The Evolution of Female Friendships in Media

In her 2015 essay titled "The Art of Loving and Losing Female Friends", author Rachel Vorona Cote said that female friends are not a pale imitation of romance and rather described them to be, "… a romance unto itself."

As an adult, having experienced the romance of platonic female friendships myself, I appreciate the quote. But imagine my disappointment when mainstream media constantly chooses to pigeonhole female friendships as a catty relationship filled with cliches and antagonism.

Sure, the negative aspects I mentioned are definitely present in a lot of friendships in general, but they are not restricted to friendships among women. However, throughout my formative years, movies and TV shows continually showed me a very particular brand of female friendships. They would be depicted to be superficial, shallow, and generally filled to the brim with soap opera-esque negativity. Sometimes, sporadic moments of genuine love or courtesy were peppered in it to make it seem somewhat "deep and complex."

On the other hand, male friendships were almost always shown in a positive light. Two buddies against the world, nothing could ever possibly come between them. Even if they experienced turmoil, they would have a revelation and would always drift back into each other's arms. I will admit that I always enjoyed buddy movies but I cannot help but think about the unfairness that occurs when someone who is completely detached from female friendships chooses to write about them.

I am glad to say that the tide has been shifting in recent years. With the emergence of new female writers and directors, friendships between women have been receiving the missing elements of complexity that they have been deprived of for so long.

For example, let us consider Meredith and Cristina's friendship in Grey's Anatomy. One of the most iconic lines in the show involves them telling each other "You're my person." Using this simple sentence, accompanied by years of building their relationship, female friendships received their due appreciation.

This is just one example of many more recent examples of on-screen friendships that have masterfully shown the intricacies and tenderness of friendship between women. Greta Gerwig's Ladybird (2017) did the same, not only with the friendship between two adolescent girls, but with the relationship between a mother and her daughter.

The days of showing girlfriends being vindictive towards each other are slowly fading away. Even if the trope did not fade away completely, it is certainly going through an evolution and I personally cannot wait to see what it will show us in the future.   

Fatima Jahan Ena likes complaining about capitalism and her forehead. Find her at [email protected]