Did TV Kill The Romance-Free Friendship?

mindy-kissPhoto: Courtesy of Fox.
On tonight’s The Mindy Project, fans (ourselves included) will tune in to see what's in store for Mindy and Danny after their makeout session in the midseason finale. We were not immune to Danny presenting Mindy with a choreographed dance routine to Aaliyah’s “Try Again.” We secretly hoped our future suitors took note of that gift. And, we couldn’t help but cheer when Danny finally made his move this past January. That said, we're kind of hoping that the writers use this plot line to focus on what Mindy is really lacking: male friends.
In two seasons, we've seen Mindy reconnect with multiple exes, have regular episode-long-romances with new men, participate in awkward sexual interactions with every single one of her male co-workers, almost get married, almost move in with her post-engagement rebound, and basically find herself in a strange version of every possible male-female relationship. Except for a straight-up friendship, that is. We have yet to see Mindy develop a cross-sex rapport devoid of inappropriate propositions and HR complaints (Morgan), “bedroom dates” (Jeremy), excessive flirting (Peter), or suspenseful soul-mate banter (Danny).
The thing is, it isn't just The Mindy Project that lacks inter-gender friendships. The absence can be seen on basically every television show on air today. We have long settled the question of whether women and men can be friends. The answer is yes. Sometime in our youth we left the “when are you getting together” questions behind in favour of some of the best friendships of our lives. But, Hollywood isn’t there yet.
We have watched, re-watched, and loved When Harry Met Sally. And, every single time we are glad when Harry and Sally fail at being just friends. Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of platonic-to-romantic relationships we have cheered on. So, too are there fictional friendships we wished had stayed just that — two friends taking on the world together. We realised, just like Sally did, that Harry is not perfect. So, his now-famous line, “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way,” was an opinion by an admittedly flawed character, not a universal truth.
Unfortunately, the producers of pop culture seem to have taken that quote as some kind of mantra. We do have Veronica and Wallace, Peggy and Don, Liz and Jack, Leslie and Ron, Jerry and Elaine (sure, they dated pre-show, but we didn’t see that), and Elementary’s version of Sherlock and Watson, to name a few. But, these duos are the exceptions. That is the problem.
mindy_cakePhoto: Courtesy of Fox.
In real life, we hang out with our best friends, of both genders, without worrying about subtext or desire. But, the minute we see a male character and a female character share screen time, we are trained to expect more. We anticipate sparks. And, while that has been great for Taylor Swift lyrics and wedding toasts, we aren’t sure that it is a good thing for society as a whole.
Hollywood has always created a rose-coloured version of reality. But, this isn't a romanticised version of something, but a gap between what happens in our lives and what happens in pop-culture. And, taken together, all of our favourite television shows seem to teach that all friendships eventually end, or at least take a detour, in bed.
Once upon a time, the lack of cross-gender friendships on TV made sense. Traditionally a female having a male friend was rare or even taboo. The very idea of a man and woman being alone long enough to create a meaningful, adult friendship was unheard of. But, we don’t live in that world anymore — we haven’t for a while. As feminism progressed, it brought expanding opportunities for friendships across gender lines.
Is it too much for us to ask that television shows reflect these opportunities? We don't think so. Once shows explore story lines beyond the fairytale in which The One has been right there all along, it will make every future Mindy and Danny that much better. We aren’t saying each heroine shouldn’t have a love story — we are suckers for a happily ever after — we just want her to also have a few solid companions during heartbreaks. Platonic companions. And beer, and a dart board.
So, here is our request for every TV writer out there: How about penning a purely platonic relationship next season? They can flirt. Heck, Garcia and Morgan on Criminal Minds have set the standard for flirting, yet they are solidly just friends. Or, they could have the worst sexual chemistry ever, and leave no one speculating. We leave that choice up to you. But, please, don’t assume that just because two characters have the biological ability to procreate, that we want to see them hook up.
Oh, and to the writers of The Mindy Project, If you don't think Mindy is ready for a true cross-sex friendship, how about just any friendship? We haven't seen the female pals we were introduced to in the beginning of the show in a long time. At this point, we just really think Mindy needs some people on her team whom she wouldn't consider sleeping with.

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