Unpopular Opinion: On Friendship with Boys

More and more it seems that YA fiction is focusing more on relationships and less on friendship and personal development. Yes, love is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the only relationship in someone’s life, but it’s the one we seem to put the most emphasis on. I can understand why it happens. Reading about someone falling in love is akin to falling in love yourself and falling in love is a heart-poundingly terrifying and wonderful experience.

But do you know what is also awesome? Having a friend to be there if that romance turns sour. Having that person there that you know is there for you purely because they choose to be there for you and not some chemical or physical reaction. So why is it friendship is so often brushed aside in place of a romantic relationship? Why is it girls and boys can’t be friends without there being some underlying romantic reason?*

You’re probably wondering what brought this topic to my mind. (Okay, you’re probably not, but just play along.) It actually hit me while I was watching season one of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and I realized that despite the fact that there are two perfectly attractive girls and three (and then four) perfectly attractive guys, there is very little romantic interaction between them. Yeah, Tommy and Kim might make eyes at each other every once and awhile, but that’s about it.

When Trini climbs up a mountain to save Billy, she doesn’t do it because she’s expecting a kiss at the end.** Jason lets Kim and Trini cling to his arms without the hint of anything more than a friend wanting to comfort two friends. They support each other and cheer each other on because they’re friends. And it was so WEIRD for me because I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen that.

When trying to think of boy/girl friendships in YA fiction I could only think of three: Harry/Hermione from Harry Potter, Clary/Simon from The Mortal Instruments, and Katniss/Gale from The Hunger Games. Already, I think, you can see the problem.

Harry and Hermione were never romantically involved. Harry never once hinted that he had any feelings for Hermione, and considering the entire series is from his perspective, you’d think we’d have seen something.*** Then again, we really didn’t see anything about his feelings for Ginny until it was too late, so there is that. This didn’t stop the Harry/Hermione shippers! S. S. Harmony is still one of the biggest ships out there because it seems we cannot accept that girls and guys can really be just friends.

Clary and Simon, on the other hand, actually do have a romantic relationship. Not only does this propagate the idea that boys and girls can’t be friends without one or the other having ulterior motives but it also forwards the idea that once a guy makes it into the “friend zone” they can never make it out again. Why would guys try to be the nice guy, the Simon, if all girls want is the new and exciting Jace?

Finally, Katniss and Gale probably come the closest to messing with this stereotype while completely following it at the same time. Katniss and Gale’s relationship began on mutual respect. And, you know what? I’d be totally okay with that growing into love. I think romance should stem from friendship. I think your partner should be your best friend. But it would have been so nice to just see a boy and a girl have a friendship without stupid hormones and feelings getting in the way.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy romantic relationships in YA. In many books they turn into my favourite part of the book or even the only aspect of the book I actually enjoyed, but I think that’s because too many writers are focusing on that aspect of life. There is more to life than romance, but just try to find a popular YA novel without it.

*exception: one of them is gay, but how often homosexuality is represented in YA is probably a topic for another post and for someone much better read than me

**Also, how awesome is it that a GIRL saves the GUY for once?

*** He thinks of her as pretty, like, once or something at the Yule Ball, but really I can’t think of anything else. Can you?

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About megtao

Student. Writer. Nerdfighter. Fights for love, justice, and awesome.
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35 Responses to Unpopular Opinion: On Friendship with Boys

  1. I have to say, I’m totally guilty of this. I have a hard time writing in friendships that don’t have a romantic involvement sooner or later. I’ve tried writing about the friends who stay friends before. It never turns out the way I want it to….

    • megtao says:

      Well you-know-who and you-know-who could have been just friends but then you turned him into a douche for some reason 😛

      Though, you definitely had a friendship element (that could be more emphasized in later drafts *hint hint*) with you-know-who and the you-know-whats, but part of that is because you-know-who was off-limit because of You-Know-Who.

      /cryptic comment

  2. Candice says:

    I love that you say this is an “unpopular opinion.” While I am all for romance and falling in love, the “bad boys” that our girls always seem to fall for… there’s something wonderfully genuine about a guy friend. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one of those people who believe that friendships between girls and boys can be platonic… I think we all fall for our friends of opposite sex at least once in our lives – mainly because chances are, they personify what we want in a partner, whether we date that type of person or not. There’s SOMETHING that draws you to that person, even if it’s not initially (or ever) love.
    Dorky best friend who is in love with the girl aside (because that seems to be the popular stereotype), I find that of all the relationships I love most out of literature, those that start out as genuine friends (meaning no romantic relationship whatsoever) are the best relationships. I’m not one who lives for passion, so the idea of being with someone who loves you for just being you and has seen you at your weakest or that one time you had the flu and wore the same sweatpants for a week makes me more tingly excited than the swooniest of love.
    I think I might have strayed from the main topic of your post… but yeah. I think friendships are the best relationships and, while I still want romance in my novels, I love when boys and girls are friends… almost more than I love when they’re more than friends!

    • megtao says:

      Well, it’s called that because 1. that’s just what I call the weekly segment of my opinion posts and 2. the majority of novels (and other media) show this, so I guess that means you go against the popular opinion too, at least in part.

      I have had multiple platonic relationships with guys where I never wanted anything more than friendship, so I can guarantee that it happens XD

      And I agree that friendship make the best romance, I just wish that they showed the friendship for friendship sake side too.

  3. K says:

    Maybe this is just bitter experience talking, but I can’t seem to be just friends with a guy. Not without me explicitly stating that “really, let’s just be friends”, and even then there were some borderline uncomfortable moments. Which really sucked because our friendship, while it lasted, was great, and we had a lot to talk about.

    I’m saying this because, while I am as sick with the disposable best friend romantic interest trope as anyone else, I can’t help but feel a little on the defensive. Whenever these friendships-turned-secondary romances happen, it’s always implied it is the girl’s fault, and again, that it is the girl’s fault when they fall apart. I’m just saying, sometimes girls REALLY, REALLY want to be just friends. I’m saying this because I struggled very much with this, and it really upsets me when the blame is heaped on the woman.

    Katniss in particular didn’t seek out Gale’s romantic interest. Romance takes a back seat in The Hunger Games, which I always admired Collins for, but I hate it when the love triangle is discussed and Katniss is made out to be the source of all evil.

    • megtao says:

      Yeah, I saw something on tumblr a little while ago about people blaming Katniss for Gale and Peeta and stuff and it’s like…no. Gale started the feelings thing. Katniss would have been fun just hunting and caring for their families and then Gale messed it all up. And Peeta was all like “because she came with me” basically forcing Katniss into this relationship. Really, she never had a choice. As much as I’m a Peeta fangirl, I wish Katniss had chosen to be on her own or someone unrelated to all the drama just so that she could have made her own choice.

  4. One of my very best friends is a guy and I consider him a younger brother. We’re close. He’s one of the first people that I tell my secrets to. Of course, to everyone else, this meant that we must have romantic feelings for each other, while we have none. The amount of times our other friends have tried to get us to “confess” is pretty unreal and has gotten steadily more irritating as time has gone on.

    On the other side of the coin, I understand where the cliche develops from because I have a close guy friend who doesn’t know that I know that he used to have a crush on me. He told people. They told me. I don’t feel that way about him. I’d avoid him for a while or change the subject if it got into “danger” territory. And I think that we’re still friends now because of it.

    But those options are rarely explored in novels and it’s something that drives me crazy. Despite that though, when writing, since I’m a sucker for romance, the boy on the scene is usually the love interest. I kind of want to make an effort to work this issue into a future novel.

    (I’m about to go on rambly rambles about TV now)

    Obviously, it runs rampant on television too. Right now, I have a soft spot for Gossip Girl, so I’ll use that example. (Side note: I haven’t read the books so I have no idea if the following occurred just on the TV drama or the books as well). Dan has been developing a friendship with Blair over the past season or so. When it started, it made me so happy because it really seemed like the writers were doing what is almost never done (applause for Lucas and Haley back on the OTH days, but…): making a close friendship between a guy and a girl platonic. HALLELUJAH. Imagine how disgusted I became when Dan turned to pining after Blair (who is also his ex-girlfriend’s BFF). He hangs on as a friend. These days, they’re STILL drawing this out amidst Blair’s terrible royal marriage, her love for Chuck, and maybe feelings for Dan now too. It just irritates the hell out of me.

    I’m holding out hope for Jane by Design right now: her best friend is a boy. Still it’s a new show and they’re already dropping hints about them turning to more so that hope is fading quickly.

    And now, as you pointed out, there’s the issue of books. I’ve turned to my bookshelf and– besides the ones that you pointed out– there are few things that I can offer. As You Wish is a good novel, but while Viola has a friendship with a boy, he’s also her ex-boyfriend who has recently come out of the closet.

    • megtao says:

      haha so As you Wish manages to fit both stereotypes: girls and guys can’t be friends and they can only be friends when one is gay XD XD XD wow

      I feel bad because as a kid I totally remember teasing two of my friends (one boy and one girl) about how they should admit that they liked each other. Oh children…

      Tamora Pierce has some failed love interests that become friends…that’s about the closest we get, probably XD

      • Oh, children… and ohhhhh, society haha. 😉

        Yeahhhhh Jon/Alanna and Beka/Rosto occurred to me while commenting, but since they started shippy, I didn’t mention it. I think that you’re right and they’re the closest we get.

    • megtao says:

      Great minds think alike! oh oh oh! um the Circle of Magic series. There’s some purely friendship in there right? Maybe… no wait…two of them fall in love and one becomes gay…I think. It’s been awhile since I read them.

  5. Tamara says:

    I agree with you on all counts!

    When I have a big cast, my stories lend themselves to plenty of friendships – in fact, that’s exactly what’s happening in my current WiP. Of course, I’m sure plenty of people will ship all kinds of pairs in it, but I’ve only got one relationship planned and it’s not even with the MC.

    I feel better that there’s at least one person who’s specifically looking for something like this, lol.

    Great post!

    • megtao says:

      Yeah, I always fall into the trap of shipping all the ships XD But I am super excited for your WIP! I would have read it anyway 😛 BUT FRIENDSHIP YAY!

  6. arepg says:

    Thank you for this great post! This is also one of my pet peeves, and it leads to the knee-jerk assumption that any time there are characters who *could* be romantically attached they will necessarily end up that way. One of my absolute favorite boy/girl friendship books where the relationship is totally non-romantic is Say Goodnight, Gracie, by Julie Reece Deaver.
    —Rebecca
    crunchingsandmunchings.wordpress.com

  7. SailorEm says:

    I loved this post! You put into words the exact same idea that I’m in love with. All of my books will feature the one prominant theme of relationships (with friends and family) but focusing most on friendship. I feel like it’s so forgotten in literature these days! Yes, I enjoy a romance ship, but I tend to love the bromances or best friend I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself ships tons more. Arg, I love you for this!!! Also, lol I wondered if you’d bring Harry Potter into this when I saw the topic 😉

    • megtao says:

      I bring Harry Potter into anything 😉

      I definitely liked the friendship aspect of your WIP and would love for more of it ❤

      • SailorEm says:

        Hahaha you wouldn’t be Coffee and Wizards if you didn’t! 😛

        And thank you! I do eventually plan to have Gerin get together by book 4 (and books 1-3 are solely friendship) because like you said, romance should bloom from friendship and that they *should* be your best friend. But other than them, the rest of it is like BAM family BAM friendship BAM do I trust them? BAM I do. BAM solid friendship triumphs over everything. ARG I so connect with this post!!

  8. Heidi says:

    This is actually one of the reasons I read a lot of Middle Grade, I like to see a focus on friendship over romance. Sure, I like the romance too, but does it have to be in everything? I agree that Harry/Hermoine is probably the best example of a guy and a girl just being friends, and hey, as someone whose best friends have always been boys, I like to see this (yeah, I’ve had THOSE train wrecks, but a lot of great completely platonic relationships as well). Also, it’s not just a lack of focus on guy/girl friendships, it’s a lack of focus on friendship all together. Girl/girl, guy/guy, girl/guy, whatever, it’s not around a lot these days. I’m reading Gil Marsh at the moment, which is all about strong friendship, and really enjoying it because of that. Great topic!

    • megtao says:

      I want a middle grade book with characters who are my age, is that too much to ask?

      And yes, I agree. I actually have plans to address the girl/girl friendship in a future post 🙂

  9. As always, LOVE your post for this series on your blog. It’s true! Friendship is one of the relationships I feel that gets taken for granted in YA, especially if it’s a boy-girl relationship. I do have to say that I think Harry-Hermione is a prime example, in my opinion 😉

  10. Emily says:

    OH MY GOD, this is one my biggest pet peeves. Currently I’m trying to read more YA that’s focused on friendships and not romantic relationships, particularly between girls and guys. I just finished reading the Chaos Walking Trilogy and yeah, a romance technically develops, but because of everything Todd and Viola have been through for the entire series, it does not register that much because these two had the best relationship of any type prior to that, so adding romance really didn’t matter all that much.

    And yes, Tamora Pierce’s books are excellent examples! In PoTS, Kel and Neal are the best of friends, as are the protagonists of the Circle of Magic books.

    • megtao says:

      I just read the first book of the Chaos Walking trilogy, and I totally saw the romantic relationship from the beginning. Maybe that’s me just falling into the same trap I’m describing in my post where we can’t have a hetero male and female character without automatically assuming they are romantically linked.

      Don’t Kel and Neal end up together too? (It’s been awhile since I’ve read Protector of the Small.) I was just saying something about the Circle of Magic books in the comments. Isn’t there a romantic relationship between two of the characters? And then one of them ends up gay? y/n?

      • Emily says:

        You have a point, the fact that we were pre-conditioned to expect the romance in the Chaos Walking trilogy does say something about how we read such characters and their relationship. In this case, there was so much else to their relationship *besides* the romance that it was easy for me to ignore it entirely.

        Kel and Neal do not end up together; Kel is actually the only Tortall heroine to not be in a romantic relationship with anyone at the end of the series. (Neal is betrothed to Yuki.) In the Circle Books, so far there has been no romantic relationship between any of the members, although I think there is some suspicion that one will develop between Briar and Tris eventually. At this point though, they’re still all friends and family.

  11. Samantha says:

    Just, EVERYTHING about this post. (I was actually going to write a post about this but you beat me to it – they were some of thoughts that were swirling around in my head for my Valentine’s Day post that I never wrote.)

    I’m on such a big look-out at the moment for anything that focuses on friendship first, whether it be girl/girl, boy/girl, or boy/boy. I’m reading The Future of Us at the moment, and I’m really hoping that Josh and Emma’s friendship doesn’t develop into anything else, because they just WORK SO WELL as friends.

    I think it’s why I’m concentrating so much on Li, Zach, and Justin’s friendship in my WIP. And Li and Cecily’s friendship, as well, it’s clear that they’ve tried the relationship thing but they chose to be friends instead.

    • megtao says:

      AHAHAHA BEAT YOU TO IT :PPPP

      The Future of Us is my next read as soon as I’m done Crossed! So I’ll know what you’re talking about soon.

      I’m so glad you’re still working on that! I adore Li so much.

      • Samantha says:

        Hee, I know you do! I was reading through the excerpts that I’d put up on LJ, and you’re comments, and you’re such a Li fangirl. XD He’s totally going to be yours and no one else will be allowed near him, lol. 😛

  12. Oh my God, girl. THIS POST ROCKS! I feel you completely on these points. I miss having great friendships in YA. They’re just not as present in the category as they used to be.

    “Yes, love is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the only relationship in someone’s life”

    THIS. THIS!!! Why does it always have to be about finding true love? There are SO many more life experiences to write and read about as well.

  13. Romance in books is my favorite part of the story usually…I’m horrible.

    I’ll be honest. I wish I was able to form more friendships with people. I struggle with that in real life…I’m not a very outgoing person. Maybe I need someone to write a young adult book to teach me how to make friends, lol.

    MIGHTY MORPHING POWER RANGERS! It’s on Netflix, so my 4 & 5 year olds are able to enjoy it now as well, lol.

    I do agree with you that we need more friendships in YA. Maybe they are out there but no one is reading/enjoying them as much as the romance books? Me and Earl and The Dying Girl that I read recently is about relationships with friends…no romance really from what I can remember.

    • megtao says:

      Liking romance doesn’t make you horrible! In many books, romance is my favourite part as well. It’s because that’s all we’re giving nowadays. An okay romance and semi-decent writing/plot sells.

      I understand. I have difficulty forming friends too. I never feel like I have anything in common with people.

  14. I find the constant romance and unwarranted shipping in YA novels so annoying! Within one of my own works, to ensure a male/female friendship wouldn’t be miscontrued I amde them closely related. But to be honest, such a measure shouldn’t be necessary for a reader to see only a friendship rather than a romance.

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