When the cultural history of marijuana is recounted, the women of Broad City will be ranked alongside Willie Nelson, Dennis Peron, Bob Marley, and Jeffrey Lebowski as some of its most groundbreaking and influential 420 icons. Lead characters Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler (played by the show’s creators, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) have given us a completely original entry in the cannabis canon: a female Stoner Duo.
Stoner Heroes have been with us since the release of Easy Rider in 1969. The archetype arose with the ’60s counterculture, but much like cannabis itself, the trope evolved into an array of countless strains. Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke, however, spurred a seismic change in stoner screen-history. Released in 1978, the film not only invented the stoner comedy genre, it expanded the archetype of the lone Stoner Hero into the even-more-iconic Stoner Duo.
Up In Smoke laid the blueprint for Half Baked, The Big Lebowski, Pineapple Express and a plethora of other films. It birthed iconic duos like Bill and Ted, Craig and Smokey, Method Man and Redman, Harold and Kumar, Jay and Silent Bob, and Shaggy and Scooby.
While these onscreen Stoner Duos have been remarkably diverse in terms of age, race, and socioeconomic status they’re almost inevitably male. Historically, the rare stoner chicks we’ve seen in film and television are bit players, adjacent to male leads. Exactly one woman made Ranker’s Top 20 Most Influential Stoners In Film History: Annie Hall, a Woody Allen character from 1977.
All of the above explains why, when women saw Broad City for the first time, millions of us nearly dropped our bongs. Finally, we were seeing ourselves onscreen for the first time–and not as desperate suburbanite widows driven to drug-dealing; or cute, pixie sidekicks to leading male characters. Broad City puts fully-realized lady dope fiends center stage.
The show also treats pot differently than any series that came before it. While weed drives the plot of some episodes, it’s also just a part of the landscape–like bodegas, graffiti, and the subway. Whether Abbi and Ilana are partying, FaceTiming, masturbating, working, eating, managing sprained ankles, or coping with heartbreak, getting stoned is portrayed as essential– but also ordinary. Like regular trips to Bed Bath and Beyond as well as the love and loyalty of dear friends, cannabis is experienced as an integral accessory for the human condition.
In honor of this iconic, trailblazing duo (and the fifth and final season of Broad City), here’s a breakdown of the ways in which Abbi and Ilana are the weed queens we didn’t know we needed:
Abbi and Ilana Take Pot Seriously
In Season 1, Episode 2, Abbi embarks on the heroine’s journey of buying her own pot like a grown adult—a quest inspired by the sight of Ilana pulling a bag of weed from her own vagina.
In Season 2, Episode 9, Ilana plunges into a fiery romance with Adele, a mirror image of Ilana who seems perfect in every way—but when Adele wrinkles her nose and announces that she doesn’t smoke pot, Ilana promptly shows her the door.
Men might compromise on this issue, but weed queens have their priorities straight.
Fast forward to Season 3, Episode 4, in which Ilana throws a party at her apartment to raise funds for a rat exterminator. She rummages through her belongings, apartment, and hair in search of spare nugs she can sell. And the weed bar she assembles is truly a sight to behold.
They Also Overdo it
In a quest to be an adult who purchases her own pot, Abbi gets mistaken for a weed dealer and ends up scoring from a middle schooler. Then, she decides to smoke in the bathroom at the dentist’s office– and triggers the smoke alarm and sprinkler system. Then there’s Ilana, who frequently smokes joints before napping at work and is known to steal office supplies that she uses to barter for grass.
Then there’s the time in Season 2, Episode 9, when the duo gleefully vape at their coat check job and lose Kelly Ripa’s coat. There’s also that classic moment while attempting to swipe an air-conditioner from an NYU dorm room in Season 2, Episode 1, that they decide to teach some undergrads about “the dangers of ripping underage bongs.” How they do this? By ripping bong hits with them, of course.
Obviously, no one should steal, or vape at work, or purchase weed from eighth-graders, or get underage boys high; yes, these are unarguably foolish decisions. But it’s liberating to watch female fuckups act irresponsibly. Male stoners onscreen (and in real life) have always had permission—nay, encouragement—to be libertines and jackasses. As Broad City’s executive producer Amy Poehler noted, Abbi and Ilana’s transgressive behavior is intentional: “Women always have to be the eye rollers, as the men make a mess. We didn’t want that. Young women can be lost, too.”
Abbi and Ilana are messy, and while their weed-fueled debauchery may not always be wise, it’s both subversive and funny-as-hell. And it’s genuinely refreshing to watch women who don’t care about their jobs get high and eat cereal. Abbi and Ilana DGAF about the grind: they’re too busy looking for the grinder.
Abbi and Ilana are Role Models for Women
Okay, capitalists. Maybe they’re not role models in terms of their non-striving, just-lie-and-leave approach to their jobs. And, sure: they probably shouldn’t have gone on that creepy Craigslist, housecleaning-in-your-underwear job to raise funds for a Lil Wayne concert. Or substituted weed shakes for Vicodin post-surgery. Or made out with super-stoned minors. Or tried to sneak pot into Israel by hiding bags of weed in their vaginas. These are all horrible ideas.
But I would argue their defiance, rule-breaking, and risk-taking is admirable and something females need to see more of–regardless of age. As Abbi Jacobson told the New York Post, “Maybe not a lot of women on TV act the way we do—but a lot of the women we know act that way.”
Broad City hasn’t just broken boundaries around sex, nudity, queerness, and bodily functions– it’s also shattered the archetype around who’s allowed to be a slipshod stoner.
Weed is part of Abbi and Ilana’s unapologetic pursuit of pleasure, which is radical and deeply feminist. But their love for the herb pales in comparison to their love for each other. Their adoring friendship, both in front of and behind the camera, truly makes our Grinch heart grow three sizes.
“Where people of my rapidly advancing age had Jay and Silent Bob, millennials have Abbi and Ilana as their Stoner Superheroes, and thank Weed Jesus for that,” says Samantha Irby, comedian, blogger, and New York Times bestselling author of Meaty and We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. “It’s a shame that it feels revolutionary to see female friendship depicted in such a real and honest way, but it totally is. Abbi and Ilana have filled a little nug-sized hole in my heart and for that I’m forever grateful.”
The Duo Prove Pot is a Feminist Issue
Season 4, Episode 1 opens with Abbi and Ilana strolling whilst casually discussing hairstyle choices. The camera pulls back to reveal they’re actually escorting a woman through an enraged throng of pro-lifers to the door of an abortion clinic. Ilana bids the woman farewell by saying, “Your body, your choice”—and then whips out a bowl and lights it. A protester yells at her, causing Ilana to blow dope smoke in his face and shriek, “You don’t know how much you need that!”
Abbi follows suit, exhaling smoke all over the infuriated crowd. Ilana puts the bowl in her pocket, and they walk off into the sunset, chatting with smiles on their faces. The camera cuts to the first protestor, standing in shock: “Why are we doing this?” he says to himself, munching on a cookie.
It’s 59 seconds of pure, smoke-laden genius. In under a minute, Abbi and Ilana somehow manage to convert a religious nut bag with the power of pot. They show us that young women can be stoner slackers while still stepping up to take direct action to defend women’s rights. The sight of them smoking grass in their clinic escort shirts is like manna from feminist stoner heaven.
Broad City is first and foremost an absurdist comedy. But despite its surreal silliness and ridiculous antics, it’s had a real impact on women.
“I can definitively say that if it weren’t for Broad City, I might not be in the cannabis industry today,” says Tiara Darnell, Oregon’s 2017 Budtender of the Year and host/executive producer of the podcast High, Good People. “These weed queens busted through the D.A.R.E. wall in my mind and helped me define my relationship with the plant. In the show and in real life, Abbi and Ilana have inspired me to define ‘normalization’ on my own terms and to create the smart stoner content I want to see in the world.”
And that’s exactly what the ladies of Broad City have instilled in canna-loving women across the world: be the Weed Queen you want to see in the world.
Jennifer Boeder is a content specialist at Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency. She writes about cannabis, music, politics, and culture. Her work has appeared in Cannabis Culture, The Weed Blog, Oxygen, Chicagoist, Wonkette, Built In Chicago, Cuepoint and The Urbaness. She lives in Los Angeles.