Why I Rewatched Broad City's “Witches” For My Birthday

Ilana and Abbi in Broad City Episode, "Witches." Image courtesy of IMDB.

For my 22nd birthday in December, I decided to rewatch Season 4 Episode 6 of Broad City“Witches”—and let it all sink in as another year goes by, another birthday passes, and I apparently keep growing older. I wanted Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson by my side as I stepped away from the undergraduate life of a 21-year-old and toward the post-grad life of a 22-year-old.

Let’s recap the episode: Ilana finds a gray hair on Abbi’s head, which sends Abbi into an existential crisis as she examines her life and what she has (or hasn’t) accomplished. Meanwhile, Ilana goes to see a sex therapist because she hasn’t come since Tr*mp’s election and sex is a big part of who she is. (Spoiler alert: She comes.) Oh, and Abbi and Ilana realize that they’re witches... or just some really cool, powerful, strong women.

I felt that watching this episode on my birthday was appropriate for two reasons. One, Abbi and Ilana deal with big, scary topics, like aging and sex, that most women are taught to be afraid of talking—or even thinking—about. Two, most of the shows we watch depict women as “less than” with little to no agency. This episode of Broad City, and the show as a whole, does the opposite. It puts women’s voices and perspectives front and center; these ladies are loud, funny, autonomous, and authentic. That’s exactly why I wanted to watch this episode on my birthday, a magical day in which I grow older, get louder, funnier, and gain more agency.

So, let’s get to those big, scary topics. First up: Aging.

From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, we see unrealistic, often photoshopped, depictions of the female body. These manufactured bodies are wrinkleless and hairless; there are certainly no gray hairs to be found.

I like to think that when I find my first gray hair, I will react like Ilana does when Abbi finds her first silvery strand. Ilana is “full-on flooding with envy,” and exclaims that finding your first gray is “the most powerful moment in a woman’s life.” To her, this discovery means that you are officially a magical, “dope and powerful f*cking witch.”

Abbi is less than pleased when she finds her first gray, and prior to watching this episode, I probably would have reacted much like her. By the time this happens (in her twenties, might I add), Abbi feels as if she’s supposed to have done amazing things like win a MacArthur Genius Grant or post pictures of her açai bowls on Instagram.

I felt similarly when I graduated college and turned 22. I regretted not being a teenage entrepreneur (a word I don’t even know how to spell) on Shark Tank, you know?

I felt like I should have a full-time, perfect-for-me job the second I walked across the graduation stage. But the future isn’t always a straight path, and neither is a career. Not everyone will have one 40-hour-a-week job, for the next 40 years. In fact, most people won’t. This episode helped me realize that it is okay to experiment, to take some time to figure things out, and to change my mind, even if it turns out to be a long and winding road.

Abbi embodies a feeling that I’m sure many recent college graduates experience: self-doubt. We adults are trying our damnedest!

At the end of “Witches,” Abbi finds herself sitting in the chair at the dermatologist’s office after having gotten botox in only one cheek. After meeting a 51-year-old who doesn’t look a day over 15, running into an ex who now has a family, and finding a gray hair, she felt the need to change her appearance and cling to her youth. But, when she looks into the mirror, she realizes that she actually really likes the way she looks, natural beauty marks, gray hair, and all.

And that’s a message worth taking away from this episode: We shouldn’t get swept up in these moments of self-doubt, thinking of all we could have or should have done; we shouldn’t harp on those days when we wake up and the jeans don’t fit right or another gray hair sprouts up. What we should do is look in the mirror, think about what we’re proud of, what we’re happy with, and say “I’m really hot.”

Now onto the second big, scary topic: Female Pleasure.

For Broad City’s Ilana, being a “cum kween” is a large part of her identity. Since the 2016 election, she has had trouble getting off, so she goes to a sex therapist to find out what’s up with her down below.

This process involves admiring her vulva in a mirror, using a vibrator, and thinking of all the powerful, inspiring women out there (i.e. Michelle Obama, Susan B. Anthony, Bette Midler, Gloria Steinem, and so many more).

Though Ilana is embarrassed about having to go see a sex therapist, the experience is helpful and rewarding. Frankly, we should ALL be doing what Ilana does while there: Admiring our own bodies, learning what we like and what works for us, and thinking about all the amazing women who are doing amazing things—and are just like us.

Growing up in North Carolina, I was never taught about sex within the context of female pleasure; it was essentially an imaginary concept. It was never mentioned during sex-ed (which was abstinence-only). I was taught that sex was for reproductive purposes only (and only acceptable between heterosexual married couples). Seeing depictions of female pleasure on-screen, like in this episode, have broadened my horizons and taught me that there is so much value in exploring my own pleasure.

Both Abbi’s and Ilana’s storylines in this episode illustrate the importance of self-acceptance. “Witches” sent me messages I really needed to hear as I entered adulthood, real world-style: Throw away stigmas and give yourself what you need. Love yourself and appreciate your abilities. Do what makes you happy and take pride in both the little and big accomplishments. But know that it’s also okay and understandable to freak out at times or let society’s pressure get to you for a minute—we all do, and that’s nothing to feel bad or guilty about.

I only just turned 22. I graduated college a few weeks ago. Sadly, I don’t have any gray hairs (at least not that I know of). But with every little victory, every year, every birthday to come (get it?), I grow happier, stronger, more powerful, and infinitely wiser.

As Ilana would say, we’re growing into the “witches who run the world. And witches aren’t monsters, they’re just women... They’re f*cking women who cum and giggle and play in the night.”

Topics: Feminism, Television
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How to cite this page

Lubin, Rena. "Why I Rewatched Broad City's “Witches” For My Birthday." 2 January 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/why-i-rewatched-broad-citys-witches-for-my-birthday>.

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