‘A man and a woman can never be friends, because one side will eventually fall in love with the other.’ This idea has been perpetuated since the beginning of time. We have seen it in movies, shows, and plays. We grew up thinking that our partner would be the best friend we’ve had. From 13 Going on 30, Friends, and When Harry Met Sally, these shows and movies showed us good entertainment but it came at the cost of perpetuating a stereotype of how a relationship should be, that a man and woman will never have a platonic relationship. While some love stories begin with friendship, these are the expectations, not the general rule. Why do we keep insisting that a friendship between the opposite sex must end up in a relationship? Why is this idea taboo or unaccepted? In this article, we’ll talk about how the media and social conventions shaped the way of seeing friendship and how the winds are changing.
Surveys, What we have been raised to believe in, and the unfortunate “Friendzone” Area
Research done by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships indicates that there’s a possibility of “just friends” with the opposite sex, but an opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for romance is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to take advantage at the most inopportune time.
Undergraduate opposite-sex friends were divided into 88 pairs in a science lab, with the result having men are more attracted to their women friends than women friends are attracted to their male friends. Additionally, males were more inclined than women to believe that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them, which is a demonstrably false assumption. In reality, men's perceptions of their attractiveness to their female friends had little to do with how these women actually felt and a great deal to do with how the men themselves felt. In other words, men assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual and were unaware of the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Females were often not attracted to their male friends, therefore they felt that this lack of interest was shared by both genders; Similarly, females were unaware of the thinking of their opposite-sex friends. The result is that men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends, while women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.
Long story short, Men have more tendency to fall in love with their women friends than women do with their male friends.
When talking about the media and how they show friendships between men and women on screen, most of the famous shows and movies have a “will they/won’t they” trope. Examples like Rachel and Ross, Jim and Pam, Harry and Sally, and so on, have the characters end up together. In retrospect, the actors have intense chemistry, and their storylines are set up to have the characters end up together, but that does negate the fact that despite the show or movie’s success, it kind of harmed the idea of having opposite-sex friends.
Another stereotype that appeared in the media is the “friend zone”. movies like Just Friends talk about how the guy has feelings for the girl but she does not feel the same way, so he ends up stuck in the horrible “friendzone” area. Despite the movie having the characters end up together, it also depicts that the friendzone is the end of all ends.
So basically we have two stereotypes: the friendzone and the friends-to-lovers with nothing that actually focuses on just pure friendship.
A Change in the Wind: How the Culture and Media Has Changed the Idea of Friendship.
Nowadays, people are looking for a solid and honest friendship from the other gender. It’s not all about romance and marriage, but to seek a friend that gives you comfort and stability. Fun and adventure with perspective you won’t get from your own gender.
While female friendships are almost utopic and filled with love and support, a friendship between a man and a woman can show the other sex’s POV, which includes dating advice to be more blunt from the guy and a sympathetic way of seeing the world from the female perspective (or vice versa).
What makes a friendship between a man and woman work is the idea of opposite attracts, how both mindsets work and think, and how they can provide support in their own unique way.
Shows and movies now don’t tend to focus on making friends fall in love, as movies and shows that show the rise and fall of friendship are increasing.
Shows like Platonic focus on how two friends from the past reconnect and have a good time without having romantic feelings.
In Short, we are not saying that there’s something wrong with friends who end up being in a relationship, however, if we only think of it that way, we are limiting the scope of what friendship is. We cannot enforce a stereotype on people to be in a relationship when they are friends only.