Breaking news: Teenage girls have complex friendships. I know this not because I'm a teenage girl (I'm a gay man, actually, which I guess can be sort of the same thing) but because television and film told me so.
Growing up, they acted as my guide into their confusing minds and taught me that when you put two of them together; there can be, like, a lot of fighting and nuanced behavior. Below are the five TV shows and movies that gave me insight to their world and helped me form the stereotypes I hold on to so strongly today.
Teen Female Friendship # 1: My Best Friend is a Bad Influence But I Love Her Anyway.
Example: Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff from My So-Called Life
The friendship between My So-Called Life's Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff was so real that it was almost unnerving. Lets face it: every girl has had a Rayanne in their life-a self-destructive best friend who sometimes OD's on Ecstasy and manipulates you but deep down, really does love you. They cone from opposite backgrounds-Angela from a nuclear family in the suburbs and Rayanne from an absentee single-parent household–.but they find that, despite their differences, they both need each other. For Angela, Rayanne is a girl that can jumpstart her dull life. She inspires her to dye her mousy blonde hair red because if she doesn't, she "might die or something" and takes her to crazy parties where she can talk to cute boys. For Rayanne, Angela represents innocence and stability-qualities she's undoubtedly envious of. When she does that really shitty thing and sleeps with Angela's crush, Jordan Catalano, their friend Rickie makes the astute observation that it was just Rayanne's way of becoming Angela for a moment. These kinds of quiet moments made My So-Called Life a brilliant study on the complexities of teen relationships and one that has yet to be replicated on TV today.
Teen Female Friendship # 2- My Best Friend is Super Embarrassing But I've Known Her Since I Was A Kid So Whatevs.
Example: Kimmy Gibbler and D.J. Tanner from Full House
Kimmy Gibbler and D.J. Tanner were an interesting duo. Like a true Tanner, D.J. was boring and self-righteous. She got good grades, had a hot jock boyfriend and by the end of a 22-minute episode, always did the "right" thing. In fact, the only bad thing she ever did was over-exercise and starve herself and even that was only because she was stressed out about getting a good score on her SAT's. Kimmy, on the other hand, was a hurricane. She came into the Tanners' house in bizarre loud outfits hurling insults at everybody. In one hilarious episode, she even got totally wasted. If this were real life, Kimmy would probably be too busy hanging out with the artsy drama freaks and listening to music like CocoRosie to even bother with D.J.'s imminent Adderall addiction and holier-than-thou attitude. But because this is TV, D.J. and Kimmy had to disregard their inherent differences and represent the power of childhood friendships. Later in life, it won't matter if one votes Democrat and the other worships Ann Coulter. They played with Barbie's together when they were five and for some female friendships, having that kind of history is enough.
Teen Female Friendship # 3: My Best Friend is Totally Rich And Loves to Party Like Me!
Example: Nicole Oakley and Maddy from Crazy/Beautiful
This reference is admittedly a little obscure. After all, who actually watched the 2001 teen drama, Crazy/Beautiful, besides me? No one, that's who, so let me fill you in. Kirsten Dunst plays this Malibu brat, Nicole, who falls in love with a hot poor Mexican guy, Carlos, from "the other side of the tracks." The twist here is that the hot poor Mexican guy actually has his shit together and the rich white girl is the one with problems. Is that even really a twist? Maybe it was in 2001. Anyways, Nicole's BFF is a girl named Maddy (played by the insane Taryn Manning) and in the beginning of the film, they are the ultimate bad girl duo– running wild on the streets of Los Angeles wearing only their bras and ditching class to get drunk. However, when Nicole starts dating Carlos, Maddy disappears from the film entirely, only to re-emerge in the break-up montage when she consoles Nicole by playing a song on the guitar. Her absence says a lot –mainly that their love of partying isn't enough to keep their friendship flame burning. When teenage bad girls combine forces in T.V. and film, the result can often be a fast and furious destruction. Eventually though, one of the friends gets off the bad girl rollercoaster ride and realizes that she doesn't have much in common with her partner in crime. Such was the fate for Nicole and Maddy. R.I.P.
Teen Female Friendship # 4: My Best Friend Won't Stop Trying to Kill Me!
Example: The girls from The Craft
The Craft may not be the most realistic example but beyond the magic, murder and eyeliner, there's a lot to be learned here. Sarah (Robin Tunney) moves to L.A. not knowing a soul and is taken in by the class witches (Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, Neve Campbell). At first, they do normal girl things like watch movies, braid each other's hair and talk about boys. But when they start to get serious about witchcraft, they begin to make animal sacrifices to the Gods, cast love spells and seek revenge on their classmates. This understandably freaks newbie Sarah out and she decides that she wants out of the coven. Her decision doesn't fly with Nancy (Fairuza Balk), however, and she tries to kill Sarah-earning herself a lifetime stay at the mental hospital.
Despite the campy supernatural elements, this film is a nice example of how the pitied outcast girls can become just as ruthless as the popular kids they despise. Rochelle (Rachel True) is taunted by the token popular girl (Christine Taylor) and retaliates by casting a spell that makes her hair fall out. Nancy is treated like crap by popular jock, Chris, (Skeet Ulrich) so she decides to throw him out of a two-story window. Their feminism becomes, quite frankly, scary and it doesn't take long for jealousy and competition to tear this once-strong sisterhood apart. Next time, I would recommend sticking to harmless games like "Light as a feather, stiff as board."
Teen Female Friendship # 5: My Best Friend and I Hate Each Other
Example: Nicole Julian and Mary Cherry from Popular
WB's teen dramedy, Popular, may have been short-lived but it left a lasting impression on me and many others. Created by Glee's Ryan Murphy, the show brought a much-needed dose of absurdity to the high-school hallways with gay icons Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman) and Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels) at the forefront. These girls were the ultimate frenemies– sabotaging each other's homecoming campaigns, plastic surgery and love lives-all in a futile attempt to be popular. Even though their behavior was over-the-top (I did mention the plastic surgery, right?), it was also oddly refreshing. At the end of the day, neither of them truly succeeded and they were stuck with each other as two desperate social climbers. They brought high school cattiness out of the closet and into the hearts of many. In the words of Nicole Julian, "Thank youuuu."
So there you have it. Five sweeping generalizations about friendship, gender and adolescence. What did we learn today? We learned that although some friends treat us like crap, they still totally care. We learned that a friendship's history can sometimes trump personality differences, rich party girls don't always stick with rich party girls, black magic can lead to attempted murder and last but certainly not least, that Popular was one of the best TV shows of all time. Now. don't ever say TV and movies didn't teach you anything because that is obviously a cruel disgusting lie.
This post originally appeared on Ryan Ohh. Republished with permission.
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