Big Friendship authors Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman recommend friendships stories
We went to a pair of friendship pros to ask about what pop culture friendship we should curl up with in quarantine.
This one goes out to anyone missing spending time with their friends.
To fill the void left by not hanging out with our friends, we went to Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, close friends who spend a lot of time thinking and talking about friendship, for recommendations for pop culture besties worth spending time with. Through their popular podcast Call Your Girlfriend and their recently released memoir Big Friendship, they are well-versed in the many facets of the topic.
They recommended great stories in film, on TV, and more about "big friendships." What makes a "big friendship" story? Exploring all the different areas of those with close bonds. They don't only include the great moments, but also "[show] two people who have human flaws working out how to continue to be in that friendship," Ann explains.
With more of these friendships in pop culture, Aminatou is excited about the current state of friendship storytelling. "It's a victory at all to see friendships celebrated on-screen. Obviously, early on, there was a lot of cheerleading and celebrating, which was really necessary," she shares, "I have been really excited to watch more and read more about complicated friendships.
From The Proud Family to Zadie Smith's Swing Town, here are their recommendations!
"There are so many podcasts I like because of the dynamic between the hosts who are clearly friends as well as collaborators," Ann Friedman explains, "That doesn't mean the shows are focused on friendship, literally, but the rapport between them is part of what makes the show so great."
A great example? The Read. "As we were starting to think about having our own podcast, our producer, Gina Delvac, recommended we listen to The Read, which predates. They have an incredible friendship and dynamic that I have really loved for a long time," Ann Friedman says.
The Proud Family
Aminatou is watching classic animated comedy The Proud Family and absolutely loving it!
"The friendship between Penny Proud and Dijonay Jones is iconic," she shares, "Everyone should take note. It's so it's a very, very sweet show, and honestly, even as someone in my mid-thirties, it's speaking to me on a really, really deep level."
For a Good Time, Call…
"I love this movie so much because it is about two frenemies joining forces to have fun, and at its core, it's really a classic romance story. Two friends meet, fall in love, lose each other, and get back together. The chemistry between those two women and just how it really turns the frenemy trope on the head is something that I really enjoyed." – Aminatou
Sula by Toni Morrison
"We have also talked a lot about both loving Toni Morrison's Sula and it being the blueprints for writing and talking about a friendship between two people that is so deep and so complicated," Aminatou shares.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
"There are so many great novels about complicated friendships," Aminatou explains, so as they wrote their memoir Big Friendship, there were "truly just endless, endless places to look to."
Zadie Smith's Swing Time is a prime example, one that has been on Aminatou's mind. "It's so intelligent, warm, and funny," she shares, "and it's packed to these interesting ideas about class and the experience being mixed race, and how competition and talent to succeed really can be a power imbalance in relationships."
"[Still Processing hosts] Jenna and Wesley just have the dream cultural critics, friend, duo dynamic that I really love. I will listen to the two of them talk about anything at all." Ann shares.
"Season four of Insecure is really one of the closest things that I've ever seen to some of the dynamics we explain in our book rendered on screen," Ann explains, "I have always liked the way [Insecure] places the friendship between Issa and Molly at the heart of the plot." After getting to know both characters and seeing them missing one another and getting in their own way while trying to reconnect adds to the complexity of their friendship, which feels closer to what friendship is actually like. "It felt relatable on this gut level to me, so that is a strong, recent recommendation on this," Ann adds.
After being encouraged to watch the latest season by Ann, Aminatou agrees that it is an excellent story about a big friendship. "All of the conversations that [the storyline] has sparked has been really interesting to hear, and I think the result is that it makes people less lonely,"
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film about a teenage girl who needs to travel to get an abortion. Ann highlights the movie as one who with "really beautiful big friendship themes at its core." "It's about what it's like to be a teen girl who is really relying on your friends," she adds, "the core of this movie, which is about making it through a really intense life challenge with the help of someone who has really stepped up for you, really just made me feel all of the feelings. I loved it so much, and I want everyone to watch it."
A Thing or Two
Aminatou recommends podcast A Thing or Two, hosted by their friends Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo. "[They] have both a friendship and a business relationship that we've always admired. Their podcast, A Thing or two, has always been really fun to listen to for that reason. The love between them is palpable, but they're also two people who work together and really curate a beautiful lifestyle together."
The Group by Mary McCarthy
"Right now on my nightstand, I'm reading Mary McCarthy's The Group," Aminatou shares about the 1930s set story about the lives of 8 women in New York.
"It's so funny to me that you can transpose a group of friends in almost any setting or almost any time and the dynamics are almost always the same," she shares, "There's so much to recognize, to cringe at, too much to want to run away from. It feels good and exciting that literature really is the place of friendship has been thriving for a long time."
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
Ann suggests Sigrid Nunez's The Friend, a fitting choice.
"[The Friend] is about a friendship that crosses gender lines and really grapples with what happens when there is a difference in power and privilege between two people in a friendship," Ann explains. She feels friendships we see in pop culture are often two people who are similar, and The Friend breaks away from that. "I also quite enjoyed it because the characters are older. They're quite a bit older than I am and therefore had a really different experience with the way friendship operates in the world. I think that a lot of this stuff changes generationally, and the expectations change, and so The Friend gave me a lot to think about on this front," she adds.
"[Another] TV show that explores really rich, complex, amazing and very textured friendship is Living Single.
"The relationship between Khadijah, Maxine, Regine, and Synclaire is great, and it's very adult. There is so much generosity of spirit, encouragement, and not shying away from having hard conversations. All four women get to be fully three-dimensional people, which rarely happens on TV. Seeing four very different black women have these very prominent roles on TV was a really formative experience and a really, really powerful experience."