The Friend Zone <3 Misogyny

500 Days of Summer (2009) – Jen

He claims to have been friend zoned, but he’s actually claiming himself to be a self-entitled misogynist. This isn’t to say that his experience is invalid, it’s just that his perspective happens to be very problematic.

Everyone has experienced The Friend Zone at one point or another. You attempt to show someone your wish of pursuing something more. That person then reminds you of how good a friend – a brother – a sister – you are, and just like that you find yourself flailing about The Friend Zone.

The Friend Zone is real, and so are the feelings behind them. No one likes rejection, and it’s especially painful when you believe your presence would greatly benefit the significant other. 

The problem with The Friend Zone is while it can be applied to all types of love regardless of sexuality or gender, it only seems to be valid when applied to heterosexual relationships in which the male is “friend-zoned” by the female. 

It is a concept perpetuated by hetero-normative and sexist ideals. Men are entitled to whatever women they want. Women are to be appreciative of whatever attention they receive from men, even more when that attention is overly kind and generous.

 

Of course the general public would discourage a relationship with an abusive or controlling man, but what about the self-sacrificing one? The man who drives 30 minutes out of his way to pick you up from work and always pays for lunch? Isn’t he deserving of reciprocated affection?

 

Apparently he is, so much so that the public frowns upon the indifferent woman. How dare she not return his affections! Doesn’t she know no one else will treat her that well? 

 

This patronizing tone can be seen in countless movies (Pretty in Pink (1986), Just Friends (2005), and I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009) just to name a few) in which the audience is pushed to sympathize and cheer for the rough, but bighearted male lead. 

 

Only one movie that I know of attempts to push the traditional acceptance of The Friend Zone, and unfortunately most of the audience was unmoved.

 

500 Days of Summer (2009) follows Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the awkward but interesting guy, who falls for Summer (Zooey Deschanel), the beautiful, quirky, but distant girl. Summer lets Tom know almost immediately that she isn’t one for committed relationships, nor does she see herself getting married. Despite her disclaimer, Tom falls hard and fast. He envisions their future, and when Summer makes it clear they don’t have one, Tom throws a fit.

 

Gordon-Levitt expressed what Tom really represented in an interview with Playboy.

 

“He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He think she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life.”

 

Tom is actually the selfish character, not Summer. Summer was honest, and while she enjoyed spending time with Tom she made it clear that she didn’t want to pursue anything permanent. Tom even freaked out when he discovers Summer got engaged to another man.

 

His crutch was that Summer just wasn’t ready for monogamy, when ultimately she just didn’t want him.

 

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t feel confident in themselves. Everyone should know their worth. And that special someone could very well see your worth and still not want to sleep with you. Or date-marry-procreate-get-old-and-die with you.

 

Rejection hurts, but what really shows your worth is how you handle that rejection.  Do you blame or do you understand? Do you whine or do you walk away? Do you wallow or do you move on?

 

Who knows what was really going on in Summer’s head. Maybe there were outside forces preventing her from being vulnerable with anyone. Or maybe she just didn’t think Tom was all that. The reality is, both answers are perfectly fine.

 

Yes, The Friend Zone exists, but it should not prevent you from making your own happiness.

 

Have you stuck around for 10 years and finally won the heart of your high school sweetheart? If the effort was worth it then I couldn’t be more happy for you, but I won’t congratulate you for “hanging in there” all those years. You’re a grown man. You make your own decisions.

Now, would I understand your pain if you stuck around for 10 years and she never wanted to commit? Of course! Like I said, rejection hurts, but I still won’t sympathize with you. Why? You got played homie! It’s true, this woman could’ve been completely abusive of your devotion, but that’s on you. It happens to all of us. Put her to the left and keep it moving.

 

True love is beautiful, but it’s not the only source of happiness. All those years you’ve spent chasing after affection could’ve distracted you from even greater opportunities in other aspects of your life. You might have even missed out on the opportunity to get to know and love yourself.

 

Gordon-Levitt warned us about the illusion of “true love”:

 

“A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.”

 
Rape and sexual assault has been the theme on my campus for most of the year due to increased sexual assault reports and the ex-ing of not-to-be-named-because-really-at-this-point-you-already-know-and-I-will-give-him-no-further-attention from the basketball team. Nationally, male privilege, misogyny, and women’s agency over their person have all been hot topics since headlines of young women murdered by young men not getting their way, (7 shot by Elliott Rodger the 22 year old virgin, and 16 year old Maren Sanchez stabbed for turning down a prom offer), I hope that the Friend Zone will be added to the discourse.
As comical and cinematic at it seems on the surface, it is a deadly pathway to male entitlement and female submission. It’s another concept that erases the actual person and puts the focus on the “idea” of the person. 

“Love” does not always mean love, but people always mean people. 

The Friend Zone is not an excuse to berate, guilt, and control women. Even the smallest of micro aggressions, like complaining  that you bought her lunch and she didn’t text you back, is still an act of violence. Women owe you nothing. If men continue to treat women as “good ideas” instead of flesh and blood, it not only makes it all the more easy to harm and take advantage of women, but to blame them as well.
This is,
MAB
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3 Comments

  1. Love this, Olivia! Spot on about the perpetuation of rape culture. It's concepts like these that we often disassociate, but are usually some of the most subtle yet important ones to talk about. Also, you're a kick ass writer!

    -Mariah

  2. Right right Mariah! I think people trivialize the friend zone or make it seem like a horrible act that must be avenged, which just means perpetuation of rape culture.Thanks so much girl!

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