While some comparisons are understandable with two ensemble shows about young people in a large city, there are 3 ways Girlfriends is like Friends, and 6 ways the show is different.
How Girlfriends and Friends Are Alike
They Really Are There For You
Best friends are there for you when you are happy, sad and in times of distress. In both shows, you can clearly see the realities of how best friend relationships function.
In Friends, Rachel and Monica develop a distance between them when Monica starts dating Chandler (and keeps it a secret from her best friend).
Once Monica opens up to Rachel, all is forgiven and the friendship can move forward.
A similar dynamic happens for Joan and Toni in season three of Girlfriends.
Bride-to-be Toni feels that Joan doesn’t take bridesmaid duties as seriously as she should, which leads them to take a break from their friendship.
But by Toni’s wedding date, the best friends make up.
Both shows portray how important best friends are when you’re at your highest point in life.
Everyone Works. Except One Who Doesn’t Seem To.
On Friends, Ross works at a museum. Rachel works in fashion (before that, as a waitress).
Phoebe works as a masseuse and Joey is a soap opera actor.
Chandler…well, all we know is Chandler worked in a boring office.
In the first seasons of Girlfriends, Joan is a lawyer, with Maya as her assistant.
Toni is a real estate agent, while Lynn…well, Lynn eventually becomes a singer.
But she doesn’t have much of a job (or income) for most of the series.
The Messy Breakup
Ross leaves Emily (at the altar no less) for Rachel. Maya cheats on her husband, Darnell, in Girlfriends.
It’s interesting how society thinks it’s uncommon for women to cheat on men, but it’s good to know that both shows portrayed this scenario.
Both Maya and Ross aren’t satisfied in their relationships, so they sabotage their relationships instead of having open conversations with their partners.
And How The Shows Are Different
Girlfriends Characters Have Realistic Motivation
What’s not to love about Rachel and Toni?
They’re both the high-achieving status-conscious girls we all know and love.
Where Rachel’s character on Friends is always the hot, likeable girl, Girlfriends’ Toni is a bit more nuanced and willing to be initially unlikeable – during the first season of Girlfriends, she dislikes Maya’s character for being too street.
Over the first season, the two bond and become close friends.
There is no scenario where Rachel and Monica can afford that huge apartment in the West Village. Period.
The only reliable part about the Friends living situation is Chandler and Joey sharing a small, beige apartment.
Except maybe take out the living room. And remove the wall from the bathroom.
In contrast, Joan’s house in Girlfriends makes sense (she is an attorney after all).
Maya and Toni, both Joan’s friends, don’t live in her neighbourhood.
They each live in the appropriate section of town for their characters (middle class and upper-middle class respectively).
Girlfriends’ main cast consisted of women of colour, while the supporting class featured both people of colour and white actors.
Friends, while set in arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world, acts like people who weren’t white don’t exist in New York City. A fact that’s still a touchy subject to some of the actor’s on the series.
Friends Fight. And Sometimes, Friends Break Up.
In the sixth season of Girlfriends, everyone’s life falls into place.
Except the good vibes go straight to Joan’s head, and she becomes vain, spoiled, and self-centred.
After episodes of blowing off her friends, Joan suffers a humiliating reckoning and attempts to change course.
Joan races across town but still fails to show up as a character witness for Toni’s bitter custody trial with her ex-husband.
At the end of the episode, Toni takes a long look at Joan and walks away, never to speak to her friend again.
The characters on Friends didn’t have friendship-ending fights.
Fights which lasted a few episodes, yes.
Fights that ended relationships forever, no.
While Monica is the detail-oriented clean freak we all know and love, Joan’s controlling personality almost gets the better of her.
For the first six seasons of Girlfriends run, Joan’s nurturing instincts mirror Monica’s.
By the first episode of the seventh season, however, Maya and Lynn call Joan out on her controlling behaviour – and explaining to Joan how her actions contributed to the end of her friendship with Toni.
Strong Men Aren’t Always Strong
The men of Friends are in turn, cute, strong, macho, and nerdy.
And yeah, some of the men get a little misty-eyed when it comes to one of their group getting married.
Yet when Girlfriends’ Maya suffers a miscarriage, the show isn’t afraid to let the husband show his raw grief.
It’s a heartbreaking, real moment highlighting how often men’s tears are played for laughs.
What do you make of this feature?
Have you seen Friends and Girlfriends?
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