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Friendship Favoritism

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Friendship Favoritism is just what it sounds like — in a group of more than two people of True Companions, one friend, from this certain person, is given preference over the rest. Expect the rest to compete for affection. They may ask, "Who is your Best Friend?" This may be because of the Just One Extra Ticket plot.

Sometimes, there may be more than one "favorite," or the character will have different "favorites," making it even more of a headache for the rest. If that person is feeling truly mean or prideful enough, he will explicitly rank them and show that ranking to the others. The lowest friend on the totem pole may be The Friend Nobody Likes.

This is rather common in kids' shows, or at least in shows with a more cynical outlook. A conflict for buddies with Undying Loyalty, because the rest often wants that certain person to take sides (especially in a Feud Episode). May be part of a Sadistic Choice. If the problem is never truly resolved In-Universe, Word of God or All There in the Manual may reveal the real deal for us.

This is all too often Truth in Television, especially for children in the 6-17 range.

For the family variant, see Parental Favoritism. Compare Apple of Discord, and, especially if it's romantically charged, Friend Versus Lover, and Love Triangle.


Anime and Manga

  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • Fujiwara is shown getting angry when a delirious Kaguya ranks her below Shirogane and Ishigami on a list of her favorite people in the Student Council.
    • Kaguya gets into an argument with Subaru about which of them is closer to Hayasaka during the class trip arc before Mirin breaks them up. Kaguya is clearly the winner, but Subaru (like most of the school) has no idea that Kaguya and Hayasaka are Heterosexual Life-Partners and thinks that they've only just recently met.
  • A siblings variant: in one episode of Osomatsu-san, The Baby of the Bunch Social Climber Todomatsu decides to rank his brothers based on his liking, much to their fury. One of Miyu Irino's interviews state that Ichimatsu is the one in last place.
  • Rebuild World: While they’re exploring a ruin together, Akira’s friends take turns showing off their skill against monsters, Reina firing a One-Hit Polykill, Kanae using martial arts, and Shiori using her katana. Akira reacts to Reina with praise, complains Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? to Kanae, and gets excited over Shiori's sword skills. Through the rest of the mission, Kanae claims he's showing favoritism towards Shiori multiple times (that Akira's making an exception to their Opposing Combat Philosophies for Shiori spurs it on.)

Comic Books

  • In the "Homeschooling" arc of Runaways, Chase turns against Klara after an accident kills Old Lace and causes Klara's powers to go out of control, demanding that Klara be punished for her Power Incontinence. The team quickly divides itself based on their friendships - Victor sides with Chase, Molly sides with Klara, Karolina tries to stay neutral, and Nico decides to punish both sides, giving Klara a magically-enforced time-out and shunting Old Lace's body into another dimension to deny Chase the opportunity to bury her with Gert.
  • Young Justice: Tim has to field some accusations of favoritism and deal with Kon and Bart fighting over his time on occasion. Evidently, that's just the deal if your two best friends are Younger Than They Look failed attempts to create Tyke Bombs one of which was raised by virtual reality and the other by implanted memories as they're still trying to sort out some social norms.

Fan Works

  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Even though the former Axis Trio were all supposed to be friends, Germany and Japan both favored Italy over each other because both liked him. At first.
  • In the Dragon Age: Inquisition fic series Twice Upon an Age, the Inquisitors both like all the members of their inner circle, and vice versa; however, it's gradually made clear that each of them (except possibly Vivienne and Josephine) are closer to one Inquisitor than the other. In particular, this is true of Dorian and Varric for Victoria, serving as a Foil to her serious nature and the fact that the two have soft spots with her due to her kind and genuine nature. Meanwhile, Mahanon hangs out more with Iron Bull and Sera, befitting with his carefree and fun-loving nature, although he had a falling out with the latter in the middle of the story (they immediately bury the hatchet though).
  • Invoked all but by name in Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium, when Varric is putting together a card game for the Inquisitor and her closest friends. He wants to invite Blackwall, but hesitates because there's animosity between him and some of the others (as in canon, given the revelations about his true identity as shown by his personal quest really change his respective relationships with his fellow companions for better or for worse). The two men discuss it, and Blackwall says he appreciates the thought but he "won't force the lady to choose between her friends." Varric, in turn, thanks him for not putting her in that position.
  • Child of the Storm has a complicated situation in the sequel, with Ron, Harry, and Carol. The complicated part comes in where no one is quite sure what category Harry and Carol's relationship fits under, meaning that it can just as easily be Friend Versus Lover. Either way, he's worried about being Locked Out of the Loop (due to a mixture of PTSD and natural reticence, Harry is notoriously sparing with information about his stranger exploits, while Carol usually already knows, because she's often involved) - as he explains, while he doesn't necessarily want to get involved in Harry's special flavour of insanity, he'd like to have the choice. As it is, it's implied that while Harry continues to deeply value Ron's friendship (and Hermione's, though she's far less insecure about it), he prefers Ron not having quite so dynamic a role in his life, saying he needs them as anchors to normality. How much of this is Harry manipulating them to come to terms with their new roles in his life is initially ambiguous - though he eventually admits that while it wasn't conscious, in retrospect that is exactly what he was doing. In general, he shuts them out of his adventures, which he sees as being for their own safety (he has several complexes), and they see as a kind of betrayal.
  • What is a Person Worth?: Out of all his friends, Clyde and Ronnie Anne are the only ones Lincoln trusts to know his situation with his family, and he refuses to tell his other friends what's going on. Justified, as Lincoln points out that his other friends are quick to turn on him and show themselves as Fair Weather Friends. Lincoln even admits that out of all his friends, Clyde is the only one he trusts. Downplayed when Lincoln realizes he was a little hard to his other friends and apologizes and shares a few details of the situation, while still not trusting them with the full truth. To Lincoln's other friends' credit, they understand why he has a problem trusting them and they are trying to be more supportive of him.


  • In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Phil has decided that Alexander is really only his third best friend.
  • In A Million Open Doors, longtime friends Giraut, Aimeric, and Marcabru have a falling-out after Marcabru is suddenly promoted to a position of some power and influence and it goes to his head. When Marcabru demands that Giraut fight him, Aimeric chooses to side with Giraut, because their friendship goes back further, and also because he can't recall ever really liking Marcabru in the first place.
  • Brought up in Just as Long as We're Together, as while Stephanie and Rachel have been friends since they were kids, Stephanie befriends Alison at the start of the novel and finds the two of them are very similar in terms of personality, while Rachel starts to drift further from Stephanie as time goes on until they have a massive argument midway through the book. Though neither wants to back down, Stephanie admits she misses Rachel badly. When they eventually reconcile, Rachel admits she felt like Stephanie was replacing her with Alison, confusing Stephanie as she says that while Alison is her friend, nobody can replace Rachel. In the sequel, Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, Rachel seems to have mostly gotten over her resentment, though she does note at one point that Stephanie and Alison prefer each other's company to hers.

Live Action Film

  • This is one of the major causes of conflict in Captain America: Civil War. Captain America is trying to save his formerly brainwashed childhood friend, Bucky Barnes, from a Frame-Up that makes him an internationally-wanted criminal. This puts Cap in conflict with many of his current friends and allies in the Avengers, who either believe Bucky is guilty or think it doesn't matter because a recent law makes vigilantism illegal as well. The final battle ramps up the conflict even further when it's revealed that a brainwashed Bucky killed the parents of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and Cap is forced to protect his oldest friend from one of his newest.
    Captain America: I'm sorry, Tony. But he's my friend.
    Iron Man: ...So was I.

Live Action Television

  • The Big Bang Theory: Reversed in one episode, where Sheldon decides to leave Pasadena after a robbery and leaves a farewell message to "three friends and one treasured acquaintance." The ending reveals that the acquaintance is Howard Wolowitz, which means the other members of the gang rank above him in Sheldon's mind.
  • This causes a problem in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Latent Image." Somehow, both Harry Kim and a Redshirt have been injured in exactly the same way. Doc only has the time to heal one of them (he can't talk a nurse through it to work on the other; it's too complicated), and it's guaranteed that the other one will die. Just to twist the knife, both patients have exactly the same odds of survival; triage isn't an option (it's implied elsewhere that, had there been a quantitative difference in their chances of survival, there would've been no conflict in his programming). He chooses Harry, and later has a complete breakdown about it:
    Doc: A doctor retains his objectivity. I didn't do that, did I? Two patients, equal chances of survival and I chose the one I was closer to? I chose my friend? That's not in my programming! That's not what I was designed to do!
  • In the Friends episode "The One Where Emma Cries", after Rachel has accepted Joey's Accidental Proposal in the previous episode, Ross asks her "So when I came in here to see if you wanted to maybe start things up again, you were engaged to my best friend?" Rachel attempts to derail the conversation by saying she thought Chandler was his best friend, and Ross begins "Well, Chandler's my oldest friend..." before realising what she's doing.

Visual Novels

  • The protagonist of Double Homework needs to make a choice when he arrives at the ski lodge. Out of Lauren, Morgan, Amy, and Rachel, whom does he trust the most?
  • Downplayed in a realistic fashion in Higurashi: When They Cry; Rika Furude cares about all of her friends, but she has a closer bond to Satoko compared to the rest. The rest of the cast is aware of both the favoritism and its innocent nature but are not really bothered by it.

Western Animation

  • Totally Spies!: In "Truth Or Scare", Mandy tries to force Alex to choose between Sam and Clover; the latter two compete for her (Alex's) affection. At the end of the episode, Alex says that despite her childhood stuffed toy turtle (named Ollie) being her favorite, she would never choose between the two of them, causing the girls to cry Tears of Joy.
  • In the The Looney Tunes Show episode, "Best Friends Redux," when Bugs Bunny's childhood friend, Rodney Rabbit, comes to visit him, Daffy begins to question who Bugs's best friend really is. Bugs insists that adults can't really have best friends, but rather a whole bunch of friends. Daffy decides to travel back in time to ensure that he is Bugs's oldest and best friend. Within the same episode, Daffy has his own top nine best friends list, which, in order from nine to one, are Porky, Granny, a stranger who pardoned him in the restroom of Pizzarriba, Carl (a stranger he met in a Phoenix airport), a tie between Pete Puma and Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales, Big Fat Rooster (Foghorn Leghorn), Tina, and Bugs.
  • Elena of Avalor: In one episode, Armando accidentally omits the 's' on a letter inviting Elena's best friends to join her on a sailing trip, causing Gabe and Mateo to compete over the position of Elena's best friend. Naomi (who fits much better into the role of Elena's actual best friend) is too distracted by the idea of a day on the water to notice or care about the typo (or she's just secure enough in her relationship with Elena that she doesn't need a title to prove it).
  • In the The Fairly Oddparents episode, "No Substitute For Crazy", Timmy needs a plan to distract the fairy-hunting Ms. Doombringer so he can escape from school. When he paints Elmer's boil to look like a fairy, Elmer asks him if this will make him his third best friend. Timmy assures him that if the plan works, he will zip right past Sanjay on his friendship scale.
  • In the Back at the Barnyard episode, "The Haunting," Pig gets possessed by the ghost of Winky, a rabbit who lived on the farm 150 years ago, who also captures the rest of Otis's friends. When Bessy orders Otis to suck out Winky's spirit with an ecto-vacuum, Otis objects, worrying he might suck out Pig's spirit by mistake, leading to this exchange:
    Bessy: What are you waiting for? Get him!
    Otis: I can't! I can't risk hurting my best friend!
    Pip: I thought I was your best friend!
    Otis: Right, I mean second best friend.
    Abby: I thought I was your second best friend!
    Otis: Uh, no, you're my best friend on the girl list.
    Abby: You can't have a different list for girls!
    Otis: Well, I do. It's pink and all the "I"s are dotted with puffy hearts.
    Pip: Best friend coming through!
    Abby: Best male friend.
    Pip: Whatever.
  • In Recess Season 2 episode "The Breakup", this trope was Defied. Ms. Grotke asks the class to write about their best friends. This causes problems for T.J., however: he can't choose a best friend. And while this strains his friendship with his friends and causes the gang to break up, he still can't choose a friend. In the end, T.J. writes a report about how all five of his friends are his best friends, and how special they all are. This ends up reconciling the group.
  • The Futurama episode "The Honking" puts Bender under the influence of a virus which supposedly dooms him to kill his "dearest friend." When he tries to kill Leela, his official best friend Fry is extremely ticked off before being relieved and delighted when Bender finally turns on him too.
    Leela: Can you give me some help? I think Bender crushed my foot.