For decades and decades, a male-dominated Hollywood has contributed to perpetuating negative stereotypes about women. We are still trying to reverse many of them in the 21st century. For example, I am annoyed by the articles that “strange” the weak box office at the launch of the film She Said, which retells the story of the two New York Times journalists who helped to unmask Harvey Weinstein, because it still sounds like a nudge to me in the #metoo movement, like I’m running out of steam. We are still just getting started!
Not that films about the genuine friendship between women are new. The theme has appeared in several classic films. The Women, from 1939, featured an impressive cast with names like Norman Shearer, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, and Rosalind Russell, as well as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, from 1953, highlighted the unbreakable partnership between Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell). Later titles such as the 1980s 9 to 5 brought Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin together for the first time (alongside Dolly Parton) and addressed the issues of sexual harassment, inequity, and others championed in #metoo. The chemistry between the actresses in this film is so perfect that it spawned the wonderful Grace and Frankie, from Netflix. And how can we forget Thelma and Louise? Or 1988’s Beaches with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey? We can greatly increase the list.
Although there were films that represented female friendship, they were few, as in general there was always the misogynistic theory that mutual female competition was an impediment to unity between women. It’s no surprise that we women finally understand that it’s up to us to retell stories from our perspective and inspire new generations to fight an erroneous view. Hence contents with the “new” approach.
On Netflix, two recent series show us the most frequent version on the subject: Dead to Me and Grace and Frankie bring protagonists who, given the due proportions, are “distant cousins”. Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) and Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini) are a more dramatic and lethal version of Grace Hanson (Jane Fonda) and Frankie Bergstein (Lilly Tomlin), where there are the classic “opposites that attract” and that complete. Genuine, soul love.
Showrunner Liz Feldman‘s series premiered in 2019, months before the Covid 19 pandemic, and dealt primarily with grief. Jen’s husband had been killed by a car, without help, and she couldn’t get over it, assuming an aggressive attitude. Judy, a good-natured hippie with an almost toxic positivity, approaches Jen and there arises an unlikely friendship. I won’t go into the details of the three seasons to avoid spoilers, but there are crimes, betrayals, and many other crazy things. I’ll just reveal that when we learn that Jen survived breast cancer and the disease brought marital problems never resolved with the unexpected death of her husband, we get even more emotional about what happens in the final season. Liz was inspired by a friend of hers to include the issue of cancer in the plot and the series has only come to an end now because Christina Applegate, herself a survivor of aggressive breast cancer, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and is no longer able to work. The series is his farewell.
In the final episode of Dead to Me the quotes from Thelma and Louise and Beaches are easy to identify and are a beautiful homage to the female universe. Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), like Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lilly Tomlin) or CC Bloom (Bette Midler) and Hillary Essex (Barbara Hershey), may not have started out as lifelong friends, but together they overcome their differences, always with empathy and lots of love. Incidentally, the true love story of these films and series is not between heterosexual or homosexual couples, but between two women. Above all, it is a love story between them and themselves. There’s an inspiring peace in knowing that maybe your soul mate (I’ll remind you of Charlotte Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) in Sex in the City) can be your best friend. Doesn’t it warm your heart?