Monday, October 31, 2011

Girlfriends Rule, Boyfriends Drool…right?

Friendship continues to inspire me today just as much as it did when I was younger, and I know it shapes everything I write.  Mostly because I think it’s that important! 
I agree with Melissa that teens today have it so much better when it comes to reading material.  I love the fact that they don’t have to read up or read down but can find any book in their age range that fits a need.
YA does dominate the bookshelves.  But what I wish teen girls today had are books that encourage real friendships—deep friendships that would never end in a figurative knife in the back. 
I have to admit that I’ve always been jealous of the boy friendships depicted in movies and books.  Look at The Outsiders.

“We’re all we have left. We ought to be able to stick together against everything. If we don’t have each other, we don’t have anything.” 

Even though the story doesn’t have a complete happily-ever-after ending, I was so touched and moved by those friendships.  And Stand By Me.  Same thing.  All that fist bumping and having each other’s backs?  Jealous once again. 

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve."

Then I realized my jealousy was because there aren’t that many girl movies out there like that. We have Mean Girls.  We have Gossip Girl.  The Clique.  We have a bunch of movies and shows where girls stab each other in the back every other minute while pretending to be the best of friends.  Don’t girls get sick of seeing that?  Aren’t they better than that?  Don’t they deserve the movies where girls see each other through the hard times together?      
That idea is what inspires me to write YA books where there are strong friendships among girls. 
I remember my grandmother telling me that boys would come and go, but friendships are the relationships that last.  And she was so right.  I hated when friends would ditch you on the weekend at the last minute because a guy entered the picture.  I never did that.  I was more likely to ditch the guy if a friend invited me for a sleepover.  Because I remembered those words, and I took them to heart. 
Girls today have so many possibilities.  They’re endless.  They live in a world where women can become anything they aspire to be—including President.  They live in a world where they can make as much, or even more, than men.  Yet despite the advances made for the feminism movement, we’ve still not taught our daughters the true value of friendship.  That it’s the one thing that will see them through tough times—through heartbreaks, through family troubles, through basic life issues.

You take the good, you take the bad…

 Like the Facts of Life.  Remember that one?  Maybe I’m dating myself here, but I sure do.  There was some type of lesson to be learned during the show, and it was clear.  It’s not that I expect my daughters or teen girls to get a morality lesson in every show they watch, but, come on!  Give them something more!  I see bratty girls being catty, talking on their cell phones and acting…well, a bit…let’s face it… bitchy
Recently, I was talking to a friend who made me feel very sad when she admitted that she thinks these shows are completely realistic—that girls are “just like that.”  I wonder how it works.  Do girls stab each other in the back and act bitchy because that’s just the way we grow up or are the more popular programs showcasing this kind of behavior and they think it’s the right way for girls to act to each other? 
Walnut Grove’s resident “Mean Girl”
Back when I watched television shows, Nellie Oleson in Walnut Grove was about the meanest girl you could possibly imagine, and everyone loved to hate her.  But the difference back then was that the viewers knew they were supposed to hate her.  She was mean!  She was snobby!  She looked down her nose at Laura’s little house on the prairie.  She treated Laura Ingalls like crap!  Nowadays, so many characters act in a similar way, and that’s “just the way girls are.”  I don’t believe it!  And neither should teen girls.  Being mean and snobby are NOT good characteristics.  And they shouldn’t look up to girls who act like that—whether there’s canned laughter in the background of the show or not.  It’s still not funny to be mean—no matter what.
What movies, sitcoms and/or books do you think shows girls in a group of friends where they all have each other’s backs and help each other through difficult times?  I remember feeling like this was reflected at the slumber party in Grease—a bunch of girls getting together, bonding over girlie stuff until I realized they were bonding by making fun of Sandy while she was sick in the bathroom after trying desperately to fit in. 
“Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee!”
I love to write books where there are strong female friendships because I think that’s a major area overlooked in YA.  I definitely believe in girl power and true friendships, but girls shouldn't have to search for them.  They should just be there. 
Besides Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl Series, can anyone think of books that have a group of girls who are friends that don’t stab each other in the back every other chapter?  Or in the case of television, every single show?  Where are the positive friendship models? 

What was your favorite show, movie or book about girls being stronger together than by themselves? And if you have to think hard to find a couple, what does that say?
Here’s to girls!  Because if we can harness all that emotion, all that love and all that loyalty and give it to our friends…watch out!  Because girls really will rule the world.  Then the boys can drool.  J
"Men kick friendship around like a football, but it doesn't seem to crack. Women treat it like glass and it goes to pieces."
                                                          - Anne Morrow Lindbergh



CareyCorp said...

Hi Kim. I love girl friendship-power stories. And there are not enough. My favorite, and the one that leaps to mind, is THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS.

Kimberly said...

Can you believe I've never read or seen that??
That's my goal for this weekend. Read it, then watch it. Thanks for giving me a good example.
I really want my girls to have a good example of some Girl Power!!! :-)

Avery Flynn said...

Great post Kim. I know it's not YA but I think the Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood shows the power of friendships too.

Kimberly said...

Definitely, Avery!
That's just the kind of book/movie I was thinking about! Love the history of the characters, growing up together, having each other's backs through it all.
I loved that one!

Kerri Carpenter said...

What a great post and an interesting issue. As an adult, I'm addicted to watching the Real Housewives. But when you think about it, it's really just a show about women putting each other down, being mean and bitchy.

My favorite book series when I was a preteen was the Babysitter's Club. Seven friends who babysat and shared experiences. Ahhh, I want to go back and read them now. So good!

Kimberly said...

Thanks Kerri for reminding me of the Babysitter's Club. That's what I'm talking about! Where are the new stories!? I want that again. I love reminiscing about the "good 'ole days."
I must seem ancient in these posts. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Maureen Johnson does a great job, I think, of showing strong female friendships in all of her books. Even in The Last Little Blue envelope, where Ginny could choose to be horrible to Ellis, and vice versa she's not -- it's Keith who acts catty and awful, not the girls. Libba Bray's Beauty Queens is a great one, too, as we watch the girls move from competitive and backstabby to a place of genuine friendship and trust.

But as you pointed out, I really had to think about it for a bit before I could come up with those examples. Food for thought, definitely.

Lorie Langdon said...

I love your post, Kim. I agree that there are very few shows or books out right there now depicting the power of friendship. iCarly is one show that I think does a good job with this theme, despite the girls being very different they always have each other’s backs! Like Carey, I love the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and would highly recommend it. :-)

Lea Nolan said...

This post is full of brilliant, shiny awesomeness! You are so right. I'm having a tough time thinking of shows and books that feature strong relationship between girls, where they have each other's back no matter what. I've written one of these kinds of relationships (in Benevolence), I loved my heroine's best friend, Morgan. She was the ideal best friend--strong, supportive, kind and willing to put herself out there to help the main character, Lizzie. Unfortunately, my second book doesn't have room for this kind of relationship (and thankfully, there aren't any mean girls either). But this is definitely an issue I'm going to think about for the future.

Kimberly said...

I agree with The Last Little Blue Envelope, but more for me it's about groups of girls. They are the WORST! It used to be that boys were the bullies, but now, if you ask at any of the's girls. Cliques of girls are the worst!
I'll have to check out your other recommendations.
Thanks so much!

Kimberly said...

I used to hate ICarly because of Sam. I hated her. Now, after watching it more, I do like it. I now let my girls watch it again since I've seen their friendship in action. But, we do have to discuss that even if you don't have the best home life around, you still need to be held accountable for being mean to others.
Most of those after school shows for younger teens are just AWFUL!

Kimberly said...

As I've read your wonderful book, I do agree with you that the friends have each other's backs, but I'm talking more about groups of girls. Kind of like a little brat pack...
Two friends getting along is done fine in books and movies, but once girls are in groups of three or more, WATCH OUT!!!! Bitchiness just seems to flow.

Melissa Landers said...

Blogger has it in for me, because it's eaten my reply TWICE today.

Le sigh. What I've been trying to say is that I pink-puffy-heart love this post. My friendships were (for the most part) warm and genuine, and I hate the mean girl cliche that abounds in YA today. I mean, sure, there are horrible catty girls out there, but there are also assholio boys. It's all about the friends you choose to associate with.

Tameka said...

I LOVE this post! I've had a story idea for a group of close girlfriends running through my head for a long time. My female friendships are what got me through youth and early adulthood and still sustain me now.

Another good girl power friendship movie is from the 90s. It's called Now and Then and stars Christina Ricci. It's super sweet and poignant and takes place in the 70s.

Kimberly said...

That's the whole problem in a nutshell. Guys can be total jerks, but they do it right out in the open with everyone knowing about it. Girls are more sneaky about it, and that's what clearly leaves scars for many years to come. On the surface many girls SEEM nice, but the way they treat other girls is just plain awful.
I have three daughters, and I'm already cringing at some of the things they tell me girls say and do to each other. Boys? Yeah. Not so much. They throw a few punches and they're back to knuckle bumping the next day.

Kimberly said...

Now and Then is awesome. It's probably the only story I could even think of that shows the growth of friendship from an early age.
Hats off to you and your idea! It's clearly so much easier to write about it when you've had such a positive experience yourself! You're a very lucky girl to have had friends like that! I'm a tad bit jealous.

Vanessa Barneveld said...

Hi, Kim! Great post. Ooh, I'm humming 'The Facts of Life' theme song now! Loved that series.

You're so right--a lot of recent books, films and TV focus on antagonistic friendships. I'm glad you're reversing this trend.

'Beaches' comes to mind as example of an enduring friendship between girls/women. It's a rocky relationship at times, though. The movie makes me cry every time, though the book left me dry-eyed. Maybe I'm easily manipulated by soundtrack music!

PJ Sharon said...

Awesome post and soooo true. I loved Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants which showcased just how important the bonds of friendship are. I grew up reading Nancy Drew Mysteries where Nancy's pals were always backing her up. I reveled in those sisterly relationships because I was the youngest of five girls and saw both sides (the cattiness and the comraderie--depending on the day).

As a teenager, I clung to the few close girlfriends I had and knew I could trust to have my back. I'm still friends with the girl I went to kindergarten with and I am best friend to the tall gangly girl who moved into the neighborhood in fifth grade.

I love that you are writng more stories for girls to see what real relationships should be. Keep it up!

Kimberly said...

Thanks so much for stopping by. I, too, can't get through Beaches without crying.
But, that, too is a friendship between two girls that grows throughout their lives. Not multiple girls. And, that, my friend, is the sticky part when it comes to girls. They don't tend to do well in groups of girls.
Your three friends in Call Me Crazy do a pretty good job of it, but, hey, that's fiction. LOL.
We need more stories like that.

Kimberly said...

I'm going to write a story, and you're going to be my heroine. At least based on what you said. Hats off to you and your friendships! I think that's inspiring.
My youngest daughter Shannon is also the youngest of five, and she also sees both sides. I call her my "edgy" kindergartener because she sees it all. :-) But now I have hope for her!