Intense friendships of teen girls
April 18, 2010 1:42 AM   Subscribe

I would like to learn more about the intense BFF relationships between teen girls. I'll take blogs, movies, TV shows, books, studies, anecdotes, anything.

You know how some girls get so attached to each other they can barely stand to be apart (I'm thinking the film Heavenly Creatures here). It's not a romantic attachment, but is so intense it may as well be. I'm thinking of a couple girls I knew at school who would turn up to school in exactly the same outfits and hair styles and it was like they were literally joined at the hip. Even if you were talking to one of them you could tell they were thinking about what the other was doing.

Anyway, I'd love any suggestions of things that explore this type of intense platonic love.
posted by mooza to Human Relations (39 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Mean Girls, specifically their discussion of matching outfits in the cafeteria.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:43 AM on April 18, 2010

veronica mars (veronica's relationship with lily kane) might be what you're looking for.
posted by anthropomorphic at 2:45 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by HotPatatta at 4:23 AM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Ghost World
The book, not the movie. The former is much more focused on how wrapped up the girls' identities are in each other, and is sans the unfortunate romance with Steve Buscemi.
posted by erstwhile ungulate at 4:39 AM on April 18, 2010

Cat's eye, by Margaret Atwood.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:20 AM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had this kind of relationship with my junior high and high school BFF (two different girls).

To my mind the hallmark of those relationships was a highly addictive combination of complete candor and intense imagination kept absolutely secret from everyone else. The best way I can describe it: during adolescence, there is an intense desire for privacy that kids express by say writing in a hidden diary or asking for their own room. We also wanted those things, but in a very real way we were one another's locked diary. We made a hidden world together that no one could travel to but us. It's fiercely intoxicating to trust another person that much.

Combine that with somewhat offbeat interests, creative pursuits (writing and music), and shall we say "challenging" home lives and you end up with something quite powerful. And I became more powerful as a result, for sure. I was far braver for them than I could manage to be for myself. I could absorb a thousand insults about being a nerd but hurt one of them and I'd murderize you. (Metaphorically! This was not exactly Heavenly Creatures). On my own I was a homebody, but with them I was adventuresome: sneaking out, being exuberant and impossible to embarrass or shame.

Not to mention the hilarity. That piercing, noxious teen girl laughter that goes straight to your brain like a spike? I basically spent every day of my life with my friends producing it until I was crying, practically barfing -- hours on hours of laughter that was 5% actual amusement and 95% relief that someone else truly understood me and still loved me despite that. I have yet to see a fictional representation that fully captures it or that doesn't end in soft core, dead bodies, or both.
posted by melissa may at 5:36 AM on April 18, 2010 [32 favorites]

Seconding Cat's Eye.
posted by pants at 5:44 AM on April 18, 2010

If you're interested in the broader topic of intense emotional relationships (not always positive) between and among girls, try:

Queen Bees & Wannabes

Odd Girl Out

Surviving Ophelia
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:51 AM on April 18, 2010

I am taken aback by the Cat's Eye suggestions. It's a wonderful book, but it's the opposite of what you're asking for, as it's about a young girl who is friends with a group who are more like enemies. They torment and completely betray her. If you were interested in female bullying that and Odd Girl Out/Queen Bees is the direction you'd want to pursue.
posted by melissa may at 6:09 AM on April 18, 2010

Yeah, I'm less about the frenemy, Mean Girl paradigm than the sort of relationship that melissa may describes (thank you!). Apart from Heavenly Creatures, I can't think of anything else at all.
posted by mooza at 6:19 AM on April 18, 2010

Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates.
posted by staggernation at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, perhaps? Admittedly almost all of the melodramatic "bosom friendship" and the imaginary-world type stuff is driven by Anne, but they both seem to feel a despair at being apart.

It's not really the main focus of the stories, but this series of YA novels features girls that I feel have this kind of friendship - Elizabeth and Celia at the beginning of the first, and to a greater extent Lydia, Cassie and Emily in the second and subsequent novels.

My mother would like to suggest Romy and Michele.
posted by lwb at 6:36 AM on April 18, 2010

I'd argue that Cat's Eye is about a twisted version of that friendship. But no, if you're looking for happy joined-at-the-hip stories that's not one.

Did anyone mention Foxfire yet?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:52 AM on April 18, 2010

I seem to remember that Hey, Dollface by Deborah Hautzig is about a relationship like this. It might not qualify, though, because one of them eventually realizes that, for her, the relationship is not just platonic.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:20 AM on April 18, 2010

Ready or Not. It's a TV show.
posted by whalebreath at 7:35 AM on April 18, 2010

[few comments removed - OP mentioned Heavenly Creatures already]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:43 AM on April 18, 2010

Twin Peaks! Donna seems to have resented Laura, but still feels an intense bond to her.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Trouble With Thirteen was the first thing I thought of.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:24 AM on April 18, 2010

I'm also fascinated by ultra-intense relationships between female teens -- in fact, my debut young adult novel is about such a light/dark/all-encompassing friendship (the Goodreads link is in my profile; it won't be out until next year, unfortunately).

I'm relatively well-versed in the YA book industry, and while you think there'd be tons of novels that include such friendships, I've had trouble finding many. WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson and HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour are beautiful, literary books centering on girls in the wake of their best friends' deaths; both of the friendships alluded to contain more darkness than levity, though. LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL by Jo Knowles, which I haven't read, is another YA book about an intense, abusive friendship shattered by a death. I also definitely second FOXFIRE -- again, very dark with moments of brightness. I'll keep scanning my brain for others!
posted by changeling at 11:39 AM on April 18, 2010

Hmm. I'm going to have to think about this one. Melissa May does a great job of explaining the dynamics however!
posted by radioamy at 12:22 PM on April 18, 2010

There's a fairly new-ish Simpsons episode that took this sort of tack with Lisa (for a moment I thought she was going to go Heavenly Creatures on everyone's ass). I had this kind of relationship with a few different girls at different stages in my development (first grade, fourth grade, seventh grade, and yes, right up into tenth grade or so), and the line between platonic or not got real freakin' fuzzy the older I was...the last two imploded because of unrequited crushes the girls developed on me and the ensuing awkwardness (it got to stalker-level in the last one, ugh). What was mentioned above about how it often coincided with super-rich imaginations on both girls' parts rings very true for me personally--we could immerse ourselves in entirely new universes so strong they bordered on dangerous delusion (the Lisa episode went in this direction).

If there was any way you could get a hold of the slambooks of girls that close, it'd probably be a terrific glimpse into it. Hm. (Speaking of, I bet I still have mine somewhere...)
posted by ifjuly at 1:02 PM on April 18, 2010

Ohohoh, and Picnic at Hanging Rock, how could I forget?! You could argue it's over-the-top suppressed lesbianism and that's it, but I don't see as only that. The entire "this whole separate unworldly atmosphere smells like girl" sort of tchy feel to the thing. I feel like I've seen a few other movies with the exact same aura, but I'm blanking now. L'ecole doesn't quite fit, but something similar...
posted by ifjuly at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2010

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume is all about the continuing relationship between a pair of girlfriends. It's a great book!

Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
also follows this theme, and I believe that a good portion of it is about the Ya Ya's child/teen years.

It's been a while since I've read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe but it is the story of two female friendships - one in present-day and one many years before. Ruth and Idgie are young, but I can't remember exactly if it touches on their teen years.
posted by radioamy at 1:22 PM on April 18, 2010

Seems that I have read quite a few books with this theme!

The Changeling is a YA novel from my favorite author, Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It has that slightly-off-balance girl friendship element where one character is magnetically drawn into the world of another.
posted by radioamy at 1:25 PM on April 18, 2010

My So-Called Life does this pretty well with the characters of Rayanne Graff and Angela. I think they get into a fight before the show goes off the air but then make up before the series ends.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 2:36 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Violet & Claire by Francesca Lia Block definitely fits the bill.
posted by Pochemuchka at 3:01 PM on April 18, 2010

Fucking Åmål / Show Me Love by Lukas Moodysson: "The sixteen year old Agnes Ahlberg has been living in the small Swedish town of Åmål with her family for one year and half, but she has no friends. She secretly loves her popular school mate Elin Olsson, a girl bored with the lack of perspective of Åmål".

(the director went on to do Together and Lilya 4 Ever, so if you liked those...)
posted by holloway at 3:08 PM on April 18, 2010

Spring Breakdown and Josie and the Pussycats, while both definitely very silly movies, deal with both functional and non-functional versions of these relationships. Josie and the Pussycats might be particularly interesting because of the way Parker Posey's character so clearly desires this kind of friendship but doesn't know how to get it. She has all the trappings, but she terrifies the girls she's trying to befriend.
posted by dizziest at 4:00 PM on April 18, 2010

Seconding Violet and Clare, also Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The first book at least, I didn't read the rest of the series.
posted by hoperaiseshell at 4:43 PM on April 18, 2010

In Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter she has an intense friendship with a classmate named Zaza. The book is about much more than just this relationship, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw your question.
posted by marsha56 at 4:46 PM on April 18, 2010

A bit silly to suggest maybe, but in anime and manga there's basically a whole subcategory of things about this. Among the more lighthearted, or at least less dark, is a section of media labeled "magical girl" which is about girls, often on the cusp of their teen years, who get superpowers, often in groups, and have to fight evil. This is most popularly seen in the show and comic Sailor Moon, which has girls repeatedly dying for the love of one another, making unlikely friendships, saving each other from monsters of both the supernatural and mundane, and pretty much making life worth living for one another.

There's plenty of Japanese IPs that feature the sort of intense friendships between girls that you describe, but they are often lumped together with the more pornographic genre of "yuri" which these days is pretty much about romance and sex, and not so much about BFF equals. It's a set of different cultural mores, so you'll find that the distinction is more difficult to perceive from a western perspective a lot of the time. Stick to magical girl stuff, though, and you'll find a lot of what you're looking for, especially from shows in the late 90s. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Magic Knights Rayearth, Pretty Cure, and Cardcaptor Sakura all feature girls in the throws of intense friendship, and are extremely popular examples of their genre.

Oh, and I must second Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion.
posted by Mizu at 5:21 PM on April 18, 2010

Gingersnaps , a Canadian werewolf film about two teenaged sisters, has something of the quality you're describing. Plus, you know, werewolves.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:15 PM on April 18, 2010

There was an X-Files episode, iirc, involving two girls whose relationship to each other was so intense that they were, almost unknowingly, setting off all sorts of psychic effects around them -- spontaneous combustion, telekinesis, weird electrical storms, etc.
posted by Bron at 8:49 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks all, especially for the book suggestions, if anyone can think of anything else that would be awesome. Special shout out to melissa may who hit the nail on the head.
posted by mooza at 3:16 AM on April 19, 2010

What a good question. When I was in high school, I had a very intense friendship with another girl, exactly what you describe. It's a closeness that blurs the lines between individuals in a weird way... I owe a lot of who I am today due to my relationship with that girl. I am me because she was also part of me, and part of me is with her. Bizarre to recognize that as an adult, but it's true.

The relationship between Will and Lyra in A Subtle Knife is VERY intense and I think it comes closest to capturing that intense-BFF feeling you describe. However, it's a boy-girl relationship that the author decided to take in a romantic direction in the next book (ugh, as much as i love these books, i never understood that choice...).

Something like this, but not wholly like this, is seen in Proust in the band of girls at Balbec. This is just the first google link I found, but it'll give you the idea:
Note that Marcel is pretty damn well grounded in his own head, so you don't get the first-person perspective on the way the girls' friendships actually work. There are also a group of girls, not a duo.

In a weird way... The Color Purple gets at this sentiment, but due to separation you don't get to see the friendship live out.

Check out the movie "Dick" -- it has a friendship and movie tone similar to that of "Romy & Michelle" (yaknow, basically it's a silly movie) except the girls are actually still in high school.

I'm going to keep thinking about this.
posted by samthemander at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2010

ah! In Mrs. Dalloway, the characters of Clarissa and & Sally Seton ABSOLUTELY fit the bill.
posted by samthemander at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2010

I just watched a movie a few days ago called Me Without You that deals with exactly what you described: intense, attached-at-the-hip friendship between two girls who pretty much do everything together from childhood into adulthood, and the "agonies and ecstasies" as a result of it.
posted by colorproof at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2010

today's new law and order criminal intent is about just this! but (spoiler alert) things take a murderous turn ...
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:28 PM on April 20, 2010

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