Division IV: Friendships under Fire
In one way, this is an incredibly easy match-up for me because I could (and intend to) compose odes dedicated to Lost Girl and Kenzi and Bo.
Taking this tournament
somewhat seriously, though, means that this is still a difficult match to judge.
On the face of it, as Christina pointed out to me, it seems that a show truly created around a bestfriendship—namely, Kenzi and Bo in Lost Girl—would easily trump an oft-antagonistic or apparently one-sided collegiate friendship between Abby and Liv on Scandal. That, however, is not the whole picture.
My knee-jerk reaction is in favor of Kenzi and Bo but as I thought more about Abby and Liv, I was pleasantly surprised to reevaluate my views… a little bit, at least.
Despite outward appearances, these friendships are similar (hence the whole shared division thing).
In many ways, both are cases of “work friends” on steroids. The whole “friendship under fire” element, though, understandably changes the dynamics. (Kidnapping, assault, diabolic daddies, constant threats, and their ilk, tend to do that.) Abby and Liv work together in early seasons at Pope & Associates; Bo and Kenz work together at some sort of amorphous private investigator business.
All four women seem to lack support systems and familial support. In fact, parental horror stories abound for these four characters. (Given the limitations of television, perhaps strong female friendships exist only when family relationships are dysfunctional? Like the proverbial phoenix, a strong female friendship can only emerge from the ashes of parental death/abandonment/neglect/abandonment. Hmmm, something to think about at a later date…)
The “origins” for their friendships are also similar and set up potentially problematic power dynamics. Though we find out later that they met in law school, the real impetus of their current relationship is that Liv saved Abby from an abusive husband. Like, beat him up. And got her a divorce. (Brains and brawn!)
The origin for Bo and Kenzi, and, indeed, the first episode of the show, features Bo rescuing Kenzi from a guy by going all succubus on him, despite the fact that they were strangers. So, from the start, you might think that this will be a sort of hero & sidekick type of dynamic—Kenzi even uses this as an argument in favor of their friendship.
Despite the fact that in the Lost Girl universe, Kenzi is at an extreme disadvantage by being human in a fae, fae world, and she chafes at the constant slights to her abilities (which come from other fae, not Bo), but she proves her worth time and again. This happens from the start of the show. While the first episode begins with Bo rescuing Kenz, the episode ends with the reverse coming true. It’s Kenzi whose voice Bo hears that enables her to snap out of a trance and save herself (and then Kenzi). Kenzi is constantly rescuing Bo by being tenacious, reminding Bo that she has friends and support, or helping Bo to see that Bo can save herself. For that, Bo loves her. She accepts Kenzi as Kenzi.
For Liv and Abby, Liv is the top dog at work (Pope & Associates being her company and all) and in the wider world. Though, in Abby’s favor, she was never a truly subservient employee. She always spoke her mind and often disagreed with Liv, though usually following her orders. Thus, Abby was not totally cowed by the Olivia Pope—in awe, sure, but not cowed.
Still, there are eons of distance—both physical and emotional—between Liv and Abby, while Bo and Kenzi have approximately zero boundaries.
Kenzi and Bo, however, shower one another with affection every episode.
This is a big difference. In some ways, I think this is indicative of the shortcomings in Liv and Abby’s relationship.
Taking their personalities into consideration, however, we can see that this is simply how both Liv and Abby function. They are both private people and reserved. They are also presented as older and, not being a supernatural fae-filled world, are slightly more “real”… although, not that I think about it, the shit that goes down in Scandal is not that real (I hope). Anyways, the point is that Bo shares much with Liv and is likewise prone to being emotional distance and distrust of others.
But, in Lost Girl, Bo has Kenzi to constantly break down any walls Bo tries to build.
Broken heart? Refusing to get out of bed? Well, I hope you have a Kenzi who will rouse you by alternately annoying and bribing you.
Abby is a Kenzi of a sort, but by maintaining her professional distance, and perhaps also her pride, she and Liv naturally have a more fraught friendship. However, when Abby thinks Liv is shirking her “gladiator” duties because of personal drama, she tells her so.
See? She does her own version of sticking her popsicle in her friend’s ear to get her out of bed.
I would also argue that it is not until Season 4 that Liv’s and Abby’s friendship really solidifies for me (and others). In the past, they were long-time friends and coworkers, but, by adding some distance to their daily interactions, they actually seemed to be closer in important ways. The complications and fights that arose in season 4, prompting (and prompted by) Abby’s new job at the White House, seem to have resulted in a much more honest and equal friendship.
It is in this capacity that Abby is in the position to, first, acknowledge her love of Liv (despite any current turbulence in their relationship); and, second, to save Liv; and, third, to help Liv deal with her shit afterward. Check out this diatribe from Abby:
It’s interesting to note that Abby struggles with the concept of “friend” here (which, in this SFF Tournament, might disqualify her, tbh) as she first says she that Liv is her only friend, then, seemingly unsatisfied with that status, she amends it by giving Liv a category all her own. Olivia is not her friend; she’s her Liv. We also see here how much Abby still feels indebted to Liv, and perhaps also just recognizes that Liv’s “job” usually results in Liv saving everybody else, but she is still human and needs help and saving like anyone else (well, anyone else who has been kidnapped, etc.)
Abby has really come into her own recently—she stands up for herself in a relationship and corrects the President about her name and asks for what she wants and what she needs.
And Liv recognizes this.
Despite the kudos I’m willing to dole out to Abby and Liv, particularly in season 4, their friendship still falls short of the pinnacle that is Bo and Kenzi.
More so than either Abby with Liv, or Olivia with Abby, Bo truly is graced by Kenzi’s friendship and likewise. Kenzi, like the con artist she is, manages to (wait for it…) steal Bo’s heart. (Yeah, I went there.)
In fact, in Bo’s mind, Kenzi is her heart.
Not only that, but, as Bo points out in her typical straightforward and honest way, a true best friend will make you feel both one-of-a-kind and like everybody else so you don’t feel alone. Normal and special.
Finally. Despite, or perhaps because of, the “under fire” aspect of these friendships, Bo and Kenzi have a stronger bond because they can chill the eff out together. While I whole-heartily approve of Liv’s wine-drinking habits—you do you, girl—it can be fun to drink with a bff, too!
I’m not trying to knock drinking wine by yourself at the end of the night. Never! That would be treason! But, like, Liv and Abby would really benefit from just veggin’ out together, drinking, and watching some shitty television. Or, CNN, since that seems to be Liv’s poison. But, still, she should watch it with a friend so they could yell at the TV together and eat popcorn together and get drunk together and critique the President’s shitty speech together or mock Mel’s phony interview together. Key word: together.
For Kenzi and Bo, this is watching horror movies (which, now that I think about it, actually parallels the way Liv watches the news).
Saving your bestie from peril is all well and good, but if you can’t hang out and talk about pop culture, well, let’s just say that we here at SFF have serious reservations about whether or not it’s a real strong female friendship.