I want to write today about a topic so unthinkably scandalous, so perniciously wrong, so beyond the pale of human understanding that, for whatever reason, writers avoid it at all costs in their stories, novels, and scripts.
I speak, of course, about Platonic friendship between heterosexual men and women.
Now wait – I hear you say – I know a great many male-female friendships, and my own life is full of them. The writing community in particular, to name just one, is rife with cross-gender friendships. I bet if we poll those reading this blog, we’ll learn of dozens if not hundreds of such friendships.
Why is this seemingly ubiquitous aspect of modern life so absent from films and novels?
And yet, you’d hardly know such a thing is possible from what one finds in the pages of books and on film screens. And though TV has tended to a bit more generous, it invariably caves to the presumed audience desire to have the characters “get together.” (Friends, perhaps the most inaptly named program in the history of broadcasting, was nothing but a prolonged romantic comedy where true friendship was just a kind of waiting room between hookups.)
The frisson of romance, if not rampant sexual tension, routinely bristles between a man and a woman in a story. The great Stella Adler, in a drama workshop I attended in my twenties, chastened two students who were tiptoeing through a courtship scene: “Every time a man and a woman are on stage they are totally in love. All they’re discussing is terms.”
And yet this seems a great loss. Some philosophers, Plato among them, considered friendship to be the ultimate human bond — it is chosen freely, is sustained only through mutual consent, and is often based on genuine affinities unadulterated by family obligation or sexual desire. Are straight men and women really incapable of it?
My life would be severely impoverished without my women friends. (The “best man” at my wedding was in fact a woman, my longtime friend Dawn Hawk.) Yes, there’s an element of flirtation about many of these friendships, and every peck on the cheek provides a whiff of perfume, the brush of skin against skin, a hint of la difference. But they are not “friends with (the possibility of) benefits” or “romances in limbo,” any more than my wife is a “main squeeze with equity.”
Why is this seemingly ubiquitous aspect of modern life so absent from films and novels? [Read more…]