Female friendships thrive on television.
By Shoshana Greenberg (lyricist/bookwriter)
Some critics have praised the HBO series Girls for its focus on "the profundity of female friendship" in ways not seen on TV before. While I love Girls, I don't think this is entirely true. I've seen female friendships among the women on Gossip Girl, Buffy, My So-Called Life, Sex and the City, and Huge, and I'm confused as to why Girls is the show being credited with this development.
In fact, I've seen wonderful female friendships on TV in the past week: the women (young and old) on the ABC Family show Bunheads and the young women of the United States women's gymnastics team. The TV series, created by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, and the Fab Five gymnasts show women navigating this profundity and just being there for each other.
Bunheads rolls its plot out slowly--the first few episodes function as an extended pilot--but Sherman-Palladino is more concerned with characters than plot, as she says in this great Salon interview. And these characters are all women.
There are boys (one girl has a crush on another girl's brother), but they're on the periphery, and not one male character has been in every episode. Instead, women help each other. One of the dancers' mothers even comforts Michelle when she's frustrated. It's like they live on Wonder Woman's Paradise Island, and, perhaps coincidentally, the idyllic seaside town in Bunheads is also called Paradise.
Wonder Woman's Paradise Island and Bunhead's Paradise
The Fab Five of the United States Women's Gymnastics team were a joy to watch, not only because they are spectacular athletes but because they visibly support each other, hugging after events and comforting disappointed teammates.
In an interview on NBC after the team competition, gymnast Jordyn Wieber acknowledged that her team helped her focus after not making the All-Around competition, singling out a special talk with teammate McKayla Maroney. The interviewer then asked Maroney what she had said to Jordan. "That's between me and her," Maroney said. Perfect response. I love these women!
We can't know their private relationships as we can on a TV show, but there seems to be an intimate friendship that developes from the intense Olympic experience. These young women compete both together and against each other in the most extreme circumstances, without men. Sort of like, again, Wonder Woman's Paradise Island.
The Amazon games sequence from the Wonder Woman pilot.
Female friendships on television may be scarce, but accurate portrayals out there. I'm happy people are watching and caring about them. Now if only we could get some kind of Wonder Woman TV reboot.