Stay tuned throughout March for posts about remarkable women, starting with a discussion about some of my favorite female pop culture friendships.
- Elle and Max – Stranger Things
Elle and Max got off to a rocky start. Having been separated from Mike, Dustin and Lucas for most of season 2, Elle sees Max as an interloper and a potential rival for Mike’s affections (she doesn’t realize Max is actually attracted to Lucas). But at the start of season 3, the two have put those issues aside and are BFF’s. In the second episode of the season, “The Mall Rats”, Max takes Elle to the new Starcourt Mall and the two go shopping at The Gap, pose for some Glamour Shots and eat ice cream cones. Elle, encouraged by Max, breaks up with Mike (“I dump your ass!”) for lying to her. Later in the season, with Max’s step-brother Billy (along with one of his fellow lifeguards) seemingly missing, Elle and Max become amateur sleuths, using Elle’s powers and some old-fashioned detective work to solve the mystery. It’s an endearing, wholesome portrait of young female friendship that belies the danger that exists in Hawkins.
- Sydney and Francie – Alias
The life of a spy is complicated – you may have to jet off to Taipei, Bucharest or Morocco on a moment’s notice, but your friends think you’re a banker so you tell them you’re going to Boston or San Francisco. And though much of Sydney’s life is a secret, her friendship with Francie is the real deal. They’ve seen each other through the worst – murdered fiancés, estranged fathers, potentially cheating fiancés, actually cheating fiancés. But together they also enjoy the simpler pleasures – cocktails, dancing, Halloween parties, Thanksgiving dinners and pints of ice cream. When Francie is murdered and replaced with a double, Sydney senses something is wrong but can’t quite put her finger on it; once she does (“Francie doesn’t like coffee ice cream”), the result is one of the most epic fight scenes in the show’s history.
- Annie and Becky – Sleepless in Seattle
Becky is the ultimate movie best friend – supportive and loving, and funny as hell, Becky not only tolerates Annie’s antics, she encourages them. But Becky also serves as Annie’s conscience, a romcom Jiminy Cricket (“You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie!”). The chemistry and affection between Meg Ryan and Rosie O’Donnell is genuine; you really buy this friendship. Sleepless was the first time I recall platonic pop culture friends saying “I love you” to each other, and it was refreshingly realistic.
- Mae and Doris – A League of Their Own
In a movie full of female relationships, this one is my favorite. Mae and Doris are sassy, and often tease each other, but it’s always done with love (“You think there are men in this country who ain’t seen your bosoms?”). They support each other and celebrate each other’s successes, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what friendship is all about? Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell struck up a real-life friendship during the making of the film, and remain good pals to this day; that authentic affection definitely translates to the screen.
- Janey and Lynne – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Unlike a lot of the friends on this list, these two don’t already know each other at the beginning of the movie (Janey has just moved to Chicago), but 10 minutes in, they’re besties. Janey has lived too long under the thumb of her strict military father, and Lynne brings out her adventurous side, eventually sneaking a grounded Janey out of her house so she can get to the Dance TV studio in time for the competition. A good BFF will always have your back when you need her. This movie is wildly dated – you definitely know you’re in 1985 – and it was completely ridiculous to begin with, but I love it.
- Pauline and Juliet – Heavenly Creatures
Unlike the other, fictional friendships on this list, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme are real people. Based on an actual 1954 murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand, Heavenly Creatures depicts the obsessive friendship of two teenage girls, who created an elaborate fantasy life to cope with their unhappy exterior lives. Concerned over the intensity of their friendship (and worried that the relationship was sexual), the girls’ parents conspire to keep them apart; in retaliation, the two murder Pauline’s mother. An absurdly young Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey are astonishing as Juliet and Pauline, and convincingly portray the obsessive nature of the girls’ friendship (and director Peter Jackson does a helluva job bringing their fantasy world to life).
By the way, Juliet grew up to be mystery author Anne Perry, a fact that was not widely known until the release of the movie in 1994.
- Monica, Rachel and Phoebe – Friends
DUH. Like I wasn’t going to say these three. Yes, the six Friends often appear together, but they can also be broken up into smaller groups, and I love when it’s just the gals. Whether they’re seeing each other through life’s major changes – marriages, children, careers – or just hanging out, these three are always there for each other. Even when they fight, they always make up (but not before giving the audience a solid dose of humor).
- Corey and Gina – Empire Records
These two have their shares of ups and downs, even over the course of one day. And while a lot of the tension between them is fairly cliché (Gina’s a slut! Corey’s popping pills!), we buy their angst (especially Gina’s – a pre-Jerry Maguire Renee Zellweger outshines co-star Liv Tyler, who’s lovely nonetheless). The two also know how to have a good time, and while it feels like a friendship that might not survive a change in life events, we accept that they are work besties, at least for now.
A side note – I met my own bestie/sister-in-law while working for a retail record store chain (the “Town” in Empire‘s “Music Town”), and for that reason, the two of us adore this silly movie more than is probably rational. We are not Corey and Gina though; we’re more like Sydney and Francie from Alias, without all the spy shit.
Readers – what are YOUR favorite female friendships?