As a kid, having a best friend was a very big deal. Even as a young adult, the concept of a person that appreciates you, challenges you, and encourages you, is powerful. We all want to be understood and appreciated for who we are, and fictional characters are no exception.
In the world of Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe on Cartoon Network, Steven treats everyone as his best friend. He is the most open-hearted person in a town full of demonstrative characters, but for viewers it’s easy to pick out Steven’s true best friend: Connie Maheswaran. Any friendship where you almost die on your first adventure together will either end abruptly or be incredibly strong, and the bond that Steven and Connie form is diamond tough. In the episode “Full Disclosure,” Steven tries to protect Connie from the threats he’s facing by ending their friendship. Connie pursues him down onto the beach, refusing to believe him unless he will look her in the eyes. Steven steels himself to do so, but as soon as he sees her, he realizes he could never cut her out of his life, and he bursts into tears (as do I).
The nine central characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly have complicated relationships, many of which shift and grow throughout the (tragically short lived) series. One relationship which is rock solid, though, is the one between Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his First Mate, Zoe Washburne. They fought in a bloody, nearly hopeless war together, led a ship full of wayfarers, smugglers, and mercenaries through scrape after scrape, and fought off savages at the edge of space. Zoe is the first person Mal turns to when things go south and she is always there, ready with sound advice, sharp aim, and snide comments. In a universe of desperate people, savages, and traitors, the most valuable asset is a staunch and true companion by your side, and Mal and Zoe have that in each other.
The ITV drama Broadchurch is ostensibly a murder mystery, but the true heart of its two seasons is the growing friendship between police detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Hardy is stoic, aloof, and cynical, an interloper to the small seaside town of Broadchurch where he has snagged the promotion that Miller was supposed to get. Miller is friendly, optimistic, and intimately connected to all the residents of the town. Although they get off to a rough start, they gradually develop mutual respect and a deep friendship as they delve into the horrors that lie in the hearts of man, as well as their own secrets and failures. Their growing friendship adds a hopeful undercurrent to a very heavy series. After all they’ve gone through together, they trust each other so much that when Hardy’s former partner and ex-wife offers to accompany him into an interrogation room, he brusquely dismisses the idea by saying “No, I need Miller.” Her response is the same as ours, “Of course you do.”
A best friend is one of the greatest gifts. They encourage you to grow, they challenge you to change, and they support you when you fail. They call you on your bullshit and push you to accomplish more than you could on your own. Most of all, they see you for who you are, and they still like you. In a story, they are wonderful and useful. In life, they are vital.