One of the best parts about reading this blog is observing and enjoying the lists that I post from time to time. One of the other great parts about reading this blog is intently following my long, romantic and poignant posts on friendship, which is probably the virtue I have sought to define for much of the twenty-five years I have been alive. I’ve quoted Michael Chabon before, but his quote from The Mysteries of Pittsburgh that it is friendship and not love that truly eludes us is probably one of the most true statements that has ever been written. One could write for hours about what it means to be a good friend to another person. What a good male friendship consists of or what a great female friendship consists of. And even more hours could be spent analyzing male and female friendships or whether the relationship between men and women is ever truly a friendship. There are layers upon layers and gestures upon gestures that lead us to great and meaningful discoveries about who we are as people and what we value in others. We can make great virtues out of our friendships and drive our friends crazy by holding them to high standards, or we can place little value on friendship and sleep with our best friend’s girlfriend. And even then, there is plenty of grey area. It is a topic I will spend the rest of my life trying to define.
However, in the meantime I’ve decided to probe history, movies, TV, music and literature in order to find the Top 20 Friendships of all-time. This list is so in depth and eloquent that we’re breaking it up into two parts. Believe me, that’s definitely the reason we’re splitting it up and not because I had to fill in some space this week.
So, without further ado, here is my list of the Top 20 Friendships of All-Time:
20. Dawson Leary and Joey Potter – I think that this ranking will immediately have some dissenters due to the fact that these two characters have a spot in any twenty-something’s heart. Dawson Leary and Joey Potter were introduced to us in 1997 on the WB and for those of us in our early to mid teens were directly influenced by the relationship between Dawson and Joey. She was the pretty tomboy who snuck into his window at night to talk about life. He was the film geek who just couldn’t see how beautiful she actually was and that he loved her. There was a classic element of tragedy to their friendship and that tragedy was called love. The fact that Dawson romantically loved Joey is actually what drops them down on this list. Sure they had a star-crossed romance that eventually ended up with them not being together. But over that time you can’t overlook that these friends slept together, which somehow disqualifies them from the mystic connection that an actual friendship is. With romance, you can pin the sensation down from time to time and express love, passion or romance in sex. Friendship is only briefly defined by obscure actions, nonchalant conversation and beer that slowly fades away. Some may believe in sex being possible between friends (e.g. the Natalie Portman fuck-buddy movie) but I’m more of a skeptic. Sorry Joey and Dawson, maybe you should have stuck to talking shop about Spielberg.
19. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – This has become one of the most underrated friendships of all time. These guys were once bitter political rivals in the early days of this country. They both lived in the shadow of George Washington and were trying to form the country in line with their own strong visions. It was a classic story of fame and politics getting between two friends. Adams and Jefferson were originally close during the days of the Revolutionary War, even setting some Lennon/McCartney precedents by penning the “Declaration of Independence” together. However, the growing interests of this country both home and abroad tore them apart. The greatest betrayal may have been Adams’ appointment of the “Midnight Judges” after he lost the 1800 election to Jefferson in an attempt to spoil Jefferson’s presidency by putting some of his men in the Supreme Court right before his term was up. Jefferson was able to pass legislation to remove these men from office and slowly their friendship resumed as the bright candles of the White House faded from each of their eyes. They started an epic letter correspondence (like two other friends who will appear on this list) until the day they died—which was the same day. On his deathbed, Adams famously uttered, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” However, before the Internet and Twitter there was no way he could have known that his friend had already died a few hours earlier. Nothing says friendship more than the belief that no matter how you fail or no matter if your time is up, you are thinking about how your buddy is continuing on.
18. Monica Geller/Rachel Green/ Phoebe Buffay – This list would be not be complete with out an entry from the legendary sitcom Friends, which was probably one of the most iconic cultural items of the entire decade of the 1990’s. Some would say that Joey and Chandler were the better “friends” on the show, but I have to give it to the girls. Friends as a show was not believable in the slightest, but it seemed like the fights between Monica and Rachel were more believable as friends. Now, Phoebe generally didn’t have storylines involving her fighting with Monica or Rachel, but she was definitely a good source of comic relief to ease the tension when there was a fight. And of course she had her feelings hurt from time to time as well. We’ve all seen the show—these women had some good times and some bad times. They fought with each other and slept with men that the other liked. They all lived in New York in the same apartment and waited a long time to have kids in non-traditional ways. Wait a second; maybe the show was more realistic than I thought.
17. Han Solo and Chewbacca – This might be the most famous interstellar friendship of all time. Spock and Captain Kirk were too aloof. Now, friends will be aloof, but their relationship was different, it felt too professional. Obi wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker had more of an older brother/younger brother dynamic and Luke and Han had a sort of romantic rival dynamic that was eventually settled when it was revealed that Leia was Luke’s sister. Han and Chewy, now that was a friendship. From the moment we meet them in A New Hope, we get a sense of their back-story, that this galactic swashbuckler and his large hairy friend had all kinds of adventures together and truly cared about each other. You can picture Han and Chewy behind the wheel of the Millennium Falcon on some long space startrip across a galaxy far, far away, smoking cigarettes and listening to the Replacebots and just idly talking and roaring about how strange life can be and how just the simple good looks of a spacewoman can ease their aching hearts. If you don’t think that these were the two of the greatest friends of all time, then you are racist and need to look at yourself in the mirror.
16. Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway - "That is what you are. That's what you all are...All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation." That is the concluding line of a story about a mechanic that Gertrude Stein told to Ernest Hemingway, which inspired his inscription for The Sun Also Rises. Their friendship was a short but powerful friendship. Stein introduced Hemingway to bullfighting, encouraged him to give up journalism and embrace fiction and even helped edit some of his earliest work. Stein was like a mother figure to Hemingway, which is a friendship that is not often discussed in the world and literature: mother as friend to son. Now, of course there were Oedipal undertones as Hemingway has admitted that he wanted to sleep with Stein because of the fact that she reminded him of his mother, but they never did (unlike Dawson and Joey). They had a terrible falling out in 1926 that cut their friendship short. But they had already helped each other in many ways in their art, in their identity as Americans abroad and in life.
15. Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza – Some people may complain about this ranking, however, I was conflicted putting these two in even this slot. My main issue with the Seinfeld/Costanza friendship was this elemental fact—were they even friends? Think about it: one of the fundamental traits of the characters of Seinfeld was the fact that they all took some level of pleasure in the misfortune of others, including their own “friends.” That fact made the show realistic, because there is an element of truth in the fact of wanting to see the misfortune of others. Even in groups of friends, we laugh when a friend trips or “eats it.” We love to see slapstick happen to the people we like spending time with; it is one of the strangest phenomena in life. So, when George got into a mess, who was the first to laugh most of the time? Jerry. And vice versa. Now, that still doesn’t overlook the fact that these two grew up together and that Jerry let George spend so much time at his apartment venting about all his problems, lies and insecurities. Now, that is the mark of a true friend: listening and generosity. People may claim that Elaine and Jerry had the better friendship, but their friendship was based on romance and then the resulting post-relationship sexual tension, which is a rare occurrence. However, in my mind the non-sexual tension trumps a sexual-tension related friendship. Any woman that I have sexual tension with I usually don’t call my friend because I’d be thinking about sex more often than our friendship. If I have sexual tension with a girl, I tend to call her “this girl I know,” rather than “my friend.” To me, that’s just being honest with myself because I never think about sleeping with any of my friends.
14. Rory Gilmore and Lane Kim – Another rule of this list is that it does not include the “family friendships.” Obviously Rory Gilmore and Lorelai Gilmore as “friends” would be in the top five of any “Top Friendships” lists; that fact is undeniable. But you still have to give credit to the other anchor in Rory Gilmore’s life, the indefatigable Lane Kim. Lane is the epitome of a rock scholar. When Lane talks shop to Rory you learn something every time. Due to her strict Korean upbringing she even had to install a secret compartment in the floor of her room to store all of her records. Those were records she shared with Rory so she could outsmart any snobby girl or guy at Chilton or Yale. Also, Rory needed to know some deep cuts to keep up her witty banter with Jess outside of Luke’s Diner or by the gas station. This friendship wasn’t a one-way street either. Rory helped Lane with all of her schemes to sneak out of the house or to go to a party to meet her bandmate and boyfriend Dave. Rory also convinced Lorelai to let Lane’s band practice in their garage. Lane and Rory’s friendship endured Rory going to a different high school and then going away to college. Speaking as a person who has retained friendships with some people for nearly fifteen years, I can safely say that maintaining a close friendship over the passing of years and circumstances is no joke. We could delve into the different nuances of a “maintained friendship,” but lets just settle on the fact that Lane Kim and Rory Gilmore were some of the best friends to come out of Star’s Hollow, Connecticut.
13. Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway – One of the most mythic and ambiguous friendships in history, the relationship between Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby has influenced me perhaps more than any other in fiction, history or real life. It was the friendship with Jay Gatsby that caused Nick to utter the famous line that he wanted “no more privileged glimpses into the hearts of men,” which is how most male friends and even female friends feel from time to time when confronted with the enormity of what being a friend means. “No, no more. I can’t have any more empathy.” It might just be the melancholy yet crisp nature of the prose or of the tragedy of the story itself, but the relationship between Nick and Gatsby just seems to mean so much. Gatsby represents a romantic way of looking at the world, while Nick retains some sort of pragmatism and yet finds the appeal in Gatsby’s way of seeing the world. Nick sees some value in the kindness and attention that Gatsby can display with a smile or an “old sport.” And Nick ultimately sees how the world will use up a man with all of Gatbsy’s traits and just move onto the next house lit up with money and the glow of champagne. Nick is not able to save Gatsby, but he does relay one heartfelt compliment to him, by stating that he’s better than the rest of their group near the end of the novel. We never see things from Gatsby’s perspective, but in real life, sometimes its just that one comment, that one compliment from a friend that can make all the difference—that one phrase that illuminates the relationship in a new way.
12. Sancho Panza and Don Quixote – This friendship has perhaps been overlooked due to the fact that it is a well-established tenet of western literature (i.e. no one reads Don Quixote anymore), but it is one of the most iconic. You have the hero (even if he is comedic) and his trusty sidekick. The sidekick supports him on his foolish whims because he actually doesn’t know better himself and even plays a joke on the hero at one point because he can’t resist (isn’t this how most guys spend most of their 20’s?). The two go on an epic journey together, which was one of the earliest and most well-known “road trips” along with The Odyssey and Pilgrim’s Progress. The friendship between Sancho Panza and Don Quixote suffers because they are embedded in our consciousness and culture in ways that we have forgotten. However, all you need to know is that Sancho Panza was by Quixote’s side when he thought he couldn’t go on anymore.
11. Bob Uecker and Norm MacDonald – I’ll admit that this friendship gets such a high ranking because of its seemingly random nature and also because I love both of these guys independently that finding out they were weird cross-generational friends was just an added bonus. Their friendship can basically be summed up in this story told by Norm MacDonald in a vintage Letterman moment (at this point Letterman has that same “I don’t care vibe” that MacDonald does, though Norm is much warmer and less curmudgeonly in his vibe). The friendship between Uecker and MacDonald covers that strange and great situation where you have an old guy who is friends with a middle-aged guy because they share some kind of ancient secret of men. Norm MacDonald and Bob Uecker just seem like two guys. It’s as simple as that. One has made a career out of a great announcing voice and a love for baseball and just happens to be a funny guy; the other on his love of comedy and a unique delivery. They are both just men in the most non-testosterone way possible. They remind me of beer and putting on a worn navy blue hat. There is something to be said for that.