I'm going to start by admitting the embarrassing truth - I used to just accept that the majority of the media I consumed was going to let me down when it came to seeing healthy friendships between women on-screen. What can I say? Years of watching scenarios where female characters would rather compete against each other than care for one another can make your expectations plummet. Yeah, I'm not proud of it. But I know a lot of us have found ourselves at one point or another agreeing that it totally makes sense that there just "isn't space" for meaningful female friendships in the action genre. Or in the drama genre. Or in basically any genre, ever. When something is so underrepresented in the media we consume, we're oftentimes primed to think of its presence as some sort of statement that requires justification (or at the very least an explanation), and this is a major problem when it comes to advocating for better representation of ourselves.
You might be thinking to yourself that we need to prioritize getting women on the screen before we worry about critiquing the quality of their friendships. If you're in that boat, I don't blame you. After all, "audiences were almost twice as likely to see male characters as female characters," if they were watching one of the top 100 grossing films in 2019. Needless to say, we can't stop pushing for inclusion, but that doesn't mean we should settle, either. We should not only call for more women to be cast but demand that representative female characters be written. That means characters who: look like us, live their lives realistically, and enjoy meaningful friendships with other women like we do.
We are past celebrating that something passes the Bechdel Test. We need to raise the bar because not only do we deserve more, but so do the young girls of today. Here are three amazing examples of how seamlessly any story can feature loving female friendships, regardless of what the genre's standard might be.
Don't worry, since I want you to go stream these with your girl gang, I won't ruin them with any spoilers.
- "Dead To Me" (2019)
Have you ever wondered just how popular the drama genre is? Well, let me tell you: Americans can’t get enough of it. In the 100 top-grossing films of 2019 list, drama movies tied with adventure movies for domination of the list. This is incredibly impressive when you realize that the adventure genre is largely boosted by children’s movies like "Frozen II." If you subtract kid’s movies from the list, drama wins by a landslide, and this preference is evident on our TVs as well. Although the top 10 most streamed shows are more diverse in terms of genre, the top 10 most-watched scripted shows on cable of the 2019-2020 TV season were all dramas, except for one sitcom.
I can’t resist a good drama, and "Dead to Me" is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Built on an incredibly twisty premise, the whole show feels like the writers are just asking you to dare them to make it worse. The episodes are paced perfectly so that you have just the right amount of time to squirm on the edge of your seat before the next piece of evidence is found, but it never feels too slow or uneventful in the meantime. "Dead to Me" will break your heart, warm it back to life and then hit it with a car. All while giving you the two cutest, whackiest BFF’s you could ask for (who, for the record, actually want the best for each other and aren’t just waiting to stab each other in the back a la Serena and Blair).
The bonus? There are some hysterically #real moments of female friendship, and the episodes are only half an hour long!
Warning: I was, in fact, able to finish the entire first season in one sitting because the episodes are only half an hour long.
- "Assassination Nation" (2018)
If you’re anything like me, you shamelessly love a good action movie. Actually, it’s likely you do, as action movies made up 35% of the top 20 grossing films of 2019 list. "Assassination Nation" is hard to fit into a genre category and I’m definitely not going to claim that there is only one correct answer. Blood-soaked social commentary holding a machine gun in one hand and her BFF’s hand in the other can be hard to define that way. All you need to know is that it has everything you’d ever want from an action movie: real risks for the main characters, badass stunts and villains you really want to see get what’s coming to them.
The bonus? The discussions you’ll have after watching it about our country’s unchanging socio-political landscape and the scapegoats our culture has abused for hundreds of years. Also, it’s directed by the creator of "Euphoria," Sam Levinson, so expect some killer costuming and aesthetics.
Warning: Like I promised, no spoilers, but I do really recommend gauging your comfort level by looking at the trigger warning list the movie offers (don’t worry, there’s no way you can miss it).
- "The Bold Type" (2017)
You know the drill by now, let’s all say it together: comedies are hugely popular in the movie theaters and on your TV screen (they made up 14% of the top-grossing 100 films in 2019). You also probably have already seen "The Bold Type" but if you’re like me and are a little late to the Scarlet party, that doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether! Trust me, you’ll want to give it a shot especially if it’s not the type of thing you usually watch. "The Bold Type" is your engaging but relatively stress-free warm blanket that’s perfect for unwinding after a long day of living in our country right now and it makes that clear from the first episode. This is a show where the female characters love and support each other in a refreshingly genuine way and it’ll inspire you to be the best BFF you can be. The protagonists unwaveringly encourage boldness in all situations, from the boardroom to the wardrobe (and in the sheets!). Let’s be real, isn’t that the kind of support we all need?
The bonus? It introduces hot political discussions in a way that’s not intimidating and gives you complex feminist role models with Kat, Jane, Sutton, Adena and Jacqueline.
Warning: You will seriously start to consider a career in journalism or fashion. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules.
One of the easiest ways to push for better representation is to support the stories that do it successfully, so get your stream on!