For as long as men and women have been being friends, people have been asking, can men and women be friends? Like, really, truly friends... Without sexual tension or romantic difficulties arising to spur the abrupt, uncomfortable ends of such friendships—or change them to something new? Can men and women get over all of the tricky humps of being two people who otherwise might presumably be attracted to each other (or not) and therefore just be simply friends? Can men and women be, essentially, adults who value each other without throwing the complications of "other messy stuff" into it? And if we can't be, what do we lose?
William Deresiewicz tackled this question in The New York Times over the weekend, asking, "Can men and women be friends? We have been asking ourselves that question for a long time, and the answer is usually no." Deresiewicz, a critic and author, cites reasons political (traditionally, men and women did not even hang out, much less attempt pal-hood) and pop culture (the touchstone here for people of a certain age, of course, is When Harry Met Sally...). Maybe, he says, "the sex part" does get in the way—but at the same time, with little in terms of media or social bolstering of heterosexual male-female friendships, how do we even know how to have these friendships, or that we can? Deresiewicz notes (correctly) that Hollywood tends to put forth the idea of the male/female friends who grow close and then end up together romantically, as well, as something of a love ideal: You know, the one who was right in front of your face the whole time. We see this in movies: Most recently, with The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen, whose best friend is Gale, her hunting companion, though clearly he thinks there's more once he sees her kissing someone else, and maybe she does, too. Going further back, you have the female character in Some Kind of Wonderful, played by Mary Stuart Masterson —her best friend, a guy, has no idea that she is in love with him...until the movie's happy end. Or Duckie and Andie Walsh in Pretty in Pink, a case where the boy has the crush while the girl loves another, and there's a different kind of happy/sad end.