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Steel Magnolias: What It Shows Us About Female Friendship

Steel Magnolias is a fabulous story of female friendships. A little gem that is a timeless affirmation of female friendships and their resilience.

Of the many fantastic, gratifying and fun activities we do to bring you Project BFF, the exercise that brings us the most Ah-ha! moments is rediscovering stories of female friendships that we first experienced many, many years ago. They are little gems when they present themselves to us, and when revisiting. And Steel Magnolias is one of those gems.

Originally written by Robert Harling as a play that ran off-Broadway in the late 1980’s, it’s based on a true story about the playwright’s sister, who died of complications from diabetes. If you’ve seen the movie, you can easily envision the many conversations in Truvy’s beauty salon taking place on a stage.

The movie, released in 1989, has an ensemble of six actresses, who are well known in music, stage, and screen. (The cast includes a 22-year old Julia Roberts at the very start of a career which saw her in leading roles in one movie per year for 30 years!) These actresses take on the personas of six long-time friends (sometime frenemies), who embody Southern style and traditions as they steadily show their lifelong appreciation, support, and frustration for one another, while they also love and lift one another through life’s disappointments.

In her blog post, What Steel Magnolias Can Teach You About Friendship, author Kristen Strong focuses on the dynamics of the friendships among these six durable women, who bend but do not break. (Note: Kristen’s blog recognizes the 25th anniversary of the movie, released in 1989. We now celebrate its 30th birthday!) Kristen identifies the moments in the movie that demonstrate how:

Friendships are best maintained when you have regularly scheduled meetings at a regularly appointed place.
This is definitely true, which is why some friends have standing dinner dates, coffee get-togethers, or annual girls-only vacation trips. And as we write this in June 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to adapt to having regular virtual meet-ups on our devices. It’s not ideal, but it certainly has made many days brighter for everyone.

Friends show up.
Either in response to our call, and even without being asked.

Friends will tell you the truth – even if it’s harsh.
Yikes. Those are tough moments, out of concern and caring. And friends will not leave after truths are shared, but will stick around to be a part of the healing and bonding.

Friends give you a safe place to fall apart (but they also know how to use humor to help put you back together).
That’s the moment that the tears of pain or sadness can turn into tears of smiles and laughter.

There’s no such thing as oversharing.
In the 2000’s we now describe these moments of sharing as “What happens in (name of place), stays in (name of place).” And we mean it.

We hope that, like us, you’ll enjoy revisiting Steel Magnolias, a funny/sad/ridiculous/inspiring/clever story of six friends. It may have been produced 30 years ago, but the reaffirmation of female friendships and their resilience the story shares with us are timeless.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

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