This past week’s episode of Scandal gave me the gift I have been waiting for since the very first season: Mellie Grant and Olivia Pope, sitting on the floor while sharing a jar of moonshine and hashing shit out like good girlfriends after a long fight. They were drunk. They were emotionally bare. They were honest and in that moment, they were equals. It was incredibly satisfying to see these women – these titans – shed their Fitz-shaped baggage and gain some semblance of peace and understanding. Will this last? Probably not. For now, though, it’s the momentary bond that will carry me through the week.
The idealist in me would love to see this more: two or more incredible women who were unwillingly placed in the position of opponents come together and just take over their world as well as mine. Can you imagine a life where Cookie Lyon and Anika Calhoun put their differences aside and created an empire of their own? Or if the women of Quantico stopped, realized that all the men in their immediate circle are terribly boring, and solved some of the country’s toughest crimes? For those of us watching Jane the Virgin, we’re beginning to see a potentially budding friendship between Jane Villanueva and Petra Solano, which could bloom into something that both of them truly need.
The realist in me, however, knows that every female relationship can’t perfectly end in friendship. Surely it would be nice, but it would make for something formulaic, which would ultimately lead to less interesting television. Just as women make fantastic heroes, we also make compelling villains – or, at the very least, complex foils. As much as I loved the moments when Tara Knowles and Gemma Teller banded together and protected their family, I also sat at the edge of my seat whenever they butted heads and established their agency, ideals, and conflicting personalities. When you take the woman vs. woman element beyond the majorly sought after cat fight and flesh out both of their perspectives, you have a potentially interested layer to a great story.
As I witness the continued commodification of the Girl Squad, it makes it harder for me to say expressly say “MOAR GIRL SQUADS!” I don’t want what I genuinely want to see in television conflated with something that has been branded to the point of duplicity. And I say this at the risk of giving internet trolls the attention they certainly do not deserve: I also don’t want to see an absence of men in television, which is often the accusation that comes with expressing the desire to see something better for, or simply more, televised female interaction.
What I want is to see more women having fleshed out relationships – whether those relationship are positive or negative – that center around something other than a man.
We can always use more female friendships. That is something that I think all of my favorite shows lack, with the exception of a few (I miss Parks and Rec and Living Single desperately). Witnessing these interactions – something to combat the common notion that women just cannot get along – is important. Furthermore, there needs to be a more encompassing view of the different kinds of female friends. Let’s see more women getting into shenanigans (Leslie Knope and Anne Perkins), more deeply connected work relationships (Donna Paulsen and Rachel Zane in Suits), more instances of women leaning on each other for emotional support (Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang), women who just love each other (Abbi and Ilana of Broad City) and women who have extremely complicated relationships but ultimately have each other’s backs (I’m truly loathe to use Girls as an example here as I am not a fan of that show at all, but it is an applicable instance in this specific case). In short, let’s see more women engaging in a range of friendships just as often as men are allowed.
Additionally, if you’re going to insist on us battling one another, diversify the reasoning. At this point, centering the female feud around the affections of a man is a concept that has been mined ad nauseam. Some of my favorite men in TV have fought over women (equally boring), but they also get to clash over power, family, money, pride, justice, land, public perception, politics…there’s variety there. Variety breeds nuance. Apply some of that nuance when you have two or more women in a scene together and watch your work improve.