Friendships Were the Most Exciting Part in Media

Cross-posted from Postmodern Woman

Romantic movies and books tend to bore me. Even the erotic ones. They’re filled with jealousy, ownership, and terrible communication coupled with a severe lack of emotional (and simple anatomical) intelligence. There is usually no reason for either of the romantic people to love one another, no thought as to logistics, and it’s pretty much the same story over and over again. I’ve lamented about this before on my blog and on Youtube.

But I do enjoy some romantic movies and books. I really like About Time, 50 First Dates, and Two Night Stand. For a lot of other movies, shows, and books I simply ignore the romantic parts if the story is entertaining, deep, or visually stunning.

And then there are the books, shows, or movies in which I totally fall in love with the wrong part of the story. For instance, The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce features a very intimate passionate friendship between Aeriel and Erin. And instead of ending up with the abusive guy who realizes way too late that he loves her (and having her literally sacrifice her life for him countless times), Aeriel goes off on her own in the end with her best friend, Erin. That, to me, is the most beautiful thing.

Erin is so fully and utterly dedicated to Aeriel. She walks beside her on her journey, she demands nothing, and she has no expectations. They love one another fiercely and they belong to one another in such a nonpossessive and effortless way. They share what I like to call resonant love (from my article on the types of passionate aromantic love). The Darkangel Trilogy was one of my favorite set of books to read as a teen because I had never seen friendship win out over romantic love. It delighted me in a way I didn’t have words for until I stumbled across The Thinking Asexual’s blog and discovered (and became a part of) the Queer Relationship Project.

For the longest time I thought only the Japanese valued intimate friendships of all kinds. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about then you probably haven’t seen any anime, ever. Manga and anime is as full of passionate, queerplatonic, romantic friendships as it is full of hentai. And the friendships that made the most lasting impression on me were the one between Utena and Anthy in Revolutionary Girl Utena (featured in the picture above) and the one between Tsuzuki and Hisoka in Descendents of Darkness.

Utena and Anthy are my absolute favorites. My sister and I lovingly and jokingly refer to one another by those monikers from time to time. And while Utena and Anthy’s relationship in the film contains a sexual element, the emphasis across all three mediums (feature film, manga, and anime) is on their bond of friendship. They are committed to one another, devoted, and even sensually close.

Though Utena starts out wanting to be a Prince, and Anthy’s Prince in particular, by the end of the series they both understand that it is an erasure of everything they both are. There are so many ways to deconstruct the Utena/Anthy narrative. It was created as a feminist anime to highlight and address gender inequality in Asian countries. There are so many lovely and enticing layers of understanding to delve into and so many lenses and perspectives to gleam from it. While it definitely excites my intellectual response and temporarily sates my sapiosexuality it also draws on my very soul.

Even though Utena and Anthy do end up fighting over the same guy and betraying one another, you discover that they are both triumphant in the end. Anthy is free of the restrictions of womanhood and ready to set out to find her sweet Utena once more in a better world. Their failings are inherent to the system in which they’d been enslaved. In order to save themselves they had to break free of it.

Suffice it to say I’ve cried quite a few times over Utena. It is an ideal I wish to make reality. It is an amazing and vulnerable example of what friendships fail to be, what they aspire to, and then what they can be. It urges you to examine your ideas about romantic, platonic, and passionate love. It blurs the lines between friendships and relationships. It sums up the glory of consummate love without romance or infatuation being necessary.

It makes my heart flutter in a way that very few (if any) romantic stories can. With or without sex, friendship is golden to me. I take it seriously. Most people tend to only have acquaintances that they give that title to or they use it to escape a relationship. For me, it’s what makes the world go round.

Friendship: intimacy free of expectation, reciprocal vulnerability, completely voluntary and soulful interaction.

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