As of midnight, the season finale of Julie Klausner’s Difficult People is available on Hulu. Not only is the show one of the sharpest, most unabashedly specific sitcoms in recent memory — it’s also, as others have already noted, one of the better representations of a friendship between a gay man and a straight woman onscreen.
While such depictions aren’t exactly rare, they’re also hard to get right without reducing either side to a cartoonish stereotype, or worse, the subject of a Very Special Episode. So in honor of Difficult People‘s excellent freshman season, we’ve collected ten fictional relationships that treat both parties like fully realized individuals. And no, Stanford and Carrie don’t count.
Ilana and Jaime, Broad City
“So I just want to say I’ve been social media stalking you since Jaime told me you were his… whatever, and I think you guys are diggity-diggity-dope, OK? Not like in a, like, ‘I can’t wait to officiate your gay wedding’ way, ’cause straight people always say that and it’s like, gross. It just fetishizing their gay friends and it’s, like, not cool. You know, maybe you guys won’t get married. Maybe you’ll just **** for a hot sec and move on and that is hot too and cool. So yeah, I just wanted to say that.”
“If I hadn’t been queer, we would have gotten married and had kids and all of that,” Mysterious Skin‘s Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) says of Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg, fresh off Buffy). Gregg Araki’s mid-aughts story of child abuse and its lasting impact, based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim, depicts Wendy as a friend who both accepts her friend’s trauma and understands how much it’s affected him. And as the center of the film, Neil transcends the trope of sex worker, particularly queer sex worker, as damaged victim to become the driving force of a bittersweet coming-of-age story.
Doris and Dom, Looking
Like Looking itself, Doris and Dom started off flat and evolved into a deeply affecting exploration of human relationships. As childhood friends who escaped to the city and have to navigate the transition from reckless youth to middle age, the two feel both specific and representative of a platonic codependence that’s rarely shown with the subtlety it deserves. Season 2 culminated with a friendship breakup of sorts, producing more tears from this particular viewer than any romantic pairing on the show.
Sam and Patrick, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A generation of teenage dirtbags had their feels validated by Stephen Chbosky’s novel and its exploration of teen sexuality. Narrator Charlie’s repressed trauma and nascent crush on his older friend Sam occupy center stage, but Sam and her stepbrother Patrick — particularly Patrick’s failed relationship with a closeted athlete — are treated with equal empathy. While Sam and Patrick’s relationship with each other isn’t explored much, it’s also taken for granted, which might be even better.
Harper Lee and Truman Capote, Capote
Weighed down by professional jealousy and an acute understanding of each other’s flaws, the friendship brought to life by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance and Catherine Keener’s Oscar-nominated one elevates Capote far above the boilerplate biopic. Lee’s understanding of her childhood friend’s questionable motives for following Perry Smith’s story so closely and Capote’s own complicated feelings about his friend’s overnight success reflect decades of companionship in less than two hours of running time.
Loras and Margaery, Game of Thrones
Probably the most functional sibling relationship on the show, not that that’s saying much. More importantly, Margaery is incredibly forward-thinking about Loras’ sexuality considering Westeros’ (literally) medieval mentality towards gay men, and while that’s partly because it proved politically expedient when it came to Renly Baratheon, she remains protective of him when he’s taken into custody. Also, the two make a mean alliance-building team.
Cher and Christian, Clueless
This is a controversial choice, considering that Christian is, at one point, reduced to an actual string of stereotypes — “a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand-ticket-holding friend of Dorothy,” to be precise. But his connection with Cher Horowitz is genuine; even if it is fortified with textbook GBF activities like joint shopping trips, let’s not forget that said shopping trip culminates with Christian quite un-stereotypically saving Tai from some mall-rat thugs. And the friendship’s survival even after Cher figures out he’s not romantically interested is a testament to her sweet, oblivious form of maturity.
Blanche and Clayton, Golden Girls
As noted in the intro, Very Special Episodes are annoying, but credit where credit is due: “Scared Straight” does the VSE right, especially by the standards of late-’80s network sitcoms, centering on Clay Hollingsworth’s coming out to his big sister Blanche, though not before a good ol’ zany misunderstanding in which he chickens out and claims to have slept with Rose. Clay appears in a grand total of two episodes in the entire series, but watching Blanche go through the process of resisting, working through, and understanding her brother’s identity is still a significant milestone in pre-Will & Grace television.
Shane and Amy, Faking It
MTV’s show has already been widely praised for turning its cringe-inducing initial premise — two girls at an atypically liberal suburban-Austin high school attempt to climb the social ladder by pretending to be lesbian — into one of the most endearing and casually progressive shows around. Exhibit A: the dynamic between Shane, who’s both openly gay and the most popular kid at school, and Amy, who begins to question and explore her own sexuality. Faking It is one of an increasing number of shows that feature out characters with minimal angst (Jane the Virgin‘s Luisa comes to mind), a trend that’s as welcome as it is overdue.
Kimmy and Titus, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Our own Moze Halperin has paid tribute to this particular relationship before, so we’ll just say that if Tituss Burgess doesn’t go home with a statue on Sunday, he’ll have been robbed. Titus Andromedon is so much more than Kimmy’s sidekick, or even the future star behind breakout single “Pinot Noir”; he’s an essential part of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s appeal, and a vast improvement over the myriad sidekicks of 30 Rock (including D’Fwan, played by Burgess himself).