I’m constantly hoping for a television series with a pair of best friends, one male, one female, who are 100% not romantically interested in each other. If Disney shows from the late 90s and early 2000s, are to be believed, a dude and a lady can’t be close friends without secretly harboring attraction to each other.
Kim Possible, Lizzie McGuire, and Even Stevens all pulled this card at one point or another. I’m told this is a fairly prevalent technique for stories, but it creates this illusion that someone can’t think two people of corresponding gender and sexual orientation can think the other is fantastic without wanting to become romantically involved with them.
This leads to all sorts of problematic nonsense. This thinking throws fuel on the “friend zone” and “nice guy” fires. I primarily have female friends, and if I had secret romantic feelings for all of them, I would probably never speak to another human being.
For example: I had a conversation with Eli a few months ago in which I mentioned that she was smart, funny, and beautiful, but then clarified that I was not romantically interested in her. I automatically felt bad about saying that, and started trying to justify it. I realized that I wouldn’t have to make these justifications if I were complimenting a male friend or blood relative.
It doesn’t make sense to me, because it puts male-female friendship on the middle of a track that leads to a relationship. The only characters who don’t share romantic tension with others are generally ones who are already in a committed relationship. The implication there is that a friendship is less than a romantic relationship rather than different, and that any relationship between a single man and a single woman that does not end in them dating is incomplete. This would imply that a person who is single is incomplete.
Basically I don’t like heteronormative dichotomies, and as someone whose oldest friend is a lady, I can honestly say that simply having a friendly history with someone doesn’t mean they are perfect for each other romantically.
But imagine the uproar that would occur if they ended a TV Series containing two heterosexual best friends, one male and one female, with both characters single as of the finale, never having dated. People would either say it was a “loose end” the writers didn’t wrap up or say it was a heartbreaking ending that they never got together. It’s not, because believe it or not, sometimes dudes and ladies can be friends without the eventual goal of sleeping together.
So then why do I keep seeing this trope of the “best friend who wants more?” Or rather, why is there seemingly no alternative on television with the possibly exception of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy?
(post-script: this wasn’t inspired by any real person I know, with the exception of Eli who was used as an example with her permission. I saw a commercial for the “In Plain Sight” finale and it got me thinking.)