We all have our favorite and least favorite tropes. From love triangles to slow burns, tropes are often the best ways to showcase great characters and storylines. They can also be frustrating and make you question why it is even a trope at all. In this bi-weekly column, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most classic television tropes.
In my last column, I wrote about first kisses. Not only do I adore them, but they’re also some of my favorite moments in television.
I also wrote about George and Izzie from Grey’s Anatomy and how I loathed that relationship. Not because their first kiss was bad but because they decided to take that leap from friends to lovers — a leap I did not agree with. Rather than keeping the friendship, Grey’s Anatomy made the assumption that these two characters couldn’t possibly be just friends. They must have had some deeper feelings for one another because how could a male and female be just platonic.
As someone who has a male best friend, it bothers me when the media continues to promote this narrative that two people can’t possibly remain friends without developing romantic feelings for one another. It’s almost as if they’re saying that a friendship isn’t sacred unless it turned romantic and that being just friends is boring.
Sure, friends fall for each other all the time and there are actually a few friends-to-lovers relationships on television that I quite enjoy. While George and Izzie make me cringe just thinking about them, Monica and Chandler in Friends is a perfect example of how great this trope can be. The difference between these two relationships was that Monica and Chandler felt natural — they weren’t just randomly shoved in our faces.
I think the reason this trope worked so well with Chandler and Monica because there wasn’t a whole lot of drama involved. They simply hooked up, continued to sleep together, and then fell in love. Even the small love triangle between Monica, Richard, and Chandler didn’t matter because you knew that they would end up together no matter what. It probably helped that Friends was a comedy, therefore it didn’t have nearly as much as the pettiness that comes with an hour-long drama.
Jim and Pam from The Office and Amy and Jake from Brooklyn Nine-Nine are other great examples of friends-to-lovers that also happened to come from a comedy series. Maybe that’s just a coincidence but I think it’s because series like Grey’s Anatomy tend to drown couples in their own drama.
However, that’s not to say that dramas can’t pull off this trope. In fact, there is one couple that surprisingly I haven’t talked a whole lot about yet I love them immensely. Fitz and Simmons from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are honestly one of the best couples out there and a fantastic example of friends-to-lovers.
We all knew these two dorks were meant for each other in the pilot episode yet years went by without anything actually happening. Fitz pretty much knew that he loved Simmons since the moment he saw her, but it took a near-death experience for him to actually admit his feelings. And even then, things got complicated and nothing came to fruition. When they finally were about to go on their first date, Simmons was sucked into space. It was an uphill journey but it paid off in the end.
Seeing their relationship evolve from academy friends to lab partners to husband and wife is one of the reasons why I’ll forever claim them as one of the best, yet underrated Marvel couples. They fought tooth and nail to be together and my heart can’t help but skip a beat whenever I think of them.
I also believe there is a certain beauty in watching a friendship turn into something more. Or maybe I just love that particular moment when one character looks at the other with love in their eyes, finally realizing what they’ve been missing out on this whole time.
I recently watched Netflix’s new series Shadow & Bone (and if you haven’t already checked out all the amazing coverage of the show from Fangirlish, I highly recommend that you do) which features a couple that I never thought I would root for. At first, I thought I would be all for the Darkling and Alina as I am a huge sucker for any relationship that involves the “bad boy”. Of course, I could see potential in Alina and her best friend, Mal, but my eyes were set on this other relationship.
However, as the show progressed, I found myself slowly inching my way towards wanting these two best friends to get together, romantically. After seeing Mal do whatever it took to rescue Alina, I knew there was something special about these two. While they didn’t technically become romantic at the end of the first season, we all know that’s where they are headed.
I am curious how one comes to the decision to step over that friendship line. What questions run through their minds to ultimately conclude that they want more than just a friendship. After all, friendships don’t lack benefits. You don’t have to be sleeping with someone to be able to confide in them, laugh with them or share life’s moments. So what is it about a romantic relationship that makes people want to gamble their friendship to pursue?
Since I’ve never experienced this type of relationship, I can only make assumptions based on what I see on television. It is nice to be able to kiss your best friend and be with them 24/7. I guess that’s just what everyone wants, right? Or at least that’s what these characters strived to accomplish when they jumped over that line.
It’s also not always sunshine and rainbows, however. There are some instances in which friends-to-lovers simply don’t work out. While Friends gave us Monica and Chandler, it also gave us the borderline toxic relationship of Ross and Rachel. These two were also friends (perhaps acquaintances is a better word) for years before they ever got together. And when they did finally lock lips, nothing but heartbreak followed. They’re a good example that while it can be worth trying some new things out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right decision long-term.
Of course, relationships are complicated in both television and real life. It would be unjust for a series to hide from that fact. So despite how messy some of these friends to lovers relationships can be, I’m at least happy they’re shown. Well, most of the time.