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Friends Without Benefits: Pairs That Never Made the Romantic Jump

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Jul 19, 2011 | 11:32am EDT

Men and women...when did it all get so complicated? In elementary school, boy-girl relationships were so simple and untainted by hormones and deep feelings.  Girls never needed to worry about getting hit on during recess and the only commitment boys needed to think about was handing in their homework on time. Then puberty hits and everything changes -- guys and girls no longer see each other as mere recess playmates. Girls become sexual objects of desire and boys become potential future husbands, but does this always have to be the case? Are cross-gender friendships completely off the table at a certain age? 

The entertainment industry has flooded our minds with countless romantic comedies where the guy always ends up with the girl, trying to disprove the age old question: can a guy and a girl really be "just friends"? I believe they can...it may not be common, but it can happen. In honor of this week's Friends With Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, I've decided to prove my theory that members of the opposite sex can be friends -- without the benefits. Here are some examples of movie and television characters whose relationships never ventured beyond the friendship realm:

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter Series)

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Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe certainly never tried to slip one another any sort of love potion. This duo has been there for each other through thick and thin throughout the entire Harry Potter series, yet romance has never been a factor for them. Granted, both are usually pretty busy trying to save the entire wizarding world from He Who Must Not Be Named but Harry still found time to kiss Cho under the mistletoe and woo Ron's sister Ginny. These two make a great team that even has Draco Malfoy shaking in his Slytherin booties, and they don't need to breach the friends zone to do it.

Meredith Grey and Alex Karev (Grey's Anatomy)

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Now here's an interesting relationship that never amounted to any sexual fruition and that's really saying something given the sexual promiscuity of Seattle Grace Hospital. Seriously, this show has seen more relationships than patients and yet Ellen Pompeo's and Justin Chambers' characters have never even discussed hooking up in the on-call room. Let's face it, they'd probably be really good together. She was a mental case, he's known for taking care of mental cases — it would be a perfect fit. McDreamy, though I love him, made her all normal and boring with absolutely no issues. So why didn't the writers want these two to stay away from each other? Meredith needed a person she could confide in that would give her actual outside clarity instead of molly-coddling her like everyone else, and Alex needed someone who wasn't afraid to tell him he's being an ass. Not exactly the makings for a love story — and it's exactly what both parties needed.

Jimmy Dugan and Dottie Hinson (A League of Their Own)

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Talk about a dynamic duo! Jimmy Dugan and Dottie Hinson provide an astounding example of how some friendships can change you for the better.  Tom Hanks plays a sad, washed-up, drunken baseball pro, who initially can't stand being the coach of an all girls baseball team, but Geena Davis' strong, exceptionally talented character helps show him that's there's more to women than just pretty faces. She gets him to quit drinking while he forces her to acknowledge how much she truly does love the game of baseball. I have no doubt these characters would have made an adorable couple, but they remained strictly friends throughout the course of the entire movie. The best part is that their lack of an intimate relationship doesn't detract from the plot of the story, it adds to it. They have a deep, mutual respect for one another, thus making this relationship a...home-run.

Haley James and Lucas Scott (One Tree Hill)

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These two are like the epitome of an absolutely love-you-like-a-friend-but-nothing-more relationship played by Bethany Joy Galeotti and Chad Michael Murray.  You can tell the thought of getting together never even crosses their minds throughout the course of the entire series. Lucas is even the one to walk Haley down the aisle on her wedding day! He's like her big brother figure and those are really nice to have.  He would never let anything happen to her, but she doesn't have to worry about him trying to feel her up. They view each other as family, so there's no other ulterior motives or hidden feelings which is highly refreshing, especially in today's society.

Rachel and Ethan (Something Borrowed)

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They say there's a fine line between love and hate...well you can say the same for love and friendship.  In the recent rom-com, Something Borrowed, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) has always let everyone push her around and it has cost her a lot — even love.  John Krasinski's plays her adorable best friend, Ethan, who ultimately tries to get her to quit being a doormat and start living her own life. It's called tough love and it's pretty effective (I've used it on some friends myself) which is exactly what Rachel needed from him. Although Ethan ends up confessing that he thinks he has romantic feelings for her, nothing comes from it and they remain best friends even after that awkward conversation. 

Dewey Finn and Principal Mullins (School of Rock)

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Jack Black and Joan Cusack are hilarious in this family flick where education meets rock 'n roll in School of Rock. Since Cusack's character is the principle of a prep school she is wound tighter than a Timex, but Black's comical, substitute teacher character allows her to unruffle those tail feathers and realize that even adults are entitled to recess. The relationship between these two continues to develop as the movie progresses, but in a strictly platonic way (even after drinking has been involved). While they become more than just co-workers to each other, their friendship portrays a fun, childlike innocence that fittingly represents the theme of the movie itself. These two end up actually teaching each other a lesson and they're both better people for it. They get an A+ in my book!

Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)

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"Why hello, Clarice"  are words that never fail to send chills up my spine.  Now normally these two wouldn't come to mind when you're talking about friendships, but think about it. Anthony Hopkins' ingenious portrayal of Hannibal the Cannibal shows audiences that even the darkest of hearts are not immune to feelings.   Hannibal never allows any harm to come to Jodie Foster's character and even defends her honor when a guy in an adjacent cell acts offensively towards her. Granted, he went a little too far in making the guy swallow his own tongue, but it showed that -- in his own sick and twisted way -- he cared for her.  This protective theme towards Clarice continues on even into the sequel when he decides to cut off his own hand rather than hers. And let's not forget the most important thing: he never once attempts to eat her! 

If that doesn't show friendship, I don't know what does.

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell (Peter Pan)

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Even Disney characters can live happily ever after without resorting to romance. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell represent the very essence of childhood innocence, so there's need to explore grown up feelings such as love and romance - ick (this is Neverland we're talking about). Even in the face of potential death, these two never resort to anything beyond their friendship because, in actuality, they're just kids after all. The beauty of their relationship is based on the fact that it has absolutely no layers to it. With a child, what you see is what you get — everything is good-natured and fun, which is exactly what this pair is supposed to represent.  While we may look back on our childhood years and be thankful that they're behind us, we can't help but feel nostalgic of a time where life was less complicated and all problems were solved with a pinch of pixie dust.

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