Late last night, after having dinner with a group of old and new friends, I watched a re-run of Sex in the City. As I watched the characters Carrie, Samantha and the others interact, I realized that the show was popular not because of the sex, or even the city, but because of the friendship between these four women. They had this wonderful bond that spanned years and they knew everything about each other, just like a family.
In the 1990s shows like Friends and Seinfeld shared much of this same charm. These shows were about groups of friends whose bond, spanned years. In the new millennium, That 70s Show became popular for the same reason. We liked watching Fez, Donna and the others interact and support each other over the years.
From the 1960s to the late 1980s family bonds dominated the sit-com world with Leave it to Beaver, Good Times, Family Ties, Eight is Enough and many others. The media’s transition from family bonds to the bonds between friends became evident in the 1990s. This reflects much about our society in the United States. As more family members traveled, moved about and relocated, friends became the new families. My own family has been stretched over many states and even countries and my friends were often my only support group.
As social animals, we need that pack support and if we live too far from family, or do not have much family support, we create a new one. Many of my LGBT friends have built their own families through groups of friends and/or more traditional ways such as marriage. In the past, many bigots tried to isolate LGBT from friends and family by ridiculing them, vilifying them and shaming people who supported them. In the 1990s, the bullies would use hate speech such as Fag Hag, if a straight woman dared to hang out with her gay friends. If a straight woman hung out with her lesbian friends, the bigots would spread rumors to punish her. The same thing would happen to a straight man, if he dared support his gay friends.
Since these social groups, whether they are friends or family, are so important to us, we need to build and strengthen these bonds. We must be more inclusive and nurture the relationships. It is not always easy, granted. We all have our quirks and temperaments and egos and cannot agree all of the time, or even get along all of the time, but if you have already built a real friendship, and if the person has not harmed the friendship beyond repair, then hang on to them. Don’t let the bullies and bigots socially isolate you or anyone from friends and family. We can’t just watch television.