How we see public services represented on television matters. And no one is more pilloried than the Department of Motor Vehicles. In fact, we’ve talked about it before: The DMV is kind of awesome.

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And, on Broad City, Abby learned this important lesson again. On a quest to take the perfect driver’s license photo, she feels like this is what she experiences at the DMV.


But the reality is that the DMV doesn’t have to be like that (and probably isn’t, anyway…). Sure – if you go when it’s incredibly busy and you aren’t really prepared, it can feel¬†frustrating. But that’s true of anything. Like going to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon. Most Departments of Motor Vehicles are actually well run, and they’re incorporating more digital technology to streamline the process, so much of the time, you can even avoid the trip.

Abby’s chiropractor clued her into the secret she needed to have a wonderful DMV experience: make an appointment online and show up on time. In her fantasy, there are red carpets, a chocolate buffet and fountain, and a personal concierge¬†who suggests that you have a massage, a personal makeup artist, and then a professional photographer does a full photoshoot. That is not the reality either, but it’s a lot closer to the experience than TV usually portrays.

Abbi's DMV fantasy, Comedy Central's Broad City, Mar. 16, 2016

Abbi’s DMV fantasy, Comedy Central’s Broad City, Mar. 16, 2016

(Unfortunately, as of now, you can only watch on Comedy Central if you have a cable account. It’s at about minute 15.)

These portrayals of public services matter. When we only see government services as inefficient or, well, hellish, then people think that’s the reality, and it reinforces any bad experiences and hides our many good ones.

I wish that our media would show our public systems and structures as the are: usually so well run that we don’t notice them at all, sometimes flawed, and always ours. So we have the ability to make them better. And when they do, as with the DMV’s, we should give them credit.

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