There’s nothing I like better than female friendship movies. If only there weren’t so few of them.
The quintessential female buddy movie is “Thelma & Louise.” Come on, people! That movie is twenty years old this year. Isn’t there anything a little more recent?
Movies about friendships between women are few and far between. I found a couple of articles that contain lists of movies that supposedly qualify and I have to tell you: I am not impressed. Here are some of the candidates:
- 9 to 5 (1980)
- Beaches (1988)
- Mystic Pizza (1988)
- Steel Magnolias (1989)
- Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
- A League of Their Own (1992)
- Waiting to Exhale (1995)
- Boys on the Side (1995)
- The First Wives’ Club (1996)
- Set It Off (1996)
- Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002)
- Calendar Girls (2003)
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
- Sex and the City (2008)
- Baby Mama (2008)
“Sex and the City” is a bit of an aberration because it owed its success to a television series. In my opinion, TV has a worse track record than film as far as having main characters who are female and best friends. “Friends” comes to mind. So does “I Love Lucy.” But look at “Seinfeld”: of the four friends, only one is female. No gal friendships there.
So why does this matter? It matters because, for one thing, it reflects the fact that there aren’t all that many strong roles for women out there, either solo or ensemble. But more than that, it teaches women that their world is focused on men. Either that, or they go it alone. How many women sit at home while their husbands and boyfriends go out with the guys? How many of them say the hell with it and go out with the girls?
The picture we get of males and females in movies is made up of generalizations like: Women and men tend to bond over different things. Women’s interests revolve around men and children for the most part. Even the “Sex and the City” story lines almost always had to do with what the men in their lives were up to, although they probably came the closest to showing what women’s friendships can be like outside of whom they’re dating or marrying. The only way that men’s friendships focus on the women in their lives is when they’re talking about sex.
Women’s friendships are thought to be more “touchy-feely” than men’s are. Guys don’t talk about their feelings. (Think “City Slickers.”) Men tend to like to just “hang out.” That’s the message we get from the movies. Where are the women who get together just for companionship? Or the women who let down their hair with each other?
Women are afraid to show their dark sides to each other. They’re afraid to get mad at each other. Men can get into a fight and be best friends as soon as the fight is over. Women carry grudges and have high expectations. Men tend to live and let live.
The visual media are probably the biggest influence that any of us have on how we relate to each other. But they obviously don’t feel a responsibility to show strong female relationships. Movie and television executives have this crazy idea that so-called “chick flicks” don’t sell, so they don’t produce them. And the cycle of misreading and misguiding men and women continues.
It just occurred to me that one movie that could go on the list is “Mamma Mia.” It’s all about long-term, supportive, fun-loving friendships between three strong women. I highly recommend it.
Read this article about “Thelma & Louise” at 20.