Across the majority of its genres, the popular American cinema has marginalised representations of female friendship, more often favouring glamorous stars seen to exist in spectacular isolation, supportive figures who exist almost exclusively in relation to the hero, or women set in competition with each other. The seemingly nostalgic appeal of noir imagery, discussed in relation to contemporary discourses of women, work and sexuality in Chapter five, is pertinent once more here. In Klute, a movie that invokes lesbianism at its margins, Bree Daniels is isolated from other women, she is one of several in a militarised line-up in an early ‘audition’, but rarely does she speak to the other women.1 The femme fatale is almost by definition opposed to other female characters, though in Rafelson’s Black Widow the structuring tension of attraction/repulsion between her and the

investigator is that between two women. In both Fatal Attraction and Presumed Innocent women are pitted against each other, so that in Amelia Jones’ words they ‘work to destroy each other’ (1991:312). Bound, with its lesbian partners-in-crime protagonists, stands as almost the only new film noir not to represent women in terms of contrast and conflict. Similarly, with the exception of the mythicised Western setting, parodied in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and exploited in Bad Girls, relationships between women have only rarely provided the central dynamic of recent action-based narratives. Though the elaborate description of sentimental, homoerotic relationships between men is commonplace in the popular cinema, the successful female partnerships of Thelma and Louise or the television police duo Cagney and Lacey, for example, have generated in their wake no new wave of female buddy movies or television series. Symptomatically in Bigelow’s Blue Steel, Megan Turner loses her best friend Tracey (Elizabeth Pena), murdered in front of her eyes by her serial-killer lover, Eugene. Following their declarations of mutual love in the opening graduation sequence, Tracey tries to set Megan up with eligible men. The presage to her murder, however, is a shared meal and scenes of bonding in which Megan speaks warmly of Tracey’s supportive husband and family, whilst laughingly insisting that her friend refrain from trying to pair her off. The movement of Curtis’ character into a heterosexual relationship here is explicitly bound up with death and destruction. Though Detective Nick Mann (Clancy Brown) is on hand to offer a less disturbing articulation of the cost of heterosexuality, he winds up near death himself, leaving Megan to go out for revenge alone. Blue Steel thus enacts (writ large) a familiar narrative trajectory; across a range of genres, the cost of heterosexuality and of the narrative that enacts this as a journey, is the death of female friendship. To some extent then the negotiations of Boys on the Side are symptomatic of a persistent tension in the cinematic representation of female friendship: one that is also suggested by its title. The promotional slogan promises the viewer ‘a hilarious, touching and totally unforgettable tale of loyalty and trust, safety in numbers, women on top and…Boys on the Side’. The women’s alliance has to do with love, power and safety, but with the reassuring presence of boys on the side. It is with this combination of friendship, desire and power within the spaces of melodrama and romance that this chapter is concerned.