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5 Times the Show ‘Girlfriends’ Tackled Some Serious Issues

5 Times the Show ‘Girlfriends’ Tackled Some Serious Issues

2000’s Girlfriends, an eight-season show that premiered on the United Paramount Network, was nothing short of monumental. It focused specifically on African American women just being themselves without any political or social statement behind it.

Despite the oftentimes comic portrayal of the life and trials of these four very different women, the show did delve into some heavy subject matter, such as infertility, infidelity, and even substance abuse. Girlfriends was a truly unique show in the sense that it didn’t shy away from showing women with real-life problems that did not solely involve a man at the start or end of it.

Here are five times the show Girlfriends tackled some serious issues:

“Buh-Bye,” Season 2, Episode 5

Girlfriends tackled a multitude of social and interpersonal issues, and this episode touched upon more than one. The premise of the episode is that Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) ends her friendship with Toni (Jill Marie Jones) after learning that Toni shared details regarding Joan’s private life — her break-up with Sean and his sex addiction.

Girlfriends had a very sensitive and nuanced portrayal of an issue such as sex addiction, and it was actually praised for shedding light on a topic that’s often misunderstood and outright stigmatized. It helped raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals afflicted with sex addiction.

As for Joan and Toni, the situation resulted in Joan kicking Toni out and ending their friendship — to be honest, the two did make up, but they regularly clashed several times throughout the series.

“Sister, Sistah,” Season 2, Episode 13

“Sister, Sistah” explored the complex and sensitive nature of race and relation. Lynn (Persia White), a biracial woman, was adopted and raised by a white family. Her step-sister Tanya (who is white) comes to town to help celebrate the anniversary of Lynn’s adoption. So far, so good; but Tanya has immersed herself in African-American culture, and Joan and Toni are annoyed by that.

Things escalate when Tanya takes things too far at the salon and drops the N-word, which causes tensions to fly and nerves to fray as conflict breaks out between friends and family. “Sister, Sistah” was one of the crucial moments in Girlfriends that illustrated that even among the closest of family there are certain barriers built into identity and ethnicity that are unbridgeable chasms.

“Can’t Stan Ya!,” Season 2, Episode 15

“Can’t Stan Ya!” premiered in Season 2 of the Girlfriends run and focused on infidelity, or rather the consequences that might result afterwards. Maya (Golden Brooks) has an affair with Stan and, after realizing her mistake, wants to stop seeing him. Stan, on the other hand, head over heels for Maya, seeks revenge by forming a friendship with Darnell, threatening to tell him about the affair.

Darnell eventually finds out that Maya cheated, which causes a major rift between the two, as they both struggle to come to terms with Maya’s actions and try to forge a way forward with each other. The entire storyline gave a realistic view into the fallout that comes from infidelity and the challenges faced by the couples who choose to work through something that would otherwise be insurmountable.

“Pregnancy Pause,” Season 1, Episode 8

In Pregnancy Pause, Joan, who is often seen as a den-mother to the group, thinks she might actually be pregnant. She suspects pregnancy after she’s late and takes a pregnancy test, which only confirms her suspicions. Seeing as she’s very focused on her career, she doesn’t take the news well.

Though portrayed as a strong and independent woman, Joan still tries to cope with her fears about impending motherhood. This includes the fear of failing to be able to balance her career, love life, and responsibilities as a mother, which offers a realistic and relatable representation of single motherhood and the struggles it entails.

Ultimately, a visit to the doctor reveals that she isn’t pregnant, and though she initially dreaded having a baby, the news about her pregnancy being a false alarm left her a bit disappointed.

“The Music in Me,” Season 6, Episode 12

“Music in Me” revolves around an extremely depressed Lynn after Jennifer, who’s in a delicate mental state, ends their overly co-dependent relationship. In addition to her relationship issues, Lynn was also stressed from work and other things in her personal life, which only contributed to her depression.

This isn’t the only episode during the series’ eight-season run that tackled the issues and stigma surrounding mental health and mental health treatment. Other episodes include “Joan’s Birthday Suit” (S2E8), “Sex, Lies, and Books” (S3E16), and “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (S5E18).

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Girlfriends was a groundbreaking series that, besides providing comedic relief, offered real-life depictions of serious issues, ranging from single motherhood to infidelity, betrayal, racial tensions, and mental health. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t just an entertaining piece of television but a mirror into the process of navigating life, love, and career for many women still today.

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