Having recently moved back in with my parents, I’ve had the privilege of enjoying free access to hundreds of films thanks to my Dad’s subscription to Sky TV. Whilst this has given me a viable alternative to spending my evenings swiping left at gobshites on Tinder, one thing that has particularly irked me since becoming an amateur film buff, is the misrepresentation of female friendships in films compared to what they’re like in real life.
For example, last week, I made the unfortunate decision to watch a film called ‘Very Good Girls’ staring Dakota Fanning. The film is about two best friends (Lily and Gerri) who make a pact to lose their virginity before college, but who (surprise surprise) end up falling for the same guy (David). Gerri openly pursues David who openly pursues Lily, who keeps her burgeoning relationship with David from Gerri a secret. This love triangle is the main focus of the plot, but it was embarrassingly unrealistic. The film’s depiction of the romantic lead as a rude, moody, boring, humourless, poetry-reading photographer made it very difficult for me to understand why two smart, fun and beautiful child-hood best friends would have such a crisis in their relationship over him. Even if he belonged to the 0.00001% of men on this planet worthy of female adoration, most girls would be held back by the bonds of loyalty and the practically legal ties of girl code before jumping into bed with him if their best mate blatantly wanted to shag him too.
Another pathetic love story I’ve recently had to sit through is ‘If I Stay’, about a musical prodigy called Mia who has an outer body experience after a car crash that kills her family but not her. Her best friend makes a short but sweet five minute appearance in the film, but the main focus is on her relationship with her hunk of a fella Robbie, who conveniently woos her with the line “The ‘you’ you are now is the same ‘you’ I was in love with yesterday and the same ‘you I will be in love with tomorrow” right before he takes her virginity in a scene with an unrealistic absence of blood, awkwardness, pain and disappointment.
Let’s just say for arguments sake that teenage boys are capable of actual, genuine and real-deal love, (as opposed to the wanting to practice ‘how to do sex’ on a girl before buggering off to explore the field and forgetting all about them), in what world would they express their feelings so eloquently?! Most young adult boys are far too busy watching porn and playing Call of Duty to read poetry that teaches them to speak to women like fucking Shakespeare, so why is it that the typical ‘cool guys’ are idolised as every girl’s teenage dream in the same films where female friendships have little importance or in some cases, are completely absent?
Indeed, despite women being the obvious fairer sex, the majority of classic girly films from our teenage years, make us out to be a horrible bunch of bitches incapable of having functional relationships with each other. Films such as Mean Girls, Bring It On, A Cinderella Story, The Princess Diaries, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging- the list goes on, capitalise on the stereo type of the socially aggressive Queen Bee, who is rewarded with popularity and admiration for being a bully rather than reprimanded. Often the ‘mean girl’ is only made to feel ashamed for her behaviour when her equally popular and gorgeous love interest ceremoniously dumps her for the ‘geek’ she’s been bullying. Even when the film’s plot involves some sort of reconciliation, with the exception of Mean Girls (which is a whopping 11 years old now by the way), the happy ending of friends making up, or enemies putting their differences aside, is usually only subordinate to the love story about the handsome, kind, funny, caring, intelligent, teenage Prince Charming Hollywood has fabricated from thin air to save the day.
And okay, the films I’ve cited above are a few years old now, and the portrayal of women in films is changing. Katniss Everdeen is one of the many examples that casting calls for badass women are growing, and in recent years the film and TV industry has given birth to a sassy new female force. Even so, bad-ass heroines like Katniss, Hermione Granger, Erin Brockovich, Arya Stark, Triss from the Insurgent series etc, don’t have any female friends. You’d think, growing up as she did in the repressed confines of District 12, that she’d have needed at least one gal pal to have a laugh and a bottle of prosecco with to get over the hard times, but no. Her closest, most supportive relationships were with men – which is quite ironic given that most of them IRL who aren’t gay or taken are the insensitive gobshites.
It just seems odd to me that in many films where a female is the lead, the focus on her relationship with other girls is dominated by her drama with an aggressive Queen Bee, whilst the focus on her relationship with a guy is on her unrequited love for Mr. popular who instead of being an arsehole ends up reciprocating her feelings towards him. Girls can be bitchy, but they can more commonly be kind, loyal, fun and supportive, so the mean girl stereotype doesn’t at all reflect the true variety of roles within female friendships. In other films, the female lead has no girl friends at all, or what girl friends she does have play less important and less supportive roles than her male love interest, who is made out to be her one and only hero.
These films idealise teenage romantic relationships, whilst underplaying and even undermining one of the most important bonds a girl makes at a young age- her friendship with other girls. I know that sounds corny as fuck. But, for most women, the teenage dream of our adolescent years is not the first guy willing to charm us with a cinema date on Orange Wednesdays followed by a sloppy kiss in McDonalds. Actually, it is our best mates, who are there for us for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, in our drunk states and our sober ones, till death do us part.