and Brooklyn? I understand all too well. I feel alive only when I may listen to Harlem jazz. Smoke! Bodies! Hunger!

Ilana is all nail lacquer, gold bangles, energy. Ilana is fire. Abbi repressed, anxious. She speaks of being a “grown-up,” yet undermines her own desires. I would love to set up my psychotherapy practice in these neighborhoods of the young, help the women especially awaken and live more fully. Do you think I would have an audience?

Our heroines’ surreal exploits are enhanced by chanvre indien, which is apparently so common in New York in this era it is simply called “weed.” (Yet it is still, puzzlingly, policed. I almost cannot write the title “P*$$y Weed”—a deviant way of hiding an illicit substance—but there, I’ve done it.)

Ilana is a fount of political and psychological insights, which are no insights at all. I believe this is part of the joke. But I cannot stand the thought of Ilana scorned! Her positions display chaos. Contradiction. Puckishness. Ilana burns, burns, burns!

 

Season 1, Episodes 3–7

I did not sleep. I cannot sleep, will not sleep again! One episode after another with every outrageous twist and turn. I smile but no laughter comes—just a gaping mouth wishing to devour more!

How much movement in these young female forms. They are forever walking! I envy their hale bodies. (They walk around nearly naked, in tattered dungarees and wispy cotton things. It fills me with desire. Ilana and Abbi are delicious waifs!)

One observation in particular excites and disturbs me: Abbi and Ilana each live in a room they rent. True, their conditions are squalid. (Abbi has an utter buffoon for a roommate, and the “Hurricane Wanda” episode left scars on my psyche.)

And yet, they are not trapped in marriages for the sake of income, a roof overhead. They do not lie about being the wives of their lover(s) to stay with them in a hotel. Could it be? They sign their own names to lease apartments, write cheques out of their own meager incomes?

I admit, I am perplexed by their “work.” I cannot decipher what they do, if they do it well, if it pays enough to make a living. Ilana takes on odd jobs but does not complete them. Sometimes she slouches at a desk with a futuristic typewriter but types not a word. Abbi is a maid somewhere… A sanitarium? There are overt religious overtones and strenuous exercises at “Soulstice,” but I can piece together nothing more.

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Season 1, Episodes 8–10

I had to watch “Destination Wedding” once, twice, and again! I am still addled by its tone. All is disoriented—for what is vaudeville and what is scathing rebuke?

New character Morgan, Abbi’s friend from university, is clearly a dupe. An adenoidal hysteric, Morgan is far too delicate. She declares herself “the first woman in my family to be twenty-five and still single!”

The idea that spinsterhood begins at twenty-five is all too familiar to me. I was only twenty when I was wed to Hugo—wed to the notion of the Ideal Love, the Eternal Monogamous Heart. Both loves faded, Morgan! And all too soon. Will no one tell poor Morgan that a woman hardly knows her body, nor her desires, at twenty-five?

Twitching, flat-chested Morgan recognizes hearty Abbi as her foil, gloms onto her. Statuesque Abbi, the true heiress of Venus! Her fullness taunts me still. Memories from my own life rush back to me—the weight-gain tonics, forcing iron down my gullet to combat the anemia. I can tell that in this culture, the buxom female is ever the ideal. May majestic Abbi never know the shame of being outside the cultural ideal of the Beautiful Woman—let her never be feeble, slight, small!

In one absurd scenario, Ilana, Abbi, and Morgan are traveling in the back of a moving truck. Morgan admits an incestuous inkling for her brother. This prohibited desire is met with disgust from our heroines. This is where I am dizzied by contradictions: in the world of Broad City, men love men, women love women. People of all colors and creeds make love to one another behind closed doors, and may fraternize in public. So many of my reservations and rules would have to be unlearned in this age—I would relish the unlearning!

But the fact that I have been the lover of my father, have indeed been an Electra to a sensuous Agememnon, would yet be buried and denied! In this era I would loose one desire in the open air, lock another in darkness.

 

Season 2, Episodes 1–3 

I chortled while Abbi has her wisdom teeth removed. Ilana is named her “keeper.” These women live more of a marriage than Ilana and Lincoln…or Abbi and anyone else!

imageNot the least because Ilana and Lincoln are free to love others outside of their relationship. Could this be the new norm? My poor Hugh, loyal husband, would quake to know that women don’t outgrow the desire for new lovers after marriage—even in the 21st century.

Ilana is of course an irresponsible caretaker. She grasps Abbi’s tender jaw. Fills her with so many drugs I can hardly keep count, contrary to medical guidance. Childlike, Ilana laughs at each of Abbi’s pratfalls.

Here we see The Mother trope, mocked, put on its head. Ilana could not be farther from the Ideal Mother, and feels no remorse for it. She relishes her eternal childhood, her maternal avoidance. Even psychoanalysis could not free me from the burden of this identity. (Indeed, my analysts—turned lovers, all—often encouraged me to wear the mantle of maternity. To nurture them.)

But all’s well that ends well. Or ends in a narcotic stupor. Our beloved Broads survive to burn with desire and light up cannabis another day!

 

Season 2, Episode 4 

This misadventure in particular has me simply overwhelmed. The title, “Knockoffs,” sounds sexually suggestive to me, but allegedly refers to cheap imported handbags. Abbi begins an affair with a man who reveals a taste for “pegging.” A homosexual desire—a taboo! Abbi does not flee. She is able to discuss these perversities with dear Ilana, and then, Ilana’s own mother! The mother of Ilana issues no judgment. She is curious to try new acts of love herself.

Are these women and their carnal desires being mocked? Or—and I can hardly endure the ecstasy—are they being celebrated?

I already feel faint whenever Abbi insists that their love for one another is platonic, then Ilana lets a fierce, explicit sexual fantasy fly free. It is never shamed, seldom corrected!

I want to celebrate, sing, and dance in a Bacchanal. And yet, woe, despair, remorse! For I have lived proud and free, but never quite so bold as Ilana, even Abbi. If only I had been born one hundred years later! Gowanus, I would devour you. Astoria, I would set you alight.

 

Season 2, Episodes 5–10

Friend Jaime becomes a citizen of the United States in Episode 7, requests a nostalgic tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. (I know these milestones as true beacons of freedom and promise—fleeing France for New York at the dawn of the Second World War was a salvation. How uncanny to think they are but quaint museums now!)

Abbi and Ilana reminisce about childhood sojourns to these landmarks, as they are descendants of Europeans who trekked to Ellis Island, but were born on US soil themselves. As was Lincoln—he is encouraged to join the commotion. Yet Lincoln frankly reminds his companions that his ancestors entered this continent by very different means. He does not utter the word slavery. But oh, oh Lincoln, we fill in the gaps! Is it funny, or is it a slap in the face?

Lincoln provides some of the most surreal and nonsensical punchlines throughout this program. Now, he deadpans, yet it makes him ever more a votive of The Absurd! He points out the absurdity of the institution of Human Slavery in the first place. Lincoln, such wit, such mischief. (He is played by an actor named Hannibal—conqueror, I would be your conquest!)

Here we get tender moments with sweet Jaime, who is an immigrant and a homosexual man. I can hardly imagine his plight in American society. Yet he is never taunted or belittled on screen. Friends surround him, love him, bolster him. This is la bohème at its best.

I will always be puzzled by the presentation of race in Broad City. I cannot begin to explain its philosophy. Cheeky, the word may be? Irreverent, to be sure.

Abbi and Ilana name themselves Jewesses when it fits into a quip. Otherwise, our Broad City leaders interact with their world as ravenous, ambitious, youthful women! Race is real to our characters, but it doesn’t define them. Unless it is required for a laugh. What a brave new world!

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An Insomniac’s Love Affair with Season 3

The chapters blend together. I cannot, will not restrain myself from watching the next installment.

I was hypnotized by the cameo of a real-life female candidate for the American Presidency. Her capability as a leader inspires lust in Ilana and Abbi. I admit I have been awed by a man in authority (my analysts!), but to witness ingénues swoon over a powerful woman—is she even married?!—gives me nothing but optimism for the future.

Until—Ilana—hurt and vulnerable! Episode 8, “Burning Bridges,” the darker side of flame. Not passion but loss. Consumption. Pain.

Proud, brash Ilana now mews as a kitten. “Lincoln broke up with me, whatever that means, you know? He met some beautiful queen… He wants to be monogamous with her, and he should, he deserves whatever he wants.”

Options, then. Ilana grants Lincoln any choice he could conjure. Here young lovers can enter one dance, leave another. In this City, humans are free to wed and be faithful; wed and be unfaithful; never wed but be monogamous; be monogamous until the next partner comes along; be open; be closed; waste down to a nub whilst pursuing a quarry.

Of course the evening ends with Abbi and Ilana in the bath, together, passing their “weed” from one mouth to another. But I am chilled, less comforted somehow. How are these people anything less than confused, every hour of every day? How on earth, how in all of Eros, do women know which vote to cast, which life to elect as their own?

I counted on psychoanalysis, French literature, and astrology to guide my life, and I had fewer paths to choose from, it seems.

Another season over and I am perturbed, intrigued, insatiable. Bon voyage, my sisters, until Season 4! Luxurious Abbi, relish that beauty, never hide from the erotic! Voracious Ilana, burn bright, burn true!

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Image credits: Feature image, image 1, image 2, image 3.


Laura Eppinger graduated from Marquette University in 2008 with a degree in journalism, and she's been writing creatively ever since. She's the blog editor at Newfound Journal. Her full publications list lives here. More from this author →