Let me start, if I may, by (badly) paraphrasing Kenneth Parcell: there are only two things I love in this world: female friendships and television. Though there aren’t as many solid female friendships in my favourite shows as I would like (I feel particularly let down by Friday Night Lights in this regard), there are still plenty to choose from and they are full of lessons about the variety of friendship models available to us. Here are just a few things these faves have taught me…
1. Being competitive can be good for both of you
Show: The Gilmore Girls
We’re often told that women being competitive with each other is ‘a bad thing’. That we are, by nature, insanely jealous of each other and this causes us to become ‘bitchy’ towards each other – and bitchiness is one of the prime reasons cited by those women who ‘just don’t really have many female friends.’ What I love about Rory and Paris’ relationship (and granted, they do start out as sort of enemies) is that they have an outright competitive academic rivalry from the start. And even though, over the seasons, their relationship develops in a beautiful way, the sense of intellectual competition remains – and in season six this is one of the reasons Paris says she needs Rory back at Yale. I mean, would Rory have even done the SINGLE internship application had she not been rooming with Paris, who had all the options written on white boards in their living room? No: the rivalry pushed her and helped her to achieve more. I think having friends around you who are working hard and getting things done, thereby instilling a little bit of competitive fire in you, is a great thing. And really, who’s telling men not to be competitive?
2. Shared interests aren’t everything
Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The received wisdom that ‘good friends often share interests’ gets trotted out when you’re in a new place and need to make new friends. Get involved with something that you’re interested in, so the theory goes, and you’ll meet roomfuls of like-minded ready-made friend types. I’ve long been highly sceptical of this way of viewing relationships. Put simply: you’re not what you like. Don’t get me wrong – you need friends who like doing what you do, and I have made lots of friends through my hobbies (for example, playing netball). But there are plenty of friendships whose chemical alchemy has nothing to do with how you spend your spare time. Buffy and Willow don’t make a whole lot of sense as friends on paper, but after coming together as outcasts at the same high school (and yes, then a lot of bonding and intense shared experiences via various episodes of world-saving) they find they dig each other in all sorts of ways and establish a firm friendship that lasts the well into adulthood.
Show: The Good Wife
Being female friends does not have to be obviously feminine – you know, going on shopping and spa trips together, sharing intimate details of every aspect of your lives, and bitching about your men. Not hugging can also be OK. I would say I’m intermittently tactile, which means that sometimes I just don’t want to hug someone, even a good friend. Likewise, some of my closest friends don’t like talking endlessly about the minutiae of their lives. They are a little cooler (in both senses), more self-contained, and can enjoy a meaningful friendship without all the usual stuff that’s expected of close female friends. Alicia and Kalinda demonstrate a restrained adult friendship that is all laid-back late-night drinks and shared wry smiles in business meetings. See this classic conversation between Alicia and Kalinda (and let’s not get into the bit where Kalinda sleeps with Alicia’s husband right now, OK?). Otherwise put: a whole world of friendship exists beyond just being up in each other’s business.
Alicia: What’s this?
Kalinda: A change of address.
Alicia: For who?
Alicia: Oh, I don’t think I even have your old address.
Kalinda: Well, now you have my new one.
Alicia: I feel like we’ve grown closer.
Kalinda: Okay, give it back.
Alicia: Oh, no, no, no – this is going in my copy of Eat, Pray, Love.
4. You can challenge their choices
Show: This Life
Challenging a friend’s actions when you judge them to be wrong or acting in a way that you think its going to harm them or someone you (or they) care about is a feature of a solid friendship. All of us make mistakes and take mis-steps, and while a friend is not there to make you feel worse, or to lord it over you when they’re proved right, speaking out when they think you’re straight-up out of line is one of the hardest and most important responsibilities of being a friend. When Anna found out about Milly’s affair with her boss, she wasn’t happy and she let Milly know it, even though Milly resented her for it. (Note: this show is worth a re-watch for the 90s’ fashion alone – special shout-out to Anna’s short work skirts and 15 deniers.)
I have missed out a lot of top TV female friends here, I know: I haven’t even mentioned Lesley Knope and Anne Perkins, Daria and Jane, or Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone. Who would you have included that I missed out?