During the Cinema Society's recent New York City premiere of Serena, Jennifer Lawrence was asked about the secret to her and costar Bradley Cooper's lasting on- and off-screen dynamic. Her answer, according to People?
In other words, Lawrence and Cooper are friends — good friends, who appreciate each other's talents and enjoy each other's company.
"I respect her so much as a professional, as an actor, and I think she's the best there is," Cooper told People. "And I just learn from her. You always want to work with people that are better than you."
For many onlookers, the playful, supportive relationship between Lawrence and Cooper is proof positive that there's a romance underlying the relationship. But Lawrence and Cooper's connection is actually a common one we don't see celebrated enough: a platonic friendship.
The value of male-female friendship: There are, of course, valid reasons for why men-female friendships can seem rare. In a recent study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, researchers surveyed 308 heterosexual undergraduate students and found that men often overperceive sexual interest from women, whereas women underperceive men's interest in them. The findings are in line with a 2012 study which found that men are far more likely to be attracted to their female friends than vice versa.
All of this can make cross-sex friendships difficult to make and maintain. But anyone who's been in a rewarding, genuine platonic friendship knows how valuable they can be.
"I love women and girls like I love any [male friends], and they've taught me so much about life," one man told Jen Doll, writing in the Wire. The older we get, Doll notes, the better understanding we have of the fundamental qualities we value in people, and the more we realize those things can be found in both men and women.
This is all the more important considering how valuable friendship itself is to all of our well-beings. Both men and women seek friendships rich with intimacy and closeness. But society's gender norms and standards of masculinity often lead adult men to develop fewer close friendships. By opening up their friendship pool to include women, men can gain the benefit so many adult women are already getting.
A new #RelationshipGoal: If we don't consider friendships between men and women possible, we perpetuate sexist assumptions about what men and women really want from each other, reinforcing the myth that men only want sex from women, and women are the goalkeepers of sex for men.
As sociologist Michael Kimmel wrote for Mic, "More than romance, and surely more than workplace relationships, friendships are the relationships with the least amount of inequality." As such, successful male-female friendships remind us that the best friendships are the ones in which two friends appreciate each other, but don't use each other. We make each other better, but we're not in it first and foremost to gain anything from one another.
We may have a lot of Hollywood-enforced #relationshipgoals, but Lawrence and Cooper provide us with a relationship model that's often missing from the Hollywood narrative: the male and female BFFs.