Sunny skies, cheery pastels, and Southern charm drew Netflix-goers to “Sweet Magnolias,” one of the streaming platform’s most recent success stories. Following the lives of three women and their families in the small town of Serenity, North Carolina, “Sweet Magnolias” provides an uplifting, wholesome break from the leftover snow and cold breezes of February.
For those of us still curled under blankets and praying for spring, Sweet Magnolias brings welcome reminders of summer, the magic of small towns, and the importance of adult, female friendships.
In a culture where it’s more important to become an independent girl-boss than to stay connected with your childhood best friend, the women of Serenity exemplify the necessity of strong, lasting bonds between women.
How Does a Soapy Show Demonstrate Good Examples of Friendship?
These three women – Helen, Dana Sue, and Maddie – have been close friends since elementary school; they were all raised in this small town and have continued their lives here as well. All invested in different areas of the community. Sweet Magnolias emphasizes the differences in personality and passion among the group, but that is what makes their connection unbreakable.
Helen, the local attorney, is very logical and stays away from situations she can’t control. Maddie, while putting herself back together after the heartbreak of her husband’s affair, struggles to find her confidence and ability to be self-reliant and strong for her three children. And Dana Sue, the chef and owner of the local diner Sullivan’s, is as loud as her food is flavorful and doesn’t like being told “no.”
The “opposites attract” principle is seemingly proved by the relationship of these three women. No one else in the town boasts a friendship as strong as these three, which is why they’re looked to as a model of effective communication and dedication by all members of Serenity.
Though they face their individual episodes of drama, refusal to accept help, and frustrations with one another, they prioritize their relationship over their own successes, understanding they’re actually better women when they have this strong support system behind them.
With overwhelming girlboss, individuality, and self-reliance graphics populating Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest feeds every minute, this commitment to relationship over oneself is countercultural and abnormal today. Women are actively encouraged by celebrities and the media to ghost friends who vote for the “wrong” candidate or to give up on relationships the moment they criticize your lifestyle.
It’s difficult to find decade-spanning friendships in pop-culture today because of the existing hype around the self-sufficient woman who doesn’t need anyone. But that model is not sustainable for women. The groups of famous friends that come to mind are Kylie Jenner and Jordyn Woods, who severed ties after she allegedly slept with Tristan Thompson, and Taylor Swift’s enviable girl-squad, which hasn’t been seen in the public eye since 2018.
Some of the strongest, most reliable female relationships highlighted by the media are the Kardashian-Jenner family, who are known for their animosity towards one another. After Keeping Up with the Kardashians, one of the main bonds of this family is their collective interests in the monetary and social benefits they provide one another.
Dedicate Time to Friendships
The Sweet Magnolias, despite their hectic work schedules and families’ needs, make time for one another every week. They have a night dedicated to drinking margaritas and debriefing their current dilemmas and drama. They sit on a couch with a pitcher of flavored margaritas and catch up on one another's lives.
Setting time aside on a regular basis to connect with friends is the backbone of a healthy relationship. Friendships fall apart without effective communication and connection, and the easiest remedy is simply quality time. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, and for those in long-distance friendships, it doesn’t even have to be in person. But the principle of investing time in those you care about is what helps those friendships thrive.
These moments of connection aren’t always the most cheerful. In fact, they frequently end in frustration in Sweet Magnolias. Season 2 begins with the three friends waiting in the hospital, anxiously anticipating the diagnosis of the kids who were involved in the car accident that created the season 1 cliffhanger.
The next time these women get together to pour it out during their margarita night, Dana Sue has an outburst, blaming Maddie and her children for not paying attention to the pain they’ve caused her and her daughter, Annie. Dana Sue bursts into tears and storms out of the house, refusing to be consoled or to mind her manners.
Without the group’s consistent support and connection with one another, Dana Sue wouldn’t have felt comfortable expressing her feelings to her friends in such a manner. The intentional investment in this friendship created an environment where all three women could freely express themselves, yell at one another, and be vulnerable without fear of repercussions or judgment.
Learn How To Apologize
After this outburst, Dana Sue recognized she didn’t treat her friends with the respect they deserve. Though the three established an environment allowing for such reactions and vulnerability, Dana Sue’s action still warranted an apology to the rest of the group. So, Dana Sue sent both Maddie and Helen a magnolia and a candy bracelet, requesting them to meet her at their spa.
This olive branch was a habit the three women established when they were in elementary school. Dana Sue’s gesture showed her remorse and dedication to her friends, valuing their relationship over her own explosive emotions.
But the apology didn’t stop with a silly bracelet and a flower. Dana Sue took the time, and swallowed her pride, to look at her friends and say she was sorry for her behavior. All women, admittedly, did something wrong in this situation. Maddie and Helen were blind to Dana Sue’s pain, and they should have checked in with her earlier. Yet, Dana Sue is also responsible for how she expressed her own emotions.
Following Dana Sue’s apology, both Maddie and Helen expressed regret for neglecting their friend in her time of need as well. This moment, which was prompted by the humility of Dana Sue, led to the three drawing closer together, reminding them how important their support system was.
Today, it seems like apologies are a misunderstood (or misused) concept. Society encourages stubborn behavior, speaking your truth, and refusing to back down to the pressure of those around you. The celebrity “apologies” populating YouTube are often created for click-bait. Empty promises of remorse and assurances that they’ve changed, apology videos often act as another headline, another opportunity for relevance.
Learning how to apologize – and valuing relationships enough to do so – makes all the difference in the maintenance of these important friendships.
Establish Your Individuality
Adult friendships serve the purpose of supporting and uplifting you in your individual life. So, for them to be most effective, you must have your own, personal life to lead. Dana Sue has her restaurant, Helen runs her own law practice, and Maddie takes care of her 3 kids while running their spa.
All three of these women are involved in different areas of their small community, each juggling different relationships and encouraging their unique passions. Establishing your independence from your friends actually builds stronger bonds between you. You won’t simply have a relationship out of convenience or circumstance, but will be intentional about your interactions with one another. This individuality also dispels any sense of dependence on one another; you have your own life to live and your friends have theirs, but you will connect and assist one another when necessary.
Sweet Magnolias, with its reminders on the importance of family, the charisma of small towns, and the appeal of “old-fashioned” values, showcases the need for adult friendships, especially between women. In a society actively encouraging us to gang up on one another, Netflix’s most recent drama series emboldens women to prioritize their relationships with one another.
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