Most of the meaningful connections in my life have been friendships with other women. So naturally, when I see television shows that do a good job depicting these relationships, my heart starts flipping around, and I feel the urge to dance a rowdy jig.
Maybe I’m tired of romantic love being treated as the only kind of love that really matters. Maybe I’m tired of watching shows where the scarce female characters manage to spend all of their shared screen time complaining about, pining after, or fighting over male characters. Who can say? But there’s something really special about a caring, platonic bond between a couple of women—a bond that has nothing whatsoever to do with any men.
I’ve pulled together a list of seven duos and trios that prove it’s possible to write just such a friendship! Watch out for mild spoilers.
1) Jessica Jones and Trish Walker, Jessica Jones
In Jessica Jones, Marvel proves they can get dark and gritty with a strong-but-troubled protagonist and a super creepy villain. Through all the hard times, the friendship between Trish and Jessica is 100% dependable. You can always rely on these two women to have each other’s backs, no matter the circumstances. Trish doesn’t have Jessica’s powers, but still, she insists on coming along to every showdown, and when a man tries to treat her like a damsel in distress, she shuts him down and goes right on fighting.
I know plenty of people who ship Jessica and Trish, but I think their relationship is just as meaningful when it’s platonic. Don’t get me wrong, romantic love between women is something that we’re sorely missing in television, and I’d love to see more of it, but romantic love is not superior to platonic love; the two complement each other. I admire the total dedication that Jessica and Trish show for one another. It’s a reminder that you don’t need to be attracted to someone in order to want to protect them.
2) Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, Steven Universe
My favorite thing about Steven Universe is the way it shines a light on relationships you won’t see anywhere else in children’s television. Heck, there’s an entire episode about the stress of pretending to be from a heteronormative nuclear family.
The titular Steven is a teen boy being raised by three eternal space rocks (AKA Crystal Gems) named Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. These women are all very different from one another, but each one is a fantastic guardian and a wonderful friend. At the center of all of their adventures is love, commitment, and kindness. The Gems have been loyal companions for thousands of years, yet they are still finding ways to grow and learn. I love that about them. Plus, it’s really cool to see a platonic trio raising a kid together. You just don’t see that much.
Spoilers: I know Garnet is a fusion of Ruby and Sapphire, who are in wonderful and amazing romantic love. However, Garnet’s relationships with Amethyst and Pearl are definitely platonic. At the end of the day, they’re all family, and that’s what matters most.
3) Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins, Parks and Recreation
In Parks and Rec, protagonist Leslie Knope is a force of nature. She is constantly running at 110% because she cares deeply about making a difference in her community, and she does it with a smile and a skip. Ann Perkins is the sensible, thoughtful safety net that reigns Leslie in when she’s getting ready to explode. It takes a special kind of person to babysit a hurricane like Leslie, and Ann is up to the challenge. Leslie repays her with incredible gifts and a nonstop river of compliments. It is a beautiful, symbiotic relationship. It just feels good to watch two women treating each other so well. Leslie makes me want to send presents to everyone I know, and Ann encourages me to keep my feet on the ground. Both of them make me smile.
4) Samantha Carter and Dr. Janet Fraiser, Stargate SG-1
Stargate’s fandom is relatively quiet, considering the show and its spinoffs were on television for 14 years. SG-1 follows the story of a team of four explorers who travel between planets using a device called—you guessed it—a Stargate. While Dr. Fraiser isn’t in every episode, her friendship with main character Sam Carter is a lovely respite from a cast that is almost entirely male. These women both work in a top-secret military base, and they don’t have many people to confide in, but they have each other. They never compete for attention, but instead provide each other with support and respect. I wish more working relationships were written like this one.
5) Amy Santiago, Rosa Diaz, and Gina Linetti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Speaking of coworkers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine details the crazy hijinks of a New York City police squad. Coworkers Amy, Rosa, and Gina are all incredibly different from each other. Amy flosses too much, Rosa is vengeful and bloodthirsty, and Gina communicates via emojis and interpretive dance, but each one has respect and admiration for the others.
Sure, sometimes they argue, but when Amy’s trying to tutor Gina in astronomy, or when Rosa is facing her fear of needles to support Amy’s blood drive, they are there for each other. They might wait until halfway through the episode, but (eventually) they can always be relied upon to do the right thing.
6) Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, Avatar: The Last Airbender
There are dozens of reasons to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. One reason: It has tons of excellent female characters cast as both antagonists and protagonists. Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee may be working together to take down our heroes, but their friendship with one another is complex and thoughtful in a way that I rarely see on TV.
“Loving and healthy” is certainly not a good way to describe Azula, but her relationship with Mai and Ty Lee feels really genuine to me. It’s got a sort of silence that I recognize well from my teen years. I love how the show asks you to pay attention to the things that Mai and Ty Lee don’t say. You have to read between the lines to figure out where the girls’ admiration for Azula ends and where their fear begins. Of course, this friendship changes a lot over time, but there’s something about it that is incredibly intriguing to me. It makes me think about loyalty and nostalgia and loneliness.
7) Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have dated costumes and cheesy special effects, but its heart and wit are timeless. The show bucks clichés when the blonde, cheerleading Buffy immediately befriends the awkward and outcast Willow. The two become like sisters, working together to make sense of a universe that’s out to kill them.
Both Willow and Buffy go through some really hard stuff in the show. There’s addiction, unhealthy relationships, the deaths of loved ones … Through it all, they stick by each other’s sides, even when they are hurt and angry. And, as annoying as Dawn can be, I love how she turns the Scoobies into guardians. She adds a new and interesting dimension to Buffy and Willow’s friendship.
Who did I miss? Which friendship speaks the most to your real-life experiences? Let me know in the comments!
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