The fourth episode (called "Bombay Highway") of Candace Bushnell's hot new TV series Lipstick Jungle raises an important set of issues that many women grapple with during the course of their friendships with one another.
What should a friend do or say, if anything, when her Bestie does something illegal, immoral or hurtful to herself or to others -- or something that clearly conflicts with her own moral or ethical values? Can they still remain close friends or will it eventually alter the nature of their relationship?
On Lipstick, Nico Reilly (played by Kim Raver) plunges into a steamy affair (behind her professor husband's back) with a young stud named Kirby. There are hints that her husband, too, might be having an affair but he comes across as a pretty decent guy.
Nico, a high-achiever like the other women on the show, has such strong needs for affirmation that she never considers the potential ramifications of her lusty indiscretions for her marriage or her career -- let alone her own self-esteem. Her friends Wendy (Brooke Shields) and Victory (Lindsay Price) are a bit taken aback and seem puzzled by this out-of-character behavior. They accept it to Nico's face but talk about it disparagingly behind her back.
This scenario isn't far-fetched -- nor is it only the stuff of Hollywood scripts. When I surveyed women for my friendship study, women of all ages told me stories about friends with addictions who they painfully watched destroying themselves; ones who were abusive to their husbands or children; ones who lied to their friends and let them down; and ones who committed crimes. They struggled with the feelings of dissonance over these once-close but now fractured friendships.
Is it the duty of a good friend to support whatever path her friend decides to take? Or should she dissuade her friend from jumping off a cliff? Should she ignore, isolate or overlook behavior she doesn't condone? To step in, how egregious does the behavior have to be?
Although the answers aren't clear-cut and depend on the people involved, what has transpired, and how discrepant the friends' values have become, it is truly a myth that, "Good friends stand behind you, no matter what."
Lipstick, along with Cashmere Mafia, is one of a genre of TV shows that depict women's friendships -- like I Love Lucy, Laverne and Shirley, Kate & Allie, Cagney & Lacey, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Friends, Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Sex and the City, and Desperate Housewives that came before them. What women love about watching these shows is that they raise issues in Technicolor that are often just beneath the surface of our own lives.