Friendships between Black women are an important aspect of the Black community. From healthy to toxic friendships, Black female friendships showcase our complexity. Friends fight but at the end of the day, they still love each other. This is an important message highlighted in Black female-centered television shows like Girlfriends and Insecure.
Black female friendships in television can be traced back to the 90’s sitcom Living Single. Living Single focused on a Black friend group: Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), Synclaire James-Jones (Kim Coles), Regine Hunter (Kim Fields), and Maxine ‘Max’ Shaw (Erika Alexander). The ladies played four friends who lived in New York as they navigated romance, friendship, and careers. Living Single has been applauded for its healthy representation of female Black friendships onscreen.
Living Single is available to stream on Hulu.
In the 2000s, a new Black sitcom, Girlfriends, took over after Living Single; showcasing a different look at Black female friendships. Girlfriends focused on a mixed batch of Black women who face life’s tests and triumphs together. From dating to divorce, Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross), Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks), Lynn Searcy (Persia White), and Toni Childs (Jill Marie Jones), support each other despite their differing backgrounds. All while learning about true friendship in the process.
Girlfriends has been critiqued for its complex representation of female friendship in the characters of Toni and Joan. Fans of the series are torn between whether or not Toni and Joan have a toxic friendship. Throughout the series, the two women backstab each other and disrespect each other’s boundaries multiple times. This is the main argument as to why fans of the show believe that Joan and Toni are an example of a toxic friendship. Other fans disagree, stating that Toni and Joan love each other at the end of the day despite their petty shenanigans. Whichever side you are on, it’s impossible to argue that Girlfriends doesn’t capture the complexity of Black female friendships.
Girlfriends is available to stream on Netflix.
In 2016, Issa Rae’s premiered Insecure, a series about a Black woman navigating her career and relationships in Los Angeles. One of the main relationships tackled in the show is between Issa and her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji).
The two women have been the topic of debate with the internet comparing the duo to Girlfriends Toni and Joan, debating which friendship is more toxic. While Issa and Molly have their bad moments in Insecure, they remain best friends until the end. Issa and Molly’s friendship in Insecure perfectly showcases the ups and downs of Black female friendships.
Insecure is available to stream on HBOmax.
With Insecure’s recent ending, many Black women are not only mourning the friendship of the main characters Issa and Molly, but also the moments where they get together with friends to talk about the breakups, reconciliations, and arguments we can all relate to. These newer series continue to showcase the everyday lives of Black friendships.
Run the World is the story of a group of Black women – vibrant, fiercely loyal best friends – who work, live, and play in Harlem as they strive for world domination. At its core, it’s an unapologetically female show about enviable friendships and not only surviving – but thriving together.” Created by Living Single show-runner Yvette Lee Bowser, viewers can see the similarities and influence of early 90’s Black female friendships.
Run the World is available to stream on Starz.
“Harlem follows four girlfriends who met while attending New York University and are now in their thirties, living in Harlem, as they try to balance love, life, and their careers as working professionals.” Both Run the World and Harlem follow after predecessors like Girlfriends and Living Single telling stories about Black women and the importance of Black female friendships.
Harlem is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
What is your favorite TV show centered around Black women?