In cinema history, lgbtq+ characters have primarily existed in the margins of supporting characters, and they were rarely the lead. Their whole existence on the screen was kind of sidelined. Throughout the evolution of TV and cinema, gays have been put in the roles of villains and outcasts. Still, nothing exemplifies the lgbtq+ marginalization better than the trope of the gay best friend.
It’s no secret that the role of the Gay Best Friend (or GBF, for short) is almost required for any romantic comedy. Where would Mean Girls be without Damian or Clueless without Christian? The GBF is an extremely popular trope, and it exists in almost all rom-coms and teenage tv shows.
The trope usually goes along with a list of qualities to characterize the stereotype. Unfortunately, this character is almost always one-dimensional, and we don’t see different sides of them.
They’re most commonly portrayed as an accessory for the straight white, usually female, the protagonist. They rarely have much character development and instead are there to help the protagonist learn something about themselves.
Their personality is designed to conform to gay stereotypes like being into girl talk, cocktails, and fashion. They can be mean, and their tongue is sharp. The GBF tends to be very funny, often in a cutting way. However, they are non-threatening. Their seemingly mean streak is purely exhibition. You can’t sense a threat in the sassy remarks they make.
The GBF’s sex life is usually invisible, and they’re viewed as essentially sexless. Of course, despite the lack of romantic interactions whatsoever, the GBF always gives our hot girl protagonist love advice. What would the lead female do without her life-saving bestie?
The TV industry did not create the gay best friend to have an actual storyline. It is usually there to fill up the voids in the protagonist’s personality and represent the lgbtq+ community without taking on the real issues within the community. It is, in a way, just a blissfully ignorant character that would often bring in some comic relief and humor. The GBF doesn’t hurt anyone and rarely rocks the boat.
So what’s wrong with it then?
Despite being harmless in your favorite TV show, this trope gets highly harmful when it comes out in real life. It is becoming increasingly common to see real women fetishize the idea of a gay best friend. The problem with that is that women see gays as an accessory to their personality because of wrongful cinema representation. They start perceiving their friendship carelessly, disregarding the other person’s feelings and desires completely. At least that’s how they’ve seen it happen on Sex and the City. And everything that happens in Sex and the City is the gospel, right? The GBF never has problems.
In reality, the reason why women adore the GBF so much is that it is, in its core, a non-threatening male figure in their life. Finally, a man who doesn’t want to get in your pants. It creates a sense of genuine platonic connection and, more importantly, a sense of safety. Straight men can not offer the same level of trust, or at least not in the same way as a GBF does.
Not to say, having gay friends is wrong. It is absolutely amazing to have a gay best friend. It’s the attitude and the media representation that’s wrong. You can’t view a person as an accessory. GBFs have feelings, dreams, love dilemmas, and their lives are just as complex as yours. Don’t let TV shows tell you otherwise.
The good news is that even though we have a long way to go until we reach proper lgbtq+ representation, we can proudly note that the GBF has evolved. Nowadays, we can see the gay best friend forming personal interests, dignity, and a real personality that doesn’t confine into the gay stereotype. We hope in the future that we will be able to watch a tv show and not cringe at the GBF. Until then, remember to treat your GBFs as people and not accessories.