Article: So The Teen Titan Crew Are Legit Badass (And The Friend Zone Is Still Garbage)

When I was younger I adored Teen Titans. The exuberance of the fierce (yet naïve) Starfire, the inner conflict of Raven, and, of course, the extremely complex relationship between Beast Boy and Terra.

I’m not even going to deny it—when I was younger I had the hugest crush on Beast Boy, and watching his relationship with Terra develop brought me extreme highs and lows in my teenage years. Anyone who goes to the cinema with me will know that I can get immersed in media with extreme ease and I was thoroughly invested in the dynamic between these two.

The less said about Teen Titans GO! the better, but its popularity has at least led to a resurgence in the old fanbase which has brought with it some good and bad developments.

Recently the bad shined through, but it was swiftly followed by the good.

Last November someone felt the need to express the idea that many cartoon boys were the subject of the so-called ‘friend zone’ with a pretty straightforward tweet:

For the record, Ron Stoppable was not in the ‘friend zone’ by any definition. Him and Kim got together is a movie that was also very significant to my teen years, but I digress.

The important part of this story is that a few days ago David Slack, former head writer for Teen Titans, decided to step in and let this individual know exactly how he felt about the ‘friend zone’ premise:

This is worth applauding and also pinpoints exactly what is wrong with the notion of the ‘friendzone’.

What Is The Friend Zone?

The ‘friend zone’, as it’s termed, is a phrase used to describe a situation in which one person wants to have a relationship with the other but they would rather remain friends or see that person purely ‘as a friend’.

In traditional terms, this might be known as ‘unrequited love’ and I quite like this term; it implies that there is simple an emotion in place that is not returned in kind. It puts the feelings (and, thus, responsibility) with the one who is struggling with such emotions and thus allows them to work through it personally.

The ‘friend zone’ does no such thing.

The Problem With The Friend Zone

By using the term ‘friend zone’ responsibility is immediately shifted from the person with the romantic attraction and instead is seen as an injustice of placement. It’s not a matter of personal emotions that need to be worked through—it’s that they’ve been wrongly put in a mental relationship zone by the other person. Suddenly the other person has imposed a state of being on them rather than it being a personal circumstance.

This in itself is damaging—because it removes the sense of introspection, personal reflection, and eventual healing that self-responsibility gives. But, perhaps more worryingly, the idea of the friend zone essentially ‘shifts the blame’ of the situation and thus allows for resentment and entitlement to build.

After all, there’s nothing wrong with the person being friend zones. After all, they feel attracted to the other person. Oh no—it’s the other person’s fault for putting them in the friend zone. Their fault for not feeling the same.

And, if ever you doubt that the friend zone can get bitter and/or malicious, just look at the friend zone memes out there or, perhaps even more troubling, the term ‘nice guy’.

Nice Guy Syndrome

‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ is often the uglier add-on to the friend zone mentality. Essentially it’s the mentality that when a woman rejects a guy it’s because there is a fault with her and that she doesn’t appreciate a nice guy (the rejected party) when she sees one.

This is often accompanied with insults—she’s just a slut, a bitch, an ungrateful whore—or the mentality that the woman has a fundamental personality flaw—she only likes dicks, she doesn’t appreciate how nice he is to her, she’s just too stupid to realize a good catch when she sees one, etc.

These excuses are almost always objectionable and tend to involve derogatory thoughts towards that person’s supposed object of affection.

Funny how a ‘nice guy’ will so quickly resort to insults if they feel like their niceness isn’t getting them exactly what they want.

The Implications

The fundamental problem with both the friend zone and Nice Guy Syndrome is the same—they are a practice in blaming and shaming women for not succumbing to someone else’s affections or, to be more accurate, sexual desires and relationship expectations.

They justify violence towards women (verbally and sometimes more) and suggest that the women ‘deserve it’ either for their own personal flaws (usually when it comes to ‘nice guys’) or through their inability to be passive and accept someone else’s emotional desires at the expense of their own (the ‘friend zone’).

Because, hey, women should just be grateful that a guy likes her and accept his advances no matter what, right?

Wrong

And thank god that the Teen Titan crew (or at least the head honcho) understands this. David Slack hit the nail on the head when it came to his tweets when challenged further about the friend zone being misogynistic (which it is):

There are some things that are just fundamentally toxic and, when it comes to the ‘friend zone’, it is a bit of a shame because the term ‘friend zone’ originally came from one of my favorite 90’s shows, Friends.

In Friends it was used as a warning to Ross not to be too friendly with Rachel (his unrequited love) without making some form of romantic move for risk of her seeing him ‘as a friend’. But, in such a situation, the connotation was that, if Ross reached that point, it was due to his lack of action and wasn’t something to be pushed, disregarded, or used as a reason to insult or otherwise demean Rachel.

Still, at the end of the show Rachel and Ross did end up getting together, through many ups and downs. This was the perfect climax to the series (and something we’d all been waiting for) but, sadly, it probably didn’t do us any favors in terms of how the friend zone was ultimately viewed.

While Friends would have undoubtedly never intended this, the ultimate implication was that the Friend zone was an injustice or obstacle that would eventually be overcome with persistence from the man’s part, and the eventual submission of the woman, and this just isn’t the case.

If someone, anyone, doesn’t have a romantic or sexual attraction to you then that is something to be respected, not vilified, challenged, or seen as a slight against your personal character. Accept it, recognize the need to take responsibility for your own actions, and find a productive way to move through the emotions (which, yes, do suck, and, yes, are deserving of a healing process).

Just, for the love of god, never use the term ‘friend zone’ or ‘nice guy’ because that is a dangerous territory to cross in to.

  • Kate Caruso

    Really thoughtful! Thanks!

  • AceDenise

    Thank you SO much for writing this! As an aromantic asexual woman myself, I loathe the whole idea of the “friend zone” and it took me years to understand how toxic that whole “nice guy” thing is. I was never all that into the show Friends, but I knew lots of people who were and were totally shipping for Ross/Rachel- I’m 44 so I remember it well. (I was always into Mulder/Scully!) This was long before I knew there was a term for what I was- I just thought something was “wrong” with me and I convinced myself I could accept that. But I never liked the character of Ross and I didn’t know exactly why… until after I realized I was asexual and started learning about rape culture and reading feminist blogs.

    I disliked Ross because he was always portrayed as the “nice guy”- but he was just obsessed with Rachel and lying in wait for her like a predator. He was only being “nice” and a “friend” to Rachel to stay in her life because he supposedly knew she was in love with him and would eventually figure it out. And he wanted to be ready and waiting with his magical dick when she finally came to her senses. He was only being nice to secure his place in line so that he could get in her pants someday. He wasn’t doing this because he cared about her as an actual person, as someone who was precious enough to him that he would treasure her friendship even though his romantic love was one-sided; that if someday she realized she loved him it would be a wonderful bonus but not a requirement, His end goal was always to be with her romantically/sexually, no matter what she said, how she felt, or who else she was dating. Gross. Personally I always thought she and Joey would be kinda cute together. Joey’s character was shallow at first but he grew into a mostly honest and funny guy. I liked him the best.

    I don’t feel a huge social need for many people in my life at this point but I would love to eventually have a few very close friends, and those would be my primary social relationships that would fill my emotional needs. Right now I am fine with my mom and my sister, and her 2 kids. I have never needed or even wanted romance, let alone sex, and I love being on my own and being single. I need a lot of time alone, it’s how I relax and unwind. It stresses me out to share my space for too long. “Friend zone” is all I would ever be interested in from anyone, and the way society shits all over friendships not being “real” relationships really infuriates me.

    BTW, one of the biggest red flags for me is any person, of any gender, who describes themselves as “nice” at our first meeting. Especially a dude who claims to be a Nice Guy(tm). If a person is truly nice, they will show it by their actions and they will never say it about themselves. If they have to say it, then it’s probably because they have been accused too many times of being “not nice” (assholes) to their faces in the past. I’ve been burned in the past by a few supposedly “nice” people.