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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) navigate their non-monogamous relationship.

Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) navigate their non-monogamous relationship.

‘Broad City’ tackles the complexities of casual dating

“Broad City” has done some really revolutionary things since its premiere in 2014. They’ve represented female sexuality in a bold and unapologetic way — they show vibrators on screen in a really normalizing way, rather than for shock value. This season, they’ve committed to bleeping Trump’s name out. “We just didn't want to share airtime. He's got enough and we also don't want to hear the word,” Ilana Glazer, co-creator and lead, explained over the summer on a press tour. They’ve also touched on topics such as depression, anxiety, sexual harassment and sexuality. But the most revolutionary representation, to me, is the way they depict Ilana and Lincoln’s non-monogamous relationship and break-up. It’s such a realistic depiction of modern dating, through all of its complications.

Since the pilot episode, Ilana and Lincoln have had a very open and honest non-monogamous relationship. They both respect each other’s boundaries and keep an open line of communication between the two of them. As Lincoln says in the pilot episode, “I saw your tweet, so I wanted to stop by, but wanted to respect your space, so I’m hanging back.” They’re always transparent with their needs and desires. Ilana is seen throughout the show having multiple other partners besides Lincoln — both men and women — yet we never see story arcs dealing with jealousy between the two of them. It’s probably one of the healthiest depictions of a romantic relationship on TV.

Last season, in the eighth episode, “Burning Bridges,” “Broad City” completely devastated fans when Lincoln broke up with Ilana. He sits her down and tells her that he wants to be exclusive with Steph, the other girl he’s been seeing. Ilana is taken aback, but remains composed until she asks him if they can still be friends, to which he responds, “I don’t think we’re just friends. So, no.” Ilana is really upset by this and, throughout the episode, goes into a spiral, telling herself that she’s not allowed to be upset since they weren’t exclusively dating one another. This continues until the very end, where she finally breaks down and cries it out on Abbi’s shoulder.

This episode rung so painfully familiar for me and I’m sure many others out there who are active participants in the casual dating scene. Defining relationships with labels or being exclusive is becoming more and more rare — which isn’t a bad thing at all. I thoroughly enjoy casual dating. But sometimes it makes us feel confused when we “break-up” with each other. Just because you weren’t dating in the technical sense doesn’t mean you didn’t sincerely love and care for that person. It’s totally normal and okay to feel upset after the two of you end your relationship. Seeing Ilana break down in the same episode made me shed tears, something I never expected from an episode of “Broad City,” but I was just so relieved to see someone else going through emotions I and so many of my friends have gone through. It assured us all that there’s no need to feel silly for being upset over the end of a casual relationship.

The show has gone forward with this story arc into the new season as well. In the third episode of the most recent season, “Just the Tips,” Ilana runs into Lincoln for the first time since they ended things. She doesn’t handle it particularly well — she actually poops in her onesie. And in the following episode, “Mushrooms,” after a failed threesome with an incredibly attractive couple — Ilana’s dream — she takes the leap and unfollows Lincoln on all forms of social media so she can move on.

So not only is “Broad City” showing that it’s okay to be upset when your casual relationship/hookup ends, it’s also showing that it’s okay to take some time getting over it. Feelings don’t just magically end when the relationship does. Often times we try our hardest to ignore our feelings, especially while seeing someone casually, but who says that casually dating someone and having feelings for them are mutually exclusive? I just want to say a big thank you to “Broad City” for shedding some light on modern romance and making me and my emotions feel valid in a dating culture that can be overwhelming at times.

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