The history and portrayal of the GBF “Gay Best Friend”

What’s any rom-com without the classic gay best friend? You might have wondered after seeing this reoccurring role in your favorite films, what is important about this character that they appear so often on our TV screens? 

Outside of books and movies, straight women-gay men relationships tend to work quite well. Why is that?

After a little social experiment that Eric Russell (University of Texas Arlington) conducted, he found out why that may be. “The experiments demonstrated that straight women and gay men perceived one another to be trustworthy sources of relationship and dating advice,” Russell concluded in an article. Straight women and gay men do not compete for partners, so that leads to a more trusting bond right away. 

The question we now ask, has Hollywood accurately portrayed the significance of this relationship? Or has it become an overused stereotype?

Kicking it off with Marco Del Rossi and Elli Nash from Degrassi: The Next Generation, let’s take a look at their relationship. Marco and Elli’s friendship is a prime example to display the significance of the straight girl-gay boy bond. After their awkward relationship as lovers, the pair developed a strong, trusting friendship. Elli supported Marco when he came out to her. And even agreed to continue as his fake girlfriend so their classmates wouldn’t get suspicious of Marco. Forward to season six, when Elli was having problems with her relationships, Marco was of course, there to help. “There are plenty of fish in the sea,” he tells Elli while encouraging her to get out of her slump and go meet new lovers! 

To emphasize the importance of self-identity in the portrayal of this relationship, the series sets Elli and Marco’s characters face to their own conflicts. The two work together, but each have their own wants and needs, and do not rely on the other. In other words, Marco’s story doesn’t revolve around Elli, his role in the series is independent. This makes Marco a dynamic character, and gives the opportunity to display an original and unique LGBT character.

Marco and Elli’s bond is long-lasting on Degrassi, suggesting their relationship is less problematic as compared to their love lives and other friendships even. The display of their long-term friendship with each other shows support to Eric Russell’s conclusion. And also that trust leads to a better relationship. This series shows an accurate representation of true characters, in real scenarios.

G.B.F. (2013) is a high-school comedy that focuses on Tanner Daniels, a gay student who was accidentally outed by his best friend, Brent. Three want-to-be prom queens are on the hunt for a certain friend, after reading a magazine article that has them believing a gay best friend, will be their way to the crown. 

While G.B.F. doesn’t really show evidence supporting the importance of a straight woman-gay male bond, it is important to discuss this film. Because it does take a step forward in the evolution of the role of the gay best friend. The movie may seem to demonstrate homosexuality as a characteristic defined by cliche traits, seeing as the main plot to the film is acquiring a gay friend, as an accessory to boost popularity. However, the movie is set to make a mock of that stereotype. The role of the gay best friend in film production was never the lead, most in that position served as a background character, thrown in to add a  little personality to the average scene. G.B.F. fully developed this character and had the whole story around this individual.

And finally, let’s talk about Riverdale’s Betty and Kevin. Growing up together and attending the same schools in Riverdale, they two had become close friends. Betty and Kevin have a strong relationship that can be seen as early as the first episode.

In season one, we meet Betty and Kevin. Hanging out in her room, talking about Betty’s crush on her neighbor and friend, Archie. After sneaking a look at Archie through her bedroom window into his, the pair admire Archie and his newly fit body. Kevin encourages Betty to tell Archie how she feels. From this beginning scene, it’s clear Kevin is a trusted confidant to Betty. The conversation goes easily between the two and reflects the nature of their friendship well.

While having their struggles throughout the series, Betty and Kevin do remain close friends for the most part. In the start, Kevin’s character’s role is mainly to be Betty’s best friend. But as the show continues, he evolves into a main character and plays an important role in Riverdale.

Degrassi, G.B.F., and Riverdale, all have created important roles for the gay best friend character and accurately display the nature of the straight girl-gay boy bond. The gay-boy best friend, plays a significant part in these films. Each one having their own unique attributes they add to the story.

All that’s left to ask is, Who’s your favorite gay-straight friendship?