I think it’s a generational thing: My generation, those born in the 80’s and those who came after, are lucky to live in a world where gender doesn’t define our relationships. We’re allowed to be friends with members of the opposite sex, more than any other time in our history.
My whole life, I’ve always felt more comfortable around women than men. As I’ve gotten older, it’s changed a bit, and I’ve managed to develop a great group of guy friends. But still, there’s only so much masculinity I can take before I have to seek a more feminine presence, and I’m still incapable of delving too deeply into personal sentiments with men. My female-identified-friends are the ones that hear about my romantic tribulations, my career decisions, my creative and personal insecurities. And I don’t think I’m alone; we are living in a time where many men and women are friends, without the trappings of romantic relations.
What’s remarkable is mainstream media’s unwillingness to acknowledge this paradigm shift, this lessening of gender dichotomies. Those friendships on television and film must still be defined by romantic tension, even if it’s abstract or vague.
It’s appropriate that one of my best platonic friends right now is a woman with whom I’ve discussed this topic with at length. Brenna and I have developed a list of our favorite platonic TV relationships. As usual, they are “nerdy”, though that’s also a more and more ambiguous classification.
(This is also an incredibly heteronormative list, but that’s another discussion)
1. Veronica Mars: Veronica and Wallace
Veronica and Wallace became friends after V saved W from the flag pole, and they were constant for the whole show. Despite the two of them being attractive members of the opposite sex who are attracted to members of the opposite sex, there was never any romantic tension between the two. Sure, maybe it was because Veronica was always too busy deciding whether she liked the nice boy or bad boy more ( The nice boy being Piz; Duncan’s so boring he makes Buffy’s Riley look like True Blood‘s Erik), but it’s still refreshing to see such a sincere, platonic friendship on TV.
Best Moment: Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve watched Veronica Mars, I couldn’t actually remember. Brenna helped me, suggesting the graduation episode at the end of season 2, when Wallace tells her, “It was worth being taped to a flag pole” to meet her.
2. 30 Rock (it counts): Liz and Jack
The ultimate platonic couple. No one played with the trope of “will they or won’t they?” better than Jack and Liz. Right away the show determined they would never, ever get together, but still teased the audience with the idea in a meta way. Even in the final season, when Liz and Jack lay in Jack’s dead mom’s bed, they discuss why they never hooked up. While both of them blame the other for not being attractive enough, the truth is that they were always too good of friends.
Best Moment: The finale, where Jack tells Liz, in his own way, that he loves her, and she tells him, is such a sweet, sincere moment that never would have worked had they have had romantic tension.
3. Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck and Helo
For a show that is rife with sexual/romantic pairings (after all, there aren’t very many available people left in the universe), it’s nice when two people can be platonic, especially when both of those people are perfectly sculpted paragons of the human figure.
If there’s one thing that Starbuck, the emotionally damaged, abusive, alcoholic, mess of a fighter pilot needs, it’s a good friend, and Helo is the best.
Best Moment: Their little boxing moment at the end of Scar, which is an overall excellent episode, and a symbol of how good the show was at one point.
4. Firefly: Mal and Zoe
This was the last one that Brenna and I thought of, which makes me embarrassed for us. In a show with only fourteen episodes, there was an entire one devoted to their platonic friendship. They suffered through a war together, flew together for years as pirates, even took on the totalitarian government together, and never once needed to bang.
While Zoe usually defers to him as captain, she is never afraid to speak up and tell him when he’s being a 狒狒的屁眼.
Best Moment: From War Stories, of course, the wacky story with rib-cages in it. Or the part towards the end where they feign sexual interest. Every moment from that episode is pure gold though, let’s just go watch it real quick, huh?
5. Sleepy Hollow (SO FAR): Ichabod Crane and Lieutenant Abby Mills:
Seeing as the show is one part supernatural-police-procedural, using the same formula as Castle of the female detective and male consultant (this time a time-traveled Revolutionary soldier), we have to wonder: Is there going to be a romantic spark between the two of them? So far, nothing too obvious: Ichabod Crane is married after all, and desperate to retrieve Katrina. Having the two leads continue a platonic relationship for the entire arch of the show is almost unthinkable, but would be incredibly bold. I hope they hold to it.
Best moment: In the season finale, anchoring each other for their journey to Purgatory. Especially with the fist-bump.
6. Doctor Who: The Doctor and Donna Noble
One of the major criticisms leveled against New Who is that the Doctor must always romantically involved with his companions. It’s kind of true: besides the most obvious romances between Rose and the Doctor, and the terrible “romance” between River and the Doctor, all of his other (hot young female) companions have at least been attracted to him. Martha, Amy, and Clara have all kissed him. Only Donna Noble remained a platonic friend with him the whole time. Love her or, more likely, hate her, the nature of their relationship was refreshing, at least.
Best moment: At the end of “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”.
Donna: How about you, are you all right?
The Doctor: Oh, I’m always all right.
Donna: Is “All right” special time-lord code for… not really all right at all?
The Doctor: Why?
Donna: Because I’m all right too.
Miss any? Disagree with me? Leave a comment!