The other day I was reading this article about the second last episode of Girls, arguing the show has always chosen to portray the toxic side of female friendships and depicting women as selfish and mean towards each other. In the author’s view, this portrayal is disingenuous and insulting for women who have actual friendships with women.
Now, I’ve always been a huge fan of Girls and have to say, I wholeheartedly disagree with the author’s comment on the depiction of female friendships in the show. What is so great about Girls, is that it shows an aspect of female friendships that usually doesn’t get an airing in TV shows or in films.
Girls is relatable to the point you wish it wasn’t. It shows the shitty selfish behaviour I can instantly recognise and also feel ashamed of at the same time. Throwing a friend under the bus for the prospect of sex with a guy is something the author of the article might find despicable, nevertheless it happens and I have done it, probably more than once. Am I proud of the fact that I ditched a friend on a holiday for the chance of getting laid? Nope. But I can’t deny it happened. Did our friendship end? Of course it didn’t.
I haven’t experienced friendships with other women as a harmonious 24/7 love fest. Yes female friendships can be supportive, empowering and loving but they can also be a worse headwrecker than a romantic relationship, hurtful, jealous, bitchy and mean. They are far from perfect because guess what, women are just people too. We shouldn’t shy away from showing that in art, TV and film.
The transient nature of friendships in general can mean people drop in and out of your life. While some people stick around, the intensity of a friendship rarely remains the same over time. I may have hung out with my closest friends several times a week during my early 20s, now I don’t even speak to some of them anymore and find myself struggling to meet up every few months with others. Girls just shows that we need different things from friendships at different stages in our lives, and yes, sometimes it can be for utterly selfish reasons.
I don’t think showing the selfish or difficult side of female friendships does feminism a disservice. It allows to create three dimensional female characters, warts and all. It also shows the huge complexity of friendships, which can be loving and supportive, and at the same time, messy and upsetting. The bond that Hannah and her friends have in Girls is clearly evident to me throughout the final season of the show in particular. The annoying and hurtful things they do to each other, is the kind of stuff you’d only put up with from your friends.
A friend of mine was giving out to me about a mate of his, saying what an annoying asshole he can be sometimes. When I asked him why he keeps hanging out with him, he just said, ‘Well, he’s a friend and always has been. That’s just how it is.’ I guess it’s not that much different with female friendships. Women can be assholes too sometimes. And having a show like Girls allows me to relate to other women in my occasionally shitty behavior and accept the fact that I’m a flawed human being.