Girlfriends (2000): Toxic Friendships or Practical Behavior?

“If this was your friend in 2020, would you be able to excuse that behaviour? The answer is no. In reality, you would cut that friend off expeditiously!”

Let’s talk about thee toxic friendships in Girlfriends.


When you think of your friends, you think of people who are always there for you. Friends, you can call at 2 in the morning when you’re crying, and without question, your friends are there in a heartbeat crying with you. Ready to help you work through your problems. In that same spirit, Girlfriends is a TV sitcom that premiered on September 11, 2000—centred around a group of four black women who are always there for each other through thick and thin. 


I was a kid when I first watched Girlfriends, so I didn’t fully understand what was going on in the lives of these four women. Today, having grown since, I can watch the show with a modern-day perspective vs. one from the early 2000s.


Toni, Joan, Maya, and Lynn are trying to figure out life while maintaining the ups and downs of their friendships, careers, and love life. While I’ve loved Girlfriends for years, after watching through three seasons of the show, this past weekend, I’ve noticed that their friendship was, well, toxic.


Joan, a junior partner at a law firm, focuses her time on finding the perfect man to add more fulfillment to her life, even though her life is already good. Toni is a high-end real-estate agent who loves money and labels. Maya is a personal assistant who became a best-selling author. Lynn is a free-spirited documentary filmmaker trying to figure out what she wants to do next.


At first glance, these four seem like a close group of women who always have each other’s backs. As you watch on, you quickly realize these women are not good friends to each other. 


Episode One starts with Joan’s introduction. She’s a junior partner in a successful law firm, and it’s her birthday. Now picture your best friend showing up at your party with one of your ex-boyfriends. Yes, you read that right. Toni showed up at her best friend’s birthday party with one of her exes as her date. 


If this was your friend in 2020, would you be able to excuse that behaviour? The answer is no. In reality, you would cut that friend off expeditiously! Block them on all social media, and probably never speak to them again. You wouldn’t say, “It’s okay,” and then go out to dinner later, acting like your best friend didn’t do one of the shadiest things possible. 


Friendships are supposed to add joy to our life. Friendship means having people you can depend on and vice versa. The problem with the relationships in Girlfriends is that none of them are dependable. Nor are they as good to each other as they should be. Between all four women, the narcissism, selfishness, and enabling the friendship dynamic kept the endless toxic cycle going in the series.


Maya involved her friends in a situation that not only affected her marriage but made her husband hate her friends for something she did. Lynn struggled with abandonment issues, which led her to use school as an excuse to avoid the real world. She lived with her friends to mooch off them as much as she could, but honestly, out of the foursome, Lynn was the only somewhat stable one. Sure, she was lazy and just loved to take advantage of her friends, but she wasn’t the most toxic friend in the group.


If this dynamic happened in 2020, these women wouldn’t be friends, especially now that times have changed. We see the word “toxic” tossed around a lot. Still, in a sense, it’s a good thing because people realize that these toxic behavioural patterns are not acceptable. More importantly, they are willing to part with people who don’t understand boundaries.


Now that Girlfriends is available on Netflix, people have compared Toni and Joan’s friendship to Issa and Molly from HBO’s 2016 comedy-drama, Insecure. I agree that there are some similarities, but Molly and Issa’s relationship ended since they outgrew each other. They are not the same people they were a few years ago, and that’s not toxic. That’s okay.


Plus, Molly and Issa’s relationship could be reparable, and those two are still able to work things out. Joan and Toni, on the other hand, would probably never speak to each other again. In my opinion, I would prefer to be friends with Maya and Lynn but only to a certain extent.  


Don’t let this deter you from watching the show. In truth, Girlfriends was ahead of its time when it first premiered on national television. In its own way, it’s still way more progressive than some shows we get with strong black leads, even today. It was modern, funny, and centred around four successful black women. I still love the show because it gives me a feeling of nostalgia. I strongly suggest Girlfriends if you’re looking for a break from the typical sitcom. It’s a show to make you laugh, but something to make you appreciate an earlier time in life, where things seemed much more uncomplicated. Just don’t take advice from Joan or Toni regarding friendship, and you’ll be alright.

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