Collage by Charlotte Southall
‘Female friendships are so important’ is almost a mantra to me because I believe it that much. The space that exists between two or more girls is somewhere the normal rules don’t apply. Girls tend to elevate each other’s voices, not drown them out. They can speak more freely, with more honestly, with more confidence and less fear. It would be wrong to say that a friendly male presence breeds negativity but there’s something tied up in the idea – a physical embodiment of the patriarchy, a reminder of oppression, and an opportunity for internalised misogyny to grow and fester. In reality, women create these spaces naturally, from childhood innocence through teenage gossip to adult confidence. In film, they don’t translate in the same way. Much has been said about the ridiculous way films about women are treated. Women is a genre; a group of women becomes a cult making lewd and strange ‘jokes’ about sex and getting old in a way too obviously penned by a man. To find a realistic female friendship is depressingly rare, shining pearls amongst the trash of ‘the pretty friend and the ugly friend’ or ‘two girls torn apart by a boy’ or ‘the nerdy, innocent one and the stupid bitch’.
So when they do crop up it’s no wonder why such films often go on to be deeply associated with young women – like it’s such a shocker they like to see themselves represented on screen. My favourite film is Frances Ha and this is in no small part due to the friendship between Frances and Sophie. It’s crazy how much seeing that friendship play out in front of me across 80 minutes changed my entire understanding of how well films could reflect honest female friendships. They evidently can – I just hadn’t grasped how rarely they did, or even tried to. Frances and Sophie were like me and my best friend! They said stupid, boring things to each other! They got angry at each other over silly things! Frances introduces Sophie with ‘we’re the same person with different hair’ – as somebody who believes she has a near genuine psychic connection with her best friend, I could so see myself saying something like that!
Frances and Sophie are so reflective of millions of women. They’re normal women, funny women, emotional women who seem to be a dying breed in the world of film where women have become a one note stock character – a ‘cool girl’ or a ‘manic pixie dream girl’ who drive the plots and characters of men like they’ve got nowhere to be. Frances and Sophie are a buddy team up with far greater intimacy and wit than half the current offerings of men like Seth Rogen and James Franco – or more accurately, the men who want to be Rogen and Franco – have made in the last decade.
Some might say ‘Hey, films about women … like JUST about women, they don’t make money!’ Yeh? Well I say ‘Haven’t you SEEN Bridesmaids, pal?’ Bridesmaids made a killing, was adored by audiences and even broke into the Oscar nominations. Audiences want to see films about real women, and not real as in they look a certain way but real as in they have been written in real way, with motivation and character! Women can, as Bridesmaids shows, make disgusting jokes and shit themselves in the street. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo wrote those women, but this wasn’t their sole selling point as human beings; they also related to each other, and had complicated relationships and real life problems. This wasn’t really a case of ‘women can be funny together!’ like so many insisted, it was more of a ‘women can be women and talk to other women!’ – cos that’s actual life.
Of course, serve as bridesmaids or brides is not the only things women do – they mope around suburban streets and work shitty jobs together (Ghost World), they lie to their families (Laggies), they live in psychiatric hospitals (Girl, Interrupted) and pose for charity calendars (Calendar Girls), go to school together (Clueless), support each other through pregnancies (Juno) and abortions (Obvious Child), they start punk bands (We Are The Best!), sometimes they even kick men to death (Death Proof). Not all of these films are perfect representations of female friendships, not to mention they all primarily focus on straight, white women – but they could be springboards for more films about female friendships to be made. It’s important that they are, because for something so commonplace in every woman’s life it just isn’t sold as anything vital to what women are. That’s a wrong idea and one that could be destructive, when girl-hate can be so rampant and diseasing. We need to see more women unified in mutual appreciation of each other.
Ashley is a passive aggressive 16 year old from Norwich. She is a feminist, a vegetarian, and a huge fan of Taylor Swift who wears both short skirts AND t-shirts. She loves a lot of things, mostly Breaking Bad and history. Most likely to be found crying because somebody won on a gameshow. Her favourite films are Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lost in Translation, Pulp Fiction and The Royal Tenenbaums. She blogs at pacificdaylighttime and tweets at @heartswellss.
Categories: Feminist Criticism