Let’s talk about the Stoner Girl. She’s a product of society’s fledgling acceptance of marijuana and a growing female presence in mass media. She’s a white girl, usually a middle-class city-dweller, and she’s painfully aware of her privileged place in today’s urban youth. She’s more than a female who smokes weed. She’s what happens when multiple fringe subcultures merge into one brash and unapologetic female figure.
Here’s where a show like Broad City becomes relevant. It follows two main characters (also the show’s creators), Ilana and Abbi, through their relatively mundane existence as upper-middle-class twenty-something white Jewish women in New York City. And they smoke a lot of weed.
Ilana, the more hedonistic of the two, is the standout character. She lazes around New York constantly searching for the cheapest eighth, vocally broadcasting her debts as a female to greats like Rihanna. Her praise isn’t empty, though, and she’s not just a hip white girl who listens to Drake and wears a jean jacket. In her own way, she recognizes that her privileged place is rooted in the cultural production of men and (especially) women of color.
While Ilana may not market herself as the quintessential Stoner Girl, her story centers on marijuana. Her interactions with co-star Abbi are about pot: the search, the smoke, the prize. The shenanigans the two get into are usually done stoned or with the intention of getting stoned soon after. You can’t separate Ilana’s actions from marijuana. She has literally hidden weed in her vagina. So there’s a significance to her refrain, “I’m so high.” The line is a reminder that what she says and does are deeply connected to what she smokes, that the lyrics she spouts and her worship of pop queens really do come from weed and her place in smoking culture. And she is unashamed of her identity, hyper-extroverted, and ready to call people out when she doesn’t agree.
But since Ilana is a fictional character, we need to take her outspoken nature with a grain of salt. On TV, the stakes aren’t that high, and even in the most realistic situations there is always the comfort of fiction and fantasy. The Internet comedy world, on the other hand, is becoming a safe space for real-life Stoner Girls to do their thing. Old-school stoner comedy has historically been a man’s game. Cheech & Chong stupidly passed a joint while Harold & Kumar got some food. Seth Rogen simply tokes a fat one, looks at the camera, and laughs. But the Stoner Girl’s comedy game is social media—it’s nuanced and understated.
Enter Caroline Goldfarb, Insta kween and self-defined Stoner Girl who bridges the gap between mainstream and niche Internet humor. Goldfarb has gained popularity with her Instagram account, @officialseanpenn, in which she uses both found and original content to create images, videos, and gifs that feature celebrities (and sometimes animals) doing odd things. The account is all about applying mindless stoner humor to pop culture and seeing what happens in front of a quarter of a million followers. Examples: found footage of a My Little Pony lipsyncing to Dreamgirls, glittery carbs overlaid onto Oprah’s Weight Watchers commercial, and a candid pic of Caitlyn Jenner captioned “when someone doesn’t Venmo u.” Many of Goldfarb’s posts involve pot. A personal favorite is a triptych of Queen Elizabeth II with the caption, “when the kush so good u multiply.”
Goldfarb’s multi-dimensional humor contains influences from some interesting corners of the Internet. Many Yalies belong to groups like “post aesthetics” and “People that Aumm sometimes and are also… ooohhhh…..” that occupy a sphere of the internet known as “weird Facebook,” a world of dank memes and the gooey ether of mainstream-niche Internet—references to Nietzsche superimposed onto shit-pics of golden retrievers, for example. “Aesthetics” and “Aumms” are rooted in a delightfully self-aware fringe-ness. They feed off of themselves: the weirder and more multi-layered they are, the more likes and punctuation-less comments will roll in. And while “post aesthetics” may already be transitioning into the mainstream, more unknown pages will pop up in its place and the cycle will continue.
In @officialseanpenn, Goldfarb combines the charming and often self-deprecating humor of weird Facebook with celebrity reality, forming a new Stoner Girl aesthetic that takes in the fringe and spits out something more accessible and, in my opinion, funnier. She has a system of “gay quality control”: before her posts get sent off, she has a group of gay guys “approve” them. In this way, Goldfarb actively channels the humor of another community whose own humor has resulted from the trickle-down cultural politics of the last few decades.
When we talk about Stoner Girls, we talk about a current marker of historic cultural trends, a mainstream figure that can give us what we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Of course @officialseanpenn and Broad City are only two examples of a huge, diverse trend, but it’s important to note how our generation’s zeitgeist seems to be shifting. More and more people follow, tune in to, and subtweet these women, who in turn grant access to all kinds of otherwise inaccessible cultural phenomena. So light up, ladies—let’s keep this exchange going.