Female friendships in the media are fraught, and nothing has been as confronting as Lena Dunham’s portrayal of the toxicity we’re taught to expect from woman-on-woman interaction. At the season climax of HBO’s Girls, we saw four young women fail to stand together in battle, all four of them broken and lost, and at least three of them (it’s unclear where Jessa went) finding their asylum not in each other, but in men.
It makes me sick because in the past year, Girls has been the leading representation of 20-something women in the mainstream media. And in my experience, women don’t do each other like that in times of need. Bad people aren’t there for their friends. Selfish people aren’t there for their friends. This kind of behavior is not limited to women, but for some genuinely mind-boggling reason, the media seems to have non-negotiable tunnel vision on the matter. Not all female friendships are founded on malicious competitiveness, jealousy and resentment. Some of us actually really care about each other.
I don’t want to say that I am “lucky enough” to have wonderful, supportive, non-backstabby girlfriends. It should just be accepted as a fact that this is what friendships are, because the truth is more along the lines that it’s unlucky to have anything less than mutually respectful friendships. But this is not about Lena Dunham’s friendships or my friendships; this is about what I’ve come to appreciate as the most interesting, dynamic female friendship on television right now: Andrea and Michonne on The Walking Dead.
Andrea and Michonne found each other in a dark place, and with the world at war, they stood together. They survived in the wilderness, against all odds, through a crippling winter, by fighting back to back, caring for each other, and giving each other solitude and understanding. It’s perhaps an underrated fact of the show because Andrea was Just So Fucking Annoying, but amidst all the man-chest-beaty-crap and gratuitous brain smashing, there was a truly tender female friendship that thrived through adversity.
What’s interesting to me is that when Michonne made the decision to leave Woodbury, and Andrea to stay, nothing changed between them, despite the fact that Michonne was right and Andrea was wrong, and also a giant douche bag. Neither woman stopped caring for, or supporting the other, each respecting the others decision to leave/stay. And Michonne, without being preachy and condescending, only wanted to rescue Andrea because she genuinely believed rescuing to be in Andrea’s best interests; not because she wanted to prove herself right.
The unspoken understanding of female camaraderie between the two wasn’t one sided. When Michonne went back to infiltrate Woodbury and stabbed the Governor’s eye out and killed his zombie daughter, Andrea allowed Michonne to escape and both women showed an allegiance entirely without resentment for the other’s agenda. Their genuine love for one another trumped their own self interests.
But things did begin to unravel when the two split. Both women were thrust back out into the dangerous world without their companion, their “person”, a warning, perhaps, that women are in fact (contrary to popular opinion) stronger when they’re on the same team. I think, for the majority of the series, this was a subtext that wasn’t as glaring as what was slapping you in the face i.e. Tyranny vs. Democracy, Carl’s whole Lord of the Flies schtick, the existential battle of everyone already being a zombie etc. and it wasn’t until the final episode that it really came back to bite. [spoiler ahead]
Look, I don’t care that Andrea died. The woman was a buffoon and seriously how hard is it to pick shit up with your toes, I do it all the time (not because I’m trying to escape the clutches of an evil dictator but mostly because I’m lazy and can’t be arsed to lean over). But when Andrea did off herself, I felt a pang; it was a pang for Michonne, who held her hand as she took her own life, and for these two grimy, bloodied, war-weary BFFs.
Because Michonne was there holding her hand in equality, and love, and it was beautiful and touching because she wasn’t saying “I told you so”, and she wasn’t saying “you’re an idiot”, and she wasn’t saying “he’s just not that into you” nor was she being passively aggressively superior the way Marnie and Hannah are when the other is in need. Michonne was saying what so many women on television in the past year have failed to say to their friends. She was saying “it’s OK”, and “I’m here”, and “we’re going to do this together”.
I want to see more female friendships like this in television, although preferably with less morons like Andrea. I want to see women supporting each other, and being there, unequivocally, without judgement or contempt when the world goes ass over tits. I’m sick of being fed the stupid notion that women are inherently hateful of their friends, that we just want to beat each other down, and that we feel shame when we don’t perceive ourselves to be as successful as our female pals, because most of us aren’t like that at all. Most of us just want to meet our girls at the bar after work to moan about how he didn’t text back, tell each other how pretty our hair looks, and scheme on how we’re going to hit next big life milestone, and what fun we’re going to have together when we get there.