Can men and women be friends? I would instantly respond to this notion that questioned the platonic relationship between men and women when I was younger but found my opinion to waiver as I became older. The evolving behavior and beliefs adults form through personal experiences and by instinct have to lead to multiple opinions on the matter, but the biological reaction seems to sway opinions at most.
Classrooms were divided into two groups with the fear of the cooties epidemic. Girls would go out to the field and play or create an occasional art studio open in the corner, while the boys would run over to the basketball court and pretend to enjoy the game to help keep up appearances. We were taught to believe boys and girls were completely different, but over time that would change. From middle school to high school, I began to think to have multiple girlfriends and guy friends was normal.
Why did this behavior change as soon as my friends became adults? Did the ticking click of marriage and kids have anything to do with it? Do men and women only remain friends until a certain time in life? What factors cause a friendship to become more than a platonic relationship? Which leads me to finally question how are male and female friendships displayed in mass media and what impact does it make to real-time relationships?
In 1989, When Harry Met Sally was released worldwide to moviegoers invested in the filmography of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The movie portrays an evolving friendship with hints of a romantic comedy. The opposition of a male and female relationship is immediately introduced when the audience, who is believed to assume the characters will become romantically involved, begin a long discussion of how men and women are unable to be friends “because the sex part always gets in the way.”
This causes audiences to reflect on times they would think about it, acted on it, or have it become a topic of discussion with a friend of the opposite sex. Viewers continue to see Crystal experience life as a divorcee in New York City and Ryan experience the single life after a breakup with a long-term boyfriend. Audiences get caught into the story with the witty behavior and classic comedy of adulthood. It’s not until a New Year’s Eve party that audiences are present to a potential shift in the relationship that is only left with a cordial kiss to celebrate the upcoming year. The viewers who had gotten used to their “friendship” are brought to reality that the relationship through a rhetorical perspective and struggle to come to a conclusion if becoming more than friends is a great decision.
While this confusion can be felt by viewers, the characters continue on with separate dating attempts until sex becomes involved. In a dramatic perspective, the rules of a platonic relationship are broken after Sally learns of her ex-boyfriend's call announcing his engagement. With both parties single and already in a friendship, the audience can approve of this change for the greater good of Harry and Sally finding a romantic relationship. This also creates a feeling of hope that the relationship will become successful due its components of love, respect, and friendship.
Eventually, even I started to root for the two to become more than a friend. The film’s message not only explains that male and female relationships can become complicated, but it portrays the idea that men and women will inevitably become more than friends, and it is perfectly fine to welcome a romantic relationship.
- What do you think about male and female friendships?
- Did your perspective on developing friendships of the opposite sex change as you grew older?
- How can men and women keep an open mind to the possibilities of a romantic relationship?