• Susan Fraiman deposited Bathroom Realism and the Women of Cable TV on Humanities Commons 8 months, 2 weeks ago

    Who gets The Real in realism? Taking as case studies three women-centered cable TV shows, this essay aims to renegotiate the terms of realism along feminist lines. In their focus on the ordinary and domestic, on proximate bodies and intimate conversations, Broad City, Insecure, and Girls echo the quotidian concerns of the nineteenth-century realist novel. Beyond this, in their signature use of the bathroom, they echo late Victorian efforts to push past the accepted limits of the “real” to explore matters conventionally hidden and beneath consideration. Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Issa Rae, and Lena Dunham turn for reality effects to the “ugly” and typically unseen aspects of women’s daily lives: objects from tampons to toilets, shameful bodily functions, imperfect and vulnerable bodies, confused and embarrassing feelings. While all three shows exemplify a women-centered bathroom realism (in contrast to male-centered works for which violence is the key to a grittier realism), their particular strategies are differentiated by race. Jacobson, Glazer, and Dunham give us white women sprawled on toilets and tubs, trashing the ideal of proper ladyness. Rae’s bathroom fixture of choice is a mirror, a device she uses to explore the neglected terrain of Black female interiority.