The surprising strength of female friendships on 'Younger'
Last week, TV Land’s Younger was renewed for a second season and I’m still celebrating the news. The show, which airs Tuesday nights, follows 40 year old and newly divorced Liza (Sutton Foster), as she pretends to be 26 to get a “hot” new job and a “hot” new love life. In the process, she also finds herself a new friend (Hilary Duff). I was drawn to the premise, and I’ve really been needing a Sutton Foster fix ever since ABC Family canceled Bunheads two years ago (still sad about that). I was also curious to see what Duff’s return to television would look like.
And guys. It looks good.
When so many good shows are canceled too soon, there’s a whole list of reasons I’m excited that Younger isn’t one of them. It’s smart, fun, witty, optimistic, and easy to watch. It offers a unique perspective on youth culture that pokes fun without criticizing or judging too harshly. And, of course, Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff both deliver amazing performances. But, the best part of the show has to be its portrayal of female friendships.
From the first episode, there’s a focus on ladies helping each other out. Liza’s friend Maggie (Debi Mazar), for instance, encourages her to start over as a 26 year old, and helps pull it off. Later, when Liza gets hired as an assistant to the head of marketing at a publishing house, coworker Kelsey (Duff’s character) sets the mood for the show with a reference to the one and only T. Swift: “As Taylor Swift said, there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
For a few horrible moments, I could imagine these characters heading in a direction many female characters have been led before: Kelsey proceeds to be manipulative, competitive or threatened by Liza. But in fact, Kelsey has stayed true to Taylor Swift’s teachings. The two look out for each other, like when Kelsey reminds Liza she needs the hashtags for their marketing strategy tweets to get any views, or when Liza tries to stall her boss when Kelsey is late to a meeting with their newest author. They are always genuinely excited for the other’s success. And this past Tuesday’s episode took girls having each other’s back to a whole new level, when Kelsey’s menstrual cup got stuck and Liza needed to get up in there to help a sister out.
Kelsey and Liza aren’t the only example of powerful female friendships that Younger has to offer. In the midst of her new life, Liza still tries to stay true to her oldest friend Maggie. While conflict naturally arises between the friends as Liza tries to balance her two worlds, all the characters know that friends come first. When Maggie’s show gets canceled for instance, Kelsey tells Liza that, “if she’s your girl, then you’ve got to figure out a way to help her.” While Maggie and Kelsey’s crew may not understand each other—Liza has to tell the younger gals that Maggie is her roommate that she met on CraigsList and they don’t fully understand why Liza hangs out with her—there’s no real animosity between them. The women aren’t jealous or territorial of their friends; it’s actually quite the opposite. “If you’re close with CraigsList Maggie, then so am I,” Kelsey says. “It’s girl code.” Man, could my adolescence have been different if the shows we watched back then offered the same message.
While there are a few instances of gossip and name-calling, the characters waste very little time on putting other women down. This holds true even for Liza’s boss, Diana Trout (Miriam Shor) who can be harsh, selfish, and downright mean. Other than earning her the nickname ‘Trout Pout’ and a few lines of criticism here and there, however, there’s very little screen time devoted to hating on her. Instead, she is made a more human and sympathetic character through her difficulty trying to get back into the dating scene after her divorce. In these instances, she reaches out to Liza for help, and the sisterhood reigns supreme.
For years now, pop culture has taught women to view each other as competition, both in the workforce and in the dating field. So it’s refreshing to see Younger breaking away from that trend giving us examples of female characters that aren’t catty or threatened by one another. It depicts women as strong, driven people who can be in relationships and have jobs, but also make time for one another. Younger reminds us of the utter importance of female friendships, as Liza’s relationship with her girls has more airtime than her romantic relationship. I’m rooting for Younger to keep up to the good work and continue following in the footsteps of other friendship-friendly masterpieces, such as Parks and Recreation and Broad City. I can’t wait to see how these friendships progress with another season on the way.
Sarah Cummings currently studies Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College. She’s a native New Yorker with a passion for chocolate and Disney Channel Original Movies. She can usually be found watching Netfix, cuddling her cat Fluffy, climbing things, obsessing over cool tattoos, or looking up cat videos. You can follow her on Twitter here.
[Image courtesy TV Land]