Friendzone. The first time I read that word was back in high school when I spotted an article titled Friendzone: Why I don’t want to be there. I almost thought to myself – jeez, this person might be a moron. Why wouldn’t anyone want to be in a zone with friends? Of course, I naively imagined it to be some sort of a hideout or chill corner where friends hung out. My then-restless ass didn’t let me foray beyond the title.
A few years later, while watching the sitcom Friends, I heard Joey advise Ross that in order to ‘get’ Rachel he needs to act fast or risk being ‘friendzoned’ forever. And that’s when I actually sort of got it. Of late, this term has actively seeped its way into books, movies and other media. It actively delineates how men who mean well, end up in the ‘friendzone’ upon facing romantic rejection. I mean, just when you thought the lines between friendship and romance have blurred, you are hurled into the vortex of friendzone.
Also Read: Malayalam Movie Tropes From The 90s
So, is this really a dreaded space to be in? Is it an insult to be here? Though a gender-neutral concept, pop culture has mostly spotlighted men’s agony in the face of rejection. There have been numerous tropes that revolve around this concept of friendzone that need an instant revisit. And that’s what we’ll do now. Let’s get smashing!
I’ve been nice to you, but you turned me down
This is the first trope that we are revisiting. Okay, you’ve been really nice to someone; you may have burned the midnight oil helping them on their project – that makes you a fantastic human being, no doubt. Now, you express your buried romantic feelings for them and they politely turn you down saying “let’s just stay friends”.
You believe that because you treated them well you are entitled to reciprocation from your love interest. Whether your “nice” face (or phase) was a façade or not, the minute you say this dialogue, the “niceness” tag has ulterior agenda with it. Now that’s not nice at all! That’s screwed up at a whole new level. One is not obligated to date someone just because they are kind-hearted towards one.
I saved your life, so you have to fall in love with me
The other day I was watching some random Bollywood scene. The hero saves an almost drowning girl by plunging into the waters. He pulls her out and gives her mouth-to-mouth. He was then was dead sure that she was going to fall in love with him once consciousness hit.
The girl may not have watched a lot of 90s Indian movies, so she didn’t go beyond thanking the guy for being a braveheart. But the guy who was 100% filmy was indeed shell shocked and plain dejected that she didn’t run into his arms and calling him “my knight in shining armour”.
Enthinu Bollywood nokunnu? Let’s look at our very own Malayalam movie Friends. Sreenivasan tells Jayaram who just saved Meena from electrocution that “jeevan rakshichal ethu kaatumaakanodum penninu premam thonnum”. But dude, if that’s the logic then love god Cupid wouldn’t have time for anything else apart from striking those rescued by firefighters and lifeguards.
Lokathil oraankuttikum penkuttikum friends ayi matram kazhiyan pattilla
Says who? Says Varsha (Jomol’s character) in the movie Niram, a girl who had been friend-zoned right from the start. This dialogue was more of a social construct those days and was thrown in a lot of movies. It was meant to seal the notion that friendship at some point will transform into love (remember what Harry said in When Harry Met Sally?). This also kind of elevates romantic relationships to a pedestal, with friendship way below it in the hierarchy of relationships.
Niram was one movie that made me wonder why platonic bonds were so difficult to digest in the past. I mean, surely you can miss your best friend who’s away from you without having to doubt if this level of missing is actually an outcome of unawakened romantic feelings that you’d never explored. Though I must say that it’d be difficult to smash those thoughts when, as in the case of Aby (Kunchacko Boban’s character), you have daily help like Rukku at home (“louuus” and “kaadhal” ormayile?)
She/he told me she/he “likes” me, this must be it!
One of the most vexing and common tropes, to be honest, is misinterpreting friendly gestures. How many movies have we seen where the heroine affectionately places her hand on the hero’s shoulder and the hero reads it as a romantic advance? Countless! But Ramankutty in Kalyanaraman was pretty sensible to realise that equating “I like you” to “I love you” is not really a safe bet. In his words, “I like you sambar, I like you chicken, angane oru I like you aavallo!”
Interestingly, according to BBC reports, it is said that people who consider themselves as highly attractive are at a higher chance of overperceiving someone’s liking as an interest to get intimate with them. If only there could be a way the girl could be as explicit as Hari of Harikrishnans when he says “oru friend enna nilayil”. Surely this could have avoided our poor Vijayan misreading his muse Sethulakshmi’s genuine concern as a romantic cue in Akkare Akkare Akkare!
I was mad about her/him, now I’m mad at her/him
Oh, were you? If you were really mad about them you’d respect their will to exercise their agency in saying “yes” or “no” to a romantic relationship. Now how did they suddenly become a manipulative monster (drohi, vanchaki/vanchakan and chathichi/chathiyan) who put you in the friendzone? To be fair, you can be mad at them; after all, things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to – the pain you feel is completely valid.
But resentment is not going to get you anywhere and ultimately you will have to move on. This resentment that stems from rejection is what makes “let’s just be friends” seem like a consolation prize and view friendzone as a terrible place to be in. Suddenly you feel like a victim and you villainise the person who’d done this to you. The result? You discard the friendship offer and embrace your ego, losing a good friend only because they were just not that into you. This basically means you’d rather not have this person in your life than share a platonic bond with them.
There have also been innumerable cases where people wanted to get even with the person (usually women) who turned them down. Yes, we have heard about women being prone to acid attacks and other forms of violence because they did not find a romantic spark yet!
To sum it all up, what I’ve got to say is, we need to stop viewing ‘friendzone’ as a torturous and inescapable space that people are flung into by the ‘heartless’. One person wanted to take it to the next level and the other did not. We need to stop villainising people who have the courage to say “let’s just be friends” and not make them feel guilty for making their choices when it comes to relationships. Also, it is important that both people in question spend time getting to know each other before one proposes to the other because love, at first sight, is mostly a filmy concept and in reality, it might take time to form a bond at a deeper level. This is precisely why a large number of married couples today started out as friends!
Okay, enough of my rant. Let’s hear from you!