Female Friendships That Defy Television Tropes

Female Friendships That Defy Television Tropes  | Positively Smitten

Too often women are pitted against each other in fiction. It’s actually pretty rare that we get to see real, supportive relationships between two women portrayed on television — the types of friendships that are nuanced and imperfect and sacred and sincere, the types of friendships that reflect the ones we see in our own lives.

In fact, any young girl flipping through the stations might begin to wonder if positive friendships between women really exist at all.

So here are some of my favorite fictional friendships between women that have care, amity, and rapport.

Inara Serra and Kaylee Frye from “Firefly”

In “Firefly,” Inara is easily the most “feminine” woman on the ship – as a high-class “companion” (which some may call a prostitute, but hey, not me), she’s stereotypically stunning.  Meanwhile Kaylee is the ship’s mechanic, a job that tends to be viewed as “masculine.” Although the two might be considered unlikely friends – and any other show might depict the women as butting heads – “Firefly” does a wonderful job of showing that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman. Most importantly, despite their differences, Inara and Kaylee became fast friends. Kaylee sometimes hangs out with Inara in her room, where they talk and sweetly share what could be explained as a spa day with one another. It’s a good break from the ship’s regular adventures of crime and dodging Alliance – and it’s a nice depiction of positive interactions between women.

Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins from “Parks & Recreation”

Well, I should start by saying that Leslie Knope and all the women from “Parks & Recreation” are not only incredibly well-developed characters, but they all have strong, positive friendships. But it’s the friendship that has developed between Leslie and Ann that is really the pinnacle of women connecting. Leslie and Ann have a great exchange of support in the show and would go to bat for each other in a heartbeat. They both show that friendship isn’t about keeping your mouth shut when your friend is doing something you consider questionable; instead, you can express your opinion to a friend while still being supportive of them. Leslie and Ann would do anything for one another and it’s obvious their friendship comes first. But then again, I’d expect nothing less from Leslie Knope, who is an amazing supporter of the women in her life (much like Amy Poehler in real life).

Mary Margaret and Emma in “Once Upon a Time”

Mary Margaret and Emma are more interlinked than just friends. Spoiler alert: Emma is Mary Margaret’s daughter. But even before they knew of their mother-daughter relationship, it was shown that they were extremely supportive of one another. Mary Margaret provided Emma with a place to stay when Emma was new in town, while Emma was one of the only residents to believe Mary Margaret’s innocence when her actions came into question. In fact, “Once Upon a Time” does a pretty decent job of showing female friendships: Red and Belle; Mulan and Aurora; and Emma and Mary Margaret. One particular scene I love is when Mary Margaret is extremely upset and Emma asks if she wants to talk about it. When Mary Margaret says no, Emma asks if Mary Margaret would like her to leave her alone, then. Again, Mary Margaret says no. So Emma lies beside her and doesn’t speak. Sometimes, all friends need is to know you are there – no words needed!

Sybil Crawley and Gwen Dawson from “Downton Abbey”

(Big surprise I added something from “Downton Abbey,” right?) Gwen and Sybil have more of a friendship than Sybil does with her own sisters. Despite being a “proper” lady, Sybil encourages Gwen, a maid, to follow her dream of becoming a secretary. She gives her a good reference and, indeed, finally helps her land a job at an up-and-coming phone company. Gwen and Sybil are just really sincere people, especially with one another. It’s endearing to see them interact in the type of friendship that reminds me of some of my own.

Who are your favorite female friendships in television?


7 responses to “Female Friendships That Defy Television Tropes

  1. These are great examples of positive relationships that we do not always get to see. Perhaps as time goes on it will become a more regular part of popular culture.


  2. Awesome list!!! And, actually, now I may watch “Firefly” because of it.

    Some of my favorite female friendships on TV: Khadijah, Synclaire, Max, Regina from “Living Single”; Lucy and Ethel from “I Love Lucy”; Mary and Rhoda from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”; Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia from “Golden Girls.”


    • I totally ignored older tv shows but totally agreeing on Golden Girls, even though they slut shame Blanche so much, still love them. I haven’t watched too much of Mary Tyler Moore Show or I Love Lucy but I like both. Will have to watch more!


  3. LOVE this article…it’s so true that friendships between women are so misconstrued in the media. Thanks for shedding light on the good ones.


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