The other day I ran across Broadcast News on one of the movie channels and watched the last half or so. I remember loving that movie back in the day, but it has been a long, long– LONG– time since I’d seen it last. I think I actually have it on VHS tape but god knows whether it’ll still play.
Anyway, I was puttering around in the living room and just pausing here and there to admire 80s-era Holly Hunter. Man, I just loved her back then– short and soft, but firery and topped off with that Southern accent. Swoon! That’s not to say I don’t appreciate her more recent work– the super-lean, hard-edge but with a secret soft core Holly Hunter in Saving Grace was some great acting– but gimme Raising Arizona Holly Hunter any day!
Anyway, there was a brief exchange between Holly Hunter’s character Jane and her good friend Aaron played by Albert Brooks. They’re on the phone, and Aaron says:
Ok, I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.
My ears perk up– I could have sworn that line was from When Harry Met Sally, another 80s-era movie that I love that also deals with the complications of men and women being friends. I always thought that was a brilliant line because of the subtext– he’s actually not saying what place, what thing, what time, and yet she knows exactly what he’s talking about. That line really illustrates how deep their friendship is, they’re so close they don’t even really need to complete their sentences or thoughts and the other knows what they’re talking about. There’s so much history, so much story behind that 15 word sentence– I love it!
The problem with their friendship of course is that nefarious problem that crops up so often when a single woman is friends with a single man– one or the other wants more, and those feelings can sometimes throw a big-ass monkey-wrench into the works, especially when the other friend falls for someone else. Which can lead to this ugliness:
I just want to sit here longer, I mean
the feeling is powerful — why’s that?
Maybe the best part of your life is over
and you don’t want to get up and start
the bad part.
Jane looks at him levelly.
You are now required to sit here with
(a beat; then)
Come on…be smart for a second –
what do you think will happen to us?
Okay, that’s very easy. Five, six
years from now I’ll be in town to
collect an award representing the surge
in foreign coverage by local stations.
(smile, it’s like old times)
I’ll be walking with my wife and two
children — we’ll bump into you on
the street, my youngest son will say
something and I’ll tell him…
…it’s not nice to make fun of single,
You won’t be able to stay mad at me,
I hope so…
(on her look he relents)
No. I’m not really mad.
(nodding head as if reciting a catechism)
I’ll miss you, we’ll talk, we’ll always
be friends…we’ll get hot for each other
every few years at dinner and never act
on it, okay?
Watching that scene gave me shivers. There was such bitterness in his words, and while Jane managed to take it in stride, you just knew it hurt her deeply (especially given Ms. Hunter’s great acting). And the worst thing was, I could really relate to Aaron. A lot of what was going on between Aaron and Jane reminded me of the discussion a couple months back that popped up around a couple blogposts of mine (In Defense of the Beta Man over on Simply Solo, The Friend Zone, Mating Habits of the Beta Men). Aaron was very much the Beta man, while the object of Jane’s affection Tom was an Alpha man and pretty much Aaron’s worst nightmare.
One of the points I raised in my blogposts was how really good romantic relationships can develop from a base of friendship, but what struck me rewatching Broadcast News now was just how dangerous that avenue can be, and how reasonable it is for single women to steer clear of being friends with single men because of the complications and potential ugliness and hurt that can occur.
I could relate to Aaron because I know how much it hurts to see someone you care about deeply fall for someone else when you’re right there for her, especially if you know– being her friend– how wrong that person is for her. I think many Beta men who get regularly put into the Friend Zone can relate.
And yet, when I watched that scene and heard the bitterness and hurt come rushing out of Aaron’s mouth and expressed through his body language, it made me realize that there’s a special responsibility you need to shoulder when you take up the mantle of friendship with someone you may be attracted to. You need to realize that friendship is all that they may want or need from you. Friendship is a gift that opens up so much life to you– someone who cares about you, who thinks about you, who’s there for you during good times and bad.
One of the things that I’ve been trying to teach my children lately is learning to value being happy for other’s good fortune, and some of the struggle in teaching them that makes me realize that it’s not exactly a natural human response… and yet I believe strongly it’s a vital thing to learn! So much joy can come into your life when you open yourself up to loving other people’s happiness.
On the flip side, giving in to envy and bitterness can just eat you up inside, leaving you angry and mean and not at all attractive. If ever there’s a chance for winning over the woman you love from afar, being bitter is not going to help things.
What do you think?