So many great movie friendships to choose from. Bill and Ted. Wayne and Garth. Lucie and Ethel. Dumb and Dumber. My favorite book/movie ever, Lonesome Dove, is loaded with some of the most complex friendships ever (McMurtry, 1981). The movie pulls you into their friendship using the romance of the old west, cattle drives, Indians, hangings, and prostitutes. Everything required to make a great movie. And great friendships. The friendship of the two main characters was very complex. They didn’t spend all of their time together. They seemed as different as two people could be. But they were still the same in all of the important ways. But the friendship is flawed. Gus and Call were forced to hang one of their other friends, Jake. They had all been Texas Rangers for years, but Jake broke the law. So Gus and Call had to make the choice; throw away their lifelong conviction of upholding the law, or do the right thing and help their friend. The law was their religion. It was summed up when Gus told their friend Jake, as they were hanging him, “You know how it works, Jake. You ride with the outlaw, you die with the outlaw. Sorry, you crossed the line.” And they hung their friend. Apparently Gus and Call missed the same question I did on the test/survey we had earlier in this course on friendship, because all three of us thought the right answer was to hang him. But the movie, with all it’s western charm, made us root for Gus and Call and their friendship. Even though it is an unhealthy model of friendship. Their conviction to upholding the law above their friendship was as strong as Augustine’s conviction of religion and friendship (Vernon, p. 126).
As I said, Gus and Call were friends, and Texas Rangers together. I thought that Soren Kierkegaard (Graveyard, gotta love that name) was spot on. First off, he admitted to writing to make life difficult for others, so he immediately gets my attention. His opinion that there can only be friendship between two, and never three, fits well into Lonesome Dove (Vernon, p. 130). Clara Allen, Gus’s lifelong romantic interest supports this when she told Gus’s best friend Call, “And I’ll tell you another thing: I’m sorry you and Gus McCrae ever met. All you two done was ruin one another, not to mention those close to you. Another reason I didn’t marry him was because I didn’t want to fight you for him every day of my life.” It feels like a line one of Graveyard’s relatives could have written.
Gus and Call are so different, yet in many ways the same self. Nobody else can understand how they could hang their friend, but for the two of them, there wasn’t even a choice.
As to our responsibility in terms of challenging and questioning mainstream notions of friendship, tread carefully. When it has to do with raising our children, we can only take our best shot. It’s an easy call to say we don’t want them to really believe that George Costanza is the role model for what a friend should be. But the other side of the coin is that the greatest thinkers in history still can’t give us a single set of rules.
Vernon, M. (2010). The Meaning of Friendship. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Chapter 1: Friends at Work
McMurtry, Larry. (1985). Lonesome Dove: A Novel. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN (Links to an external site.) 0-671-50420-7
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