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The sense of zone is one of being stuck in an unwanted and distant relationship. The rejected person is said to have been put "in" the object of their affection's "friend zone". The concept of the friend zone has been criticized as misogynistic, because of a belief that the concept implies an expectation that women should have sex with men in whom they have no interest, simply because the men were nice to them. This is closely associated with so-called "nice guy syndrome".
As originally portrayed in the episode The One with the Blackout of the American sitcom television series Friends (1994), when two people meet, there is a short period in which there is potential for a romantic relationship. After this time, if they continue to see each other, they are in the "friend zone" and so a romantic relationship is effectively impossible, even if one of the parties wishes for it to be possible.
The term friendzone can be verbified, as in the sentence "So, she's friendzoned you." Although the term is apparently gender-neutral, friend zone is often used to describe a situation in a male-female relationship in which the male is in the friend zone and the female is the object of his unrequited desire. The person who does the friendzoning is referred to as the friendzoner, whereas the person who gets friendzoned is called the friend-zonee.
The term "friend zone" is sometimes used in pick up artist (PUA) literature, where it forms part of PUA theories about female sexual attraction to males.
Writer Jeremy Nicholson in Psychology Today suggested that a romantic pursuer, in order to avoid being rejected up front, uses a ploy of acting friendly as a "back door" way into a hoped-for relationship. When this method does not work, the pursuer consequently is placed in the friend zone.
According to some psychologists, the man in a cross-gender friendship is more likely to be attracted to his woman friend than she is to him, and he is more likely to overestimate her interest in a romantic or sexual relationship.
Criticism of the term
Feminist writers have argued that the friend zone concept is misogynistic and rooted in male narcissism. The nice guy concept has been criticized as a gender trope with an underlying message that kind acts demand a sexual or romantic reward, and that this concept implies that if a woman and a man have a platonic friendship and the man becomes romantically attracted to the woman, then the woman has an obligation to return his affection. A woman who does not return her "nice guy" male friend's affection is viewed negatively or seen to be at fault.
TheGuardian.com contributor Ally Fogg argues that while the friend zone does not exist in a literal sense, men who use the term "friend zone" are not necessarily misogynists who feel entitled to sex. He states the term's usage reflects a genuine emotional experience for straight men with low self-esteem and self-confidence. He places blame on ingrained gender roles.
The term was popularized by a 1994 episode of the American sitcom Friends entitled "The One with the Blackout", where the character Ross Geller, who was lovesick for Rachel Green, was described by character Joey Tribbiani as being the "mayor of the friend zone".
The 2005 romantic comedy film Just Friends's main plot device is that the protagonist Chris Brander (played by Ryan Reynolds) is "friend-zoned" by his best friend (and secret love interest since school) Jamie Palamino (played by Amy Smart). His lack of confidence due to him being overweight and timid is reverted later in adulthood now that Chris has become a handsome, athletic and successful music producer; while still having unresolved issues with his unreciprocated love of youth, Jamie.
The Cartoon Network series Regular Show brings up and shows the friend zone on a regular basis, as one of the show's main characters, Mordecai, and his friend Margaret experience shifts in their relationship.
- "friend zone", Oxford English Dictionary, retrieved 22 January 2014,
...a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unrequited romantic or sexual interest in the other...
- Dickson, E.J. (12 October 2013). "6 reasons the "friend zone" needs to die". Salon.com. Salon Media Group Inc. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- Marcotte, Amanda (27 May 2014). "The dangerous discourse of "the friend zone"". rawstory.com.
- "The Friend Zone: Less Innocuous than it Seems? - the Jambar".
- "6 reasons the "friend zone" needs to die". Salon. 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
- Nicholson, Jeremy (1 March 2013). "Avoiding the Friend Zone: Becoming a Boyfriend or a Girlfriend". Psychology Today: 3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Fogg, Ally (8 January 2013). "Not all men in the 'friend zone' are bad guys". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
- Bleske-Rechek, April; Somers, Erin; Micke, Cierra; Erickson, Leah; Matteson, Lindsay; Stocco, Corey; Schumacher, Brittany; Ritchie, Laura (August 2012). "Benefit or burden? Attraction in cross-sex friendship". Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 29 (5): 569–596. doi:10.1177/0265407512443611.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) Pdf.
- Moore, Tracy (2 November 2014). "Hey Dude, You're Not Stuck in the Friendzone Cuz You Dress Shitty (blog)". Jezebel. Univision Communications. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- "Friends: The One With the Blackout Recap". TV.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 14 January 2008.