There’s no denying that the media, in particular television, plays a massive role in how we perceive women and create stereotypes.
Today, I want to discuss how television has manipulated viewers mainframes into thinking women can’t be friends.
We see it all the time- it’s hard to find a television show were women build friendships based on mutual respect for each other. Usually two female leads are pitted against each other due to having polar opposite personalities/looks. While the leads may eventually become friends, resentment and jealously for each other is always underlying or comes up again in arguments.
I’ll give you some examples
1. Gloria and Claire Modern Family
Claire is mainly portrayed as a ridged, judgemental, determined, by-the-book character.
Gloria is mainly portrayed as loud, carefree, sexy, beautiful, and generally the woman every other woman loves to hate.
Claire essentially represents every woman who loves to hate Gloria because of her looks and personality. Claire often makes mean comments about Gloria (such as her Latin accent or the fact that she’s married to Claire’s much older father, referring to her as gold digger at one point). Claire resents Gloria for being everything she isn’t.
On the other hand, Gloria is also shown envious of Claire’s personality because of how ‘together’ she is. For example, she feels competitive against Claire when helping out at the school dance as all the moms look up to Claire as the one who gets everything done. Gloria feels insecure because all the other moms, including Claire, exclude her due to her looks and personality. Other women are often untrusting of Gloria because of how their husbands lust after her.
Even Claire’s husband, Phil, is often shown acting like a puppy dog around Gloria. In one of the episodes, Phil tries to convince one of his old university friends that Gloria is his wife because he thinks he will be jealous due to Gloria’s stunning looks. He then finds out his friend always had a thing for his actual wife, Claire. It isn’t until his friend makes this comment that Phil appreciates Claire.
Despite having love for each other and bonding throughout the seasons, Gloria and Claire are consistently pitted against each other for the viewer’s entertainment.
2. Serena and Blaire- Gossip Girl
Perhaps one of the most tumultuous friendships I have ever seen played out on television- Serena vs. Blair epitomises the argument that women are pitted agains each other on television to enhance viewer entertainment.
Blair is by-the-book yet deceiving, motivated, manipulative, mean, a bully and generally someone you don’t want on your bad side.
Serena is then portrayed as a blonde bombshell who can be self-destructive at the best of times, but incredibly kind. At the same time she can also be mean and manipulative when she feels wronged.
The show’s first episode shows that Blair’s boyfriend, Nate, cheats on her with Serena (her best friend). Blair’s discovery of this significantly impacts their friendship, but that’s not the only reason why. Seasons go by of these two women fighting over several men, university placements, acceptance from their families, and their popularity in school.
Blair and Serena have gotten into physical altercations on more than one occasion, and have both sunk to real lows in order to humiliate each other for their own personal gains. They usually make-up, but its not longer before something or someone comes up that tears them apart.
Viewers are either team Blair or team Serena, and it is hard to find a Gossip Girl fan that would be a fan of both.
It’s not to say that female characters always have to get along in television- after all we watch television for entertainment. With all of this being said, I must admit I am a big fan of Modern Family and Gossip Girl.
I just think it’s important to point out that these relationships that I have been exemplified are usually built on women feeling jealous and resentful of one another cause they are women.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case for all television programmes and I’d like to give a shout out to the shows that are promoting female unity and the motto: if you want to be a cool lady, be cool to other ladies! (Credit to Stephanie Beatriz for these words of wisdom).
Let’s embrace some of the examples below for nipping the female vs female stereotype in the bud:
1. Betty and Veronica- Riverdale
Riverdale has done so many things perfectly as 2017’s hottest and newest show (to the point that I will have to dedicate an entire blog post about it). Today we’re going to talk about Betty and Veronica’s friendship.
Based on the Archie comics, viewers would assume that Riverdale’s emphasis would be on the competitiveness between Betty and Veronica and their desire to win over Archie, as this is a major plot line in the comics.
Brunette vs. blonde, shy vs. confident, ‘good girl’ vs ‘bad girl’, and a crush on the same guy is the perfect set-up for a tv show to once again focus on her vs. her.
Instead, Betty and Veronica have created a genuine friendship based on mutual respect, love and admiration for each other. They encourage each other to succeed in whatever they pursue and never attempt to humiliate one another.
That’s not to say they haven’t faced challenges. Betty and Veronica both had/have feelings for Archie, and this initially caused some conflict. However, the difference with this plot line is how the characters approached the conflict. Betty was longing for Archie, but Archie only wanted to remain friends. Veronica arrived to town and Archie started to long for Veronica. Veronica and Archie shared a moment during a 7 minutes in heaven game in a closet at a party- this upset Betty but Veronica immediately talked to Betty and was very respectful of her feelings. Eventually Betty develops feelings for Jughead and forms a relationship with him. At this point Veronica and Archie also start to develop a relationship. Despite Betty already having moved on from Archie, Veronica is still very respectful to the fact that Betty used to have feelings for Archie, and discusses the relationship with Betty to make sure she is okay with it. Betty is very supportive of her relationship with Archie and this open communication with each other makes their friendship strong.
Betty and Veronica prove that female friendships can be based on admiration for each other, versus jealousy, while also facing common teenage struggles such as relationship drama and falling in love. They remain respectful of each through all of this and never attempt to humiliate one another.
2. Donna and Rachel- Suits
A legal secretary and a paralegal work in a primarily male driven corporate law firm- once again this is a perfect her vs. her setup.
Instead, Donna and Rachel’s relationship has always been a friendship based on mutual respect, admiration and love for one another. They encourage each other, they support each other when they are at their lowest, and they are always honest with each other- once again never in a way that attempts to humiliate the other person.
Yes, they do occasionally hit bumps in the road, but these are also quickly resolved because they immediately apologise to each other and ensure the other persons feelings are not hurt.
Additionally, what really sets this friendship apart is that not once have they shared a mutual love interest. For a show that is running into its seventh season, that deserves a standing ovation!
Their characters and friendship remains interesting without adding the usual pettiness that producers love to sprinkle in when they have run out of ideas to entertain their viewers.
Here’s to continuing to encourage positive female friendships on television! ❤