8/3/09

Famous Female Duos of Film and Television

I've been thinking a lot lately about famous female fictional friendships. It seems like we have endless male buddy comedies out there, but iconic female friendships don't seem to show up nearly as often in the media. I'm not going to start leading a crusade for more female buddy comedies or anything, but I have been wondering why we don't see them more often.

It's a shame to me that there aren't more. In fact, it seems to me lately that female friendships are under attack in the entertainment industry. With all the crummy reality television on MTV showing girls rolling their eyes at each other and sneering over "stolen" boyfriends and the hideously unrealistic (and Dynasty-like) Gossip Girl hogging the airwaves, I'm completely fed up.

I visited with my 13 year old niece last week and noticed that almost all of her friends seemed to be boys. When I asked her why, she started talking to me about how almost all of her girlfriends are backstabbers and proceeded to tell me horror stories of the way girls that age are treating each other. I know I'm old, because I was completely shocked.

Lots of angry phone calls, unrealistic demands, and being "cussed out". Now I know girls will be girls, and fights are inevitable, especially at that age. But when I was 13, all I had were my girlfriends. Boys were what we talked about and they were fun to see at social gatherings, but we didn't count on them. We counted on each other. I hate to say this, because it doesn't give the kids enough credit, but they really are like little sponges and they do imitate what they see. I wonder, are girls today more hostile toward each other because of what they see in the media?

I know, "blame the media" is an easy answer, and it's one I've rejected adamantly in the past. But come on...outside of PBS and a handful of shows and networks, is there any intelligent television going on right now? I know this will get me skewered or told that I "don't get it", but when shows with misogynistic content like, "Two and a Half Men" and, "Family Guy" can be seen on Saturday mornings and every day in the afternoon...some wrong messages about femininity and relationships are bound to slip into their consciousness somewhere. Kids have a very literal understanding of the world they see.

Now I realize that this makes me sound like I'm about to break into a story about how I had to walk 2 miles barefoot in the snow to school each day. I don't mean to get all geriatric on the issue. I think it's great that my niece can have friends of both genders, so that has nothing to do with my fears. It's quite progressive, and she's so sweet and diplomatic, that it doesn't surprise me at all. She's easy to be friends with.

But I fear for this generation of women. As if adolescence isn't tough enough to navigate, now they have the internet to deal with, and non-celebrity female role models like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, vapid acts like the Pussycat Dolls and more. That's not even touching the complexities of the Disney teen machine, disturbing trends like "sexting", and more.

Mixed messages and pressure to grow up too fast have always been around, now those problems are only exacerbated by the over-saturation of media in these kids' lives. TV regularly tells me that girls today are supposed to be spray-tanned into oblivion, talk with that strange baby-doll accent, make sarcastic faces at each other, text constantly, be skinny, and so many more falsities. It's scary.

So I'm searching for movies and TV shows centered around the subject matter of realistic or healthy female friendships, preferably containing a wide spectrum of women. There was kind of a female friendship boom for a couple of decades in television, but since then, not much.

As my nieces grow up, I find myself wincing at the world that greets them, especially in entertainment. I want to call them every day and just say, "It's not true, that's not how life really is." I wish I could just put them on a steady diet of Tina Fey, playing, "Mean Girls" on loop.

Alas, they're stuck with all the junk. I don't know what I would've done growing up or what I would do now without my friends, and I'd hate to think that they would miss out on those life-changing friendships because of the pressure to imitate the hostilities they see in the media.

So I'm compiling this list. Please help me add to it...

Laverne and Shirley - Laverne and Shirley

One of the best all-time TV female friendships. They lived and worked together and did whatever it took to get by, having an absolute ball in the process. Some of my best times in life were when I was the most poor and living with some my roomates. So not only was the show comedy gold, it taught a good lesson.

Thelma and Louise - Thelma and Louise

Okay, so they were a touch disfunctional. Maybe not the best example for young girls today...

Lucy and Ethel - I Love Lucy

No matter how wacky things got, Lucy and Ethel stuck together, and Ethel always supported Lucy. No matter how hairbrained the scheme.

Romy and Michelle - Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

They're living in their own little world. But it's just a reminder that sometimes being around someone you know so well makes it safe for your weird side to come out, leading you further down the path to being yourself and discovering what you want to do with your life.

Troi and Crusher - Star Trek: The Next Generation

What are the two female members of a Federation Starship bridge crew to do? Bond of course. They exercised together, hung out in Ten Forward, and shared all the dish on their personal lives. Friendship in space...just as rewarding.

Carla and Elliot - Scrubs

One of the only current friendships to be found on television today, and a steady one at that.

Kate and Allie - Kate and Allie

Remember this one? It was sort of like the odd couple, but for single women with children. I experienced it entirely through re-runs as a kid, and though my memory is a bit rusty...I recall some heartwarming moments.

Cagney and Lacey - Cagney and Lacey

Solving crime. Together. Enough said.

Faith and Kate - Only You
This is just about as close to a female "road to" buddy picture as I've ever found. The writing is funny, the women in the film are unique and interesting, flawed and clumsy. You can thank the highly intelligent auteur Bonnie Hunt for this underrated flick.

Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia - The Golden Girls

The best thing about the friendships portrayed on this show? They were real. There were fights and misunderstandings, but in the end friendship always won out. (And comic hilarity ensued.)

11 comments:

Audrey M. Brown said...

My friend Jen emailed me a good comment that I wanted to share, it's also good for me to keep suggestions right here where I can keep track of them. Sorry for all the problems with the comments section.

"My pick is for the Gilmore Girls. Both the mother/daughter friendship at the center of the show, as well as the best friends each have individually with Lane and Suki. Is that a show you've ever gotten into? I really think you would like it and appreciate the awesome female characters--they read books, have excellent taste in films, music and pop culture in general, they eat like pigs, they have life goals outside of landing a man, and they are undeniably smart, funny and flawed. You really need to watch it if you've never see it. I want to be a Gilmore Girl when I grow up."

Anonymous said...

i love this show

Anonymous said...

What about Roy Barraclough and Les Dawson as two elderly women, Cissie BraithwaiLes and Ada Sidebottom who, having worked in a mill in their youth, spoke some words aloud and mouthed others--particularly those pertaining to bodily functions and sex; they also repeatedly pushed up their bosoms, in pantomime dame style.

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Anonymous said...

The Sex and the City ladies - Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha

Anonymous said...

How about Bev and Faye in Riding in Cars with Boys. That is friendship, they even got pregnant at the same time and their kids are together too.

Michelle said...

I love this, and am in agreement with you! There's just something incredibly endearing about sets of good girlfriends. In fact, I like the "buddy" genre so much in general that I actually maintain my own personal lists of the best examples.
MANY of these are books, but I'll stick mainly to things that are primarily known as films, since most of those would be far more likely to be recognized by others (and that's the topic of the post, anyway. I think you've basically covered the best from TV.)
In fact, the explosion of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic"'s popularity is beginning to make the idea of a "girl buddy" show seem more appealing, I believe--particularly to men.

First of all, while I'm a girl who's fully comfortable with having male friends (one of my two VERY closest friends in the world is a guy...although, because he's gay, it sometimes almost feels like having another girlfriend...), the majority of mine happen to be female. I can't imagine having grown up without them.

Next, to comment briefly on your choices so far:
Laverne & Shirley, Lucy & Ethel, Beverly & Deanna, Thelma & Louise, and the Golden Girls are some of my ABSOLUTE favorites...total classics, and perfect examples of this type of awesome, empowering, desirable relationship. (Well, okay, maybe Thelma & Louise *were* a bit too dysfunctional to make great role models, entirely...but still, they are SO iconic and worthy of the list.) A wealth of beautiful, hilarious, memorable, quotable, and touching moments and lines can be gleaned from those girls.

I also really like Romy & Michelle, Faith & Kate (big Bonnie Hunt fan as well), and some of the others.

Now, for my additions...oh, yeah, definitely the Sex & the City quartet! :D Hopefully I'll have a lot of duos, but I know that there will also be larger groups in my list.

*Steel Magnolias: M'Lynn, Ouiser, Clairee, Truvy, Annelle, & Shelby
*My Litte Pony: Friendship is Magic: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie
Pie, Fluttershy, & Rarity
*Now and Then: Sam, Roberta, Teeny, & Chrissy
*Leaving Normal (similar to Thelma & Louise): Marianne & Darly
*Fried Green Tomatoes: Idgie & Ruth
*Bonneville: Arvilla, Margene, & Carol
*Beaches: CC & Hillary
*Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: Vivi, Caro, Teensy, & Necie
*The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacy, Mallory, Jessi, & Dawn
*Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Tibby, Lena, Bridget, & Carmen
*The Craft: Rochelle, Sarah, Bonnie, & Nancy
*Mamma Mia!: Donna, Tanya, & Rosie (Donna & the Dynamos)
*Bad Girls: Cody, Anita, Eileen, & Lilly
*The First Wives Club: Brenda, Elise, & Annie
*Mad Money: Bridget, Jackie, & Nina (two in a row with Diane Keaton!)
*The Joy Luck Club: Suyuan, Lindo, Ying-Ying, & An-Mei; Jing-Mei (June), Waverly, Lena, & Rose
*The girls of St. Trinian's
*Whip It: Babe Ruthless, Smashly Simpson, Maggie Mayhem, & Iron Maven
*The Last Best Year: Jane & Wendy
*Waiting to Exhale: Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria, & Robin
*Spice World: Geri, Mel C, Emma, Victoria, & Mel B (Come on, the Spice Girls will always be an icon for this, too! I LOVE that movie.)
*Crossroads: Mimi, Lucy, & Kit (For a Britney Spears film, this was actually awesome in my opinion...of course, I've got a major affinity for road movies...)
*Foxes: Annie, Jeannie, Dierdre, Madge
*The Women: Mary, Sylvie, Edie, & Alex
*Triple Dog: Chapin, Eve, Liza, Cicely, Sarah, Nina, & Eve
*Girls Just Want to Have Fun: Janey & Lynne
*Sucker Punch: Babydoll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, & Amber
*Foxfire: Legs, Maddy, Rita, Goldie, Lana
*Grease's Pink Ladies: Sandy, Rizzo, Frenchy, Marly, & Jan (Stephanie, Sharon, Rhonda, & Paulette from Grease 2)

Will continue in second comment...

Michelle said...

Continued~

*Nine to Five: Violet, Doralee, & Judy
*Sleepover: Julie, Hannah, Yancy, Farrah
*Winx Club: Bloom, Stella, Flora, Musa, Tecna, Layla, Roxy
*5ive Girls: Alex, Mara, Cecilia, Leah, Connie
*Coyote Ugly: Violet/Jersey, Zoey, Rachel, Cammie, Lil
*W.I.T.C.H.: Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia, Hay Lin
*Milky Way & the Galaxy Girls: Milky Way, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto (Only a concept created by Lauren Faust, who's responsible for MLP:FiM)
*Bratz: Chloe, Jade, Yasmin, & Sasha (Yes, the live-action movie actually impressed me. I was shocked.)
*The Cheetah Girls: Galleria, Chanel, Dorinda, & Aquanette (Gah, I feel kind of bad including that one, but I do want to be thorough...and I did SORTA like some of it.)

...and I thiiiiink that should about do it for now. ;)

jubilantia said...

I am waaay late to the party, but the article was really cool, and I definitely agree. (Golden Girls and Lucy FOREVER)

Now for my suggestions. I know these guys weren't in the real world, per se, but how about Xena and Gabrielle? I just started watching Warrior Princess on Netflix and they have a pretty strong and dynamic friendship. Currently airing, there's also Bo and Kenzie on Lost Girl. Bones and Angela, although that takes a bit of a backseat to her friendship with Booth. And seconding the new My Little Pony series: all the characters are strong and multi-dimensional.

Well, you can tell my tastes are firmly in the fantasy world, but I don't think the messages are diluted at all. All hope is not lost!