The film trope of a weary lesbian and their himbo best friend is easily one of the greatest. It is unanimously top tier, 10/10 content. And as a lesbian desperately in search of her himbo BFF, I think it’s high time we unpack why.
I first became aware of — and obsessively invested in — the himbo and lesbian BFF trope because of two pieces of content. The first was Stranger Things season three and the second was Alice Wu’s excellent coming of age film The Half of It.
In case you haven’t seen The Half of It, I’ll avoid meaty spoilers. But in short, a teen called Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) accidentally befriends a jock called Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) when he asks her to write letters to his crush Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) masquerading as him. It’s all very Cyrano de Bergerac but gay.
And plot twist! Ellie is also in love with Aster.
While obviously the ~gay stuff~ appealed to me, the thing that really moved me in the film was the blossoming friendship between Paul and Ellie. And it’s not the only example — the lesbian slash himbo best friend trope has been steadily finding its way into other shows for years.
lesbians and their emotional support himbo purest friendship trope ever pic.twitter.com/DxHb1690NN— 🏹 (@SAlNTCUNT) May 30, 2022
But my personal favourite example of this trope is Stranger Things: namely the friendship between Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke).
Steve in season one was kind of a dick. While we caught glimpses of the icon he would become during that season, it was throughout seasons two and three where Steve really developed into an international TV treasure.
That’s partly because of his beautiful friendship of mutual affection and annoyance with Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), but also because of his relationship with Robin.
Having Steve as the older character most often paired with the kids (particularly Dustin, but also Lucas and Max) in Stranger Things defies the traditional narrative conventions we expect for popular, apparently straight men. He’s both the jock of the group and a self-proclaimed “babysitter”.
It’s also what makes his friendship with Robin so iconic. We meet Robin in season three as Steve’s co-worker in the ice cream shop Scoops Ahoy. Throughout the season, it’s implied Steve and Robin will fall in love.
After all, Steve’s ex Nancy (Natalie Dyer) has moved on with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) — though we’ll see what happens there in season four volume two.
Throughout Stranger Things season three we see Steve’s feelings for Robin grow. But in episode seven of Stranger Things season three, when Steve tells Robin he likes her, Robin tearfully tells him she doesn’t feel that way for him — and she can’t.
“I really like you,” she tells Steve.
“But I’m not like your other friends. And I’m not like Nancy Wheeler.”
Robin essentially reveals that she was jealous of Steve in high school because she had a crush on Tammy Thompson, a girl who liked Steve.
“But Tammy Thompson’s a girl,” Steve says — peak himbo behaviour. But when Steve gets it, he gets it.
While it’s like, the bare minimum that he’s not massively gross and homophobic to Robin, the scene remains one of the most touching in Stranger Things.
Instead of their friendship changing because of Robin’s sexuality, it actually becomes stronger. And in season four, their dynamic has easily remained one of the most rewarding in the show. Yes, I’m still choosing to believe Steve won’t be killed off in volume two.
no one understands steve harrington like lesbians do Like that's our silly little himbo bestfriend we all crave to have in our silly little lives— lune ⚢︎ (@pipercys) June 18, 2022
robin saying steve might not even like her if he knew who she was and he doesn’t even miss a beat just teases her about her taste in girls and applies to another job with her and drives her to school and doesn’t tell anyone about her even though they tease him about it MY GOD— lauren (@markofalover) June 21, 2022
"i have this terrible feeling it might not work out us this time" ROBIN SAYING THIS WHILE THE CAMERA FOCUS ON HER AND STEVE PLEASE DON'T MANIFEST THIS ON EARTH I CAN'T LOSE YOU GUYS #StrangerThings4 pic.twitter.com/EJLBxTRrDQ— 💭 (@stobinthinker) June 21, 2022
a stranger things spin off but it’s just a Steve and Robin comedy where they get a job and then get fired every episode, drake & josh styled pic.twitter.com/yr0OEJyrKD— sebas ⚘ 🍂 (@its_pear) June 17, 2022
steve harrington and robin buckley will beat the death allegations they’re my best friends the light in the dark they will fight vecna and come out alive because I need them to!! pic.twitter.com/GlR1csGepr— claire (@gwetersreels) June 21, 2022
Indeed, Maya Hawke revealed that Robin and Steve were initially supposed to have a romance. She told Variety that the Stranger Things team didn’t decide on Robin’s sexuality till about half way through the season.
Then in an interview with The Wall Street Journal she explained why they decided to have Robin come out instead of end up with Steve.
“Throughout filming we started to feel like she and [Steve] shouldn’t get together and that she’s gay,” Hawke said.
“Even when I go back and watch earlier episodes it just seems like the most obvious decision ever.”
Clearly the lesbian and himbo dynamic was just too powerful. But why is it so appealing?
Now, I should preface this by saying: not all himbos are straight. Himbos come in all colours of the rainbow, so to speak.
But as a lesbian, straight men are a bit of a mystery to me. I have some in my life who I absolutely adore, don’t get me wrong. But the combo of going to an all girls school and having mostly LGBTQIA+ friends since then has left me with a pretty sizeable dearth of straight male friends.
Identifying as a lesbian, straight cis men occupy a slightly weird role in my psyche. Lesbians are often dehumanised by straight men, subject to either ridicule or hypersexualisation depending on how they present.
The idea of having a close straight male friend where neither of things are a risk is massively appealing. I suppose that also, in the deeply patriarchal world we live in, it can be hard to unpack the pressure to receive straight male approval even when you’re not attracted to men.
That’s particularly prescient when those men fit the archetype of hyper masculinity: a lot of the onscreen himbos we see are conventionally handsome jocks, like Paul and Steve.
While Steve has a crush on Robin, he never sexualises her. He isn’t offended when he realises she’s gay, and his response is focused on her instead of himself.
He quashes his feelings the moment he knows Robin will never reciprocate. And while again, this is the bare minimum it’s also something that can be surprisingly rare in real life!
So in short, long live the lesbians and their himbo best friends. And if Robin and Steve’s friendship doesn’t make it to Stranger Things season five, you best believe I’ll be rioting.