(500) Days of Summer and Debunking the Friendzone Myth

Image

Released in 2009, (500) Days of Summer was an offbeat indie ‘anti-romcom’ box office hit, catapulting Zooey Deschannel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to international stardom. The film is peppered with great dialogue and scenes, such as the choreographed musical routine to ultimate feel good tune-  Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’, which marching band and animated birds and a winking Han Solo ‘ This is followed which is followed in a stunning juxtaposition with scenes of moping, self pitying Tom. The nonlinear structure of the film gives it the spice of difference while remaining in the popular market. However, the way in which it is interpreted as showing the ‘friendzone.’

Image

Tom meets Summer working in an office, writing cards – ironic, as the industry perpetuates ideologies to the masses. Tom says, after his Summer fling (ha ha) “These cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’M responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything.” But its Tom’s buying into the idea of the ‘nice guy’ and the idea that somehow he deserves a relationship with Summer, though despite her outright telling him she wasn’t interested in a long term monogamous relationship with him.

Image

They argue:

Summer: We’re just fr… 

Tom: [Interrupting]
No! Don’t pull that with me! This is not how you treat your friend! Kissing in the copy room? Holding hands in IKEA? Shower sex? Come on! Friends my balls!

Despite Tom’s feelings, its hard to subjectively blame Summer. She was clear with Tom on the point- she even tells him she doesn’t believe in love– and he agrees to her terms. Let me repeat: HE AGREES TO HER TERMS. Any substance to his argument that Summer is in the wrong has fallen flat. Summer is constructed of contradictions – as most people are. People change, people do things that aren’t ‘them’ (i.e “That’s so not me, I can’t believe I did that”) – as Iain S. Thomas said “I keep wondering, how many people do you need to be, before you can become yourself.

Image

Often the audience demonises Summer, calling her a ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, a ‘cocktease’ or whatever, but the fact is, he agreed to not being in the kind of relationship he wanted – so why should he have the right to insult her? Why should the audience? Perhaps it’s because we see the story from Tom’s vantage point, its easier to side with the person who’s shoes you’re walking in. If we saw from Summer’s angle, perhaps we’d had thought differently. She meets a boy – Tom – he’s great, but somethings missing. She’s straight with him, and rather than continue to lead him on, she finishes it and unintentionally breaks his heart, and he can’t let go. Then she meets someone else someone, as she says who made her certain of what she was never certain with, with Tom. A whole new love story, that ends with a wedding and the attempted rekindling of a friendship with Tom, despite his nasty words born from selfpity. Also, the Author’s Note at the start of the film sets us up to dislike the girl, without even knowing who she is or what she has done. The ‘fuck you’ also suggests that the Tom’s real life counterpart is still hurt, or at least still bitter. Summer is set up as a bitch, so its unsurprising the audience think her a bitch.

Image

A guy and a girl can be just be friends, but at one point or another, they’ll fall for each other…maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever.” This statement is ridiculous – the idea that no one can have friends of the other gender. There isn’t even a way to articulate how wrong this statement is, because it’s just ridiculous.

Hollywood perpetuates this idea that casual sex doesn’t work, especially between friends, as films like Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached prove. Films which have essentially the same story line – boy and girl meet, are attracted to each other, don’t want serious relationships but want to get laid, they develop feelings for each other, and they can’t continue unless they commit to a traditional monogamous relationship.

Image

However, Joseph Gordan-Levitt, who plays Tom, gave an interview to Playboy magazine in which he questioned this romanticised view of Tom as the celebrated ‘nice guy’ and Summer as the ‘bitch’, even if others who worked on the film felt that was the right reading – as the aforementioned Author’s Note would suggest.

“The (500) Days of Summer attitude of “He wants you so bad” seems attractive to some women and men, especially younger ones, but I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is. He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life. 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.

No, I really liked that movie. The coming-of-age story is subtly done, and that’s great, because nothing’s worse than an over-the-top, cheesy, hitting-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer, moral-of-the-story sort of thing. But a part of the movie that’s less talked about is that once Zooey’s character dumps the guy, he builds himself up without the crutch of a fantasy relationship, and he meets a new girl.

Making checklists of things you’re looking for in a person is the numero uno thing you can do to guarantee you’ll be alone forever. You can’t meet someone and think, Do they have everything I want in a person? You just have to pay attention, keep your eyes open, listen to people and be present. I guess what I look for in a girl is someone who’s doing that too. Beyond that there’s not much more I would specify, because you never fucking know, man.”

Image

Levitt raises multiple intelligent points on this idea of ‘friendzoning’ and the ‘nice guy’, although he extends it outside of gender – which I think it good. Boys can be put into these situations too. However, the nice guy is undeniably a feminist issue. The idea of the ‘nice guy finishing last’ is ridiculous. Doing nice things for a female friend when you’re sober is embarrassing because it apparently shows that you’re friendzoned – and those who are nice to their girlfriends are ‘whipped’ – however, girls who help their male friends and/or are nice to their boyfriends are just doing the expected. There is no female equivalent to this, though girls may adopt the ‘friendzone’/’whipped’ to apply to their own situation. Often girls will complain that a guy’s ‘too nice’, or that she loves a ‘bad boy’ – the ideology has manifested itself in women too, however, the majority of women in happy relationships would most likely agree that men being ‘nice guys’ are paramount to successful relationships. The idea of the ‘friendzone’ demonizes the woman’s right to say no, and the idea that a woman is doing something wrong, rather than a man being fairly rejected massages the male ego, and to a certain extent perpetuates rape culture. Often these guys suffering from ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ aren’t nice guys at all – women are not machines that you put nice actions into and sex comes out, as one  internet meme proclaims.Yes, we may empathise with Tom’s position, seeing past or present versions of ourselves in his self pity and his rejection. But does that mean this film proves the friendzone/’nice guys finish last’ myths true? Does it fuck.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “(500) Days of Summer and Debunking the Friendzone Myth

  1. All men should watch this movie and read this article. So many are on Tom’s side when he’s really kind of an asshole. Luckily he kind of gets it by the end, but it appears too many of the film’s viewers don’t get it. I used to be this asshole myself and severely regret it. I haven’t been on a date for two years now out of fear that I’ll put someone through the same pain Summer had to go through, the pain virtually every woman goes through these days. Rape culture is pervasive in every aspect of heterosexual relationships in our culture, from the very initiation of conversation. It’s all up to the men to “get” something out of the woman, and if she doesn’t “give back,” she’s a bitch. It’s such an awful mentality and is truly debilitating for both sexes.

  2. I totally agree. I think a lot of people don’t get what this movie is about. There is no such thing as the friend zone! You’re either dating or your friends. No trickery needed, just communication.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s