Thursday, February 27, 2014

Brooklyn 99 Apologized for Rosa/Boyle. This Is Why We Love It.

So, fun story, the other day I was in Barnes and Noble, like you do when you're me and totally pathologically addicted to buying books, and I was just browsing in the nerd toy section, when this guy started talking to me. And I'm not exaggerating how random it was. It was literally a case of accidental eye contact, and then the guy started telling me how he was sad because he couldn't friend a girl on facebook because she has a boyfriend and it was a shame because she was such a cute geek. 

Friendzoned. What can you do? And apparently my breasts qualified me as a secondary character to whom he should reveal all his relationship troubles. Joy.

Whatever the reason, he proceeded to spill his guts to me as I casually tried to escape by walking towards the door and suddenly into aisles, etc. I guess this girl was really nice and friendly to him, but then he facebook stalked her and found out that she had a boyfriend, and they looked really good together, so he couldn't in good conscience be her friend. Because she has a nice boyfriend.

When I pointed out that this was whack and that he shouldn't use friendship as a currency to get sex, he was like, "Well, yes, but I just hate being friendzoned. And I don't want sex, I just want a relationship."

Friendzoned. I hate that word. I hate that word so, so much. More than you can possibly imagine. Or, if you're a girl, probably exactly as much as you can imagine. Because let's be real, ladies, this word is the bane of our existence. All my dudebros out there are really confused now, so let me back up a couple of steps. (And, in case you're interested, I will finish the story of creepy bookstore guy at the end of the article, so stick around.)

Friendzoning is a term that really came to prominence in the late 90s with a little show called Friends. It was the term they had for Ross and Rachel's relationship, where Ross waited too long to make a move on Rachel, and as a result was put in the "friend zone", where she was incapable of seeing him in a romantic light. He was trapped, and the only way out was to escape the friendzone.

It's a word you hear a lot on the internet today, with boys left and right complaining that their female friends have stuck them in the friendzone, or have friendzoned them. What they mean is that their female friends (girls do this too, but way, way less regularly), are doing them a disservice by choosing to value their friendship instead of seeing them primarily as potential sexual partners. They insist that being friends with a girl is some kind of punishment that the guy gets because he wasn't aggressive enough, or because this particular girl, "Only dates assholes."

So, basically, the friendzone is a made-up place that only exists in the minds of insecure boys who believe that the only reason a girl might have to not date them is that they are "too nice."

Spoiler alert: that's not the reason she doesn't want to date you. And, more than that, friendzoning is a terrible and harmful and generally disgusting way to look at the world. Why?

Because it supports the idea that the only relationship with merit is a sexual or romantic one. Male/female friendships are just the stepping stones to a sexual connection, in this view. If a woman is friends with a man and doesn't want to have sex with him, then she is being a slut, or a tease. If she confides in him emotionally, she is being misleading, and he is within his rights to call her a whore. And if she continues to not date him, and even has the temerity to complain about her romantic relationships to him, because she thinks he is her friend, then she's a bitch who can't see what's right in front of her.

More than that, though, it also absorbs the idea that any relationship with a nonsexual end goal, or with no end goal, like a friendship, is inherently worth less than one that could lead to sex. So, being friends with a girl is only worthwhile if it means that eventually she might want to date you. Being friends with a girl because she is your friend is stupid and pointless. The only relationships that matter in this worldview are sexual or romantic ones.

Sound familiar?

My feelings exactly.
The problem with this, with this whoooole thing is that it completely ignores a pretty important part of this equation. The girl. By which I mean, guys who complain about friendzoning are, by their complaints, implying that they don't think the girl they like has or should have any agency as a person. They don't think she should get to pick her romantic or sexual partners, because obviously she's bad at it. But here's the thing: even if she is bad at it, even if she genuinely dates assholes or idiots, that doesn't mean she's any less entitled to doing so.

It's her life. If she wants to keep dating idiots, then she can keep dating idiots. And if she doesn't want to date you, then she doesn't have to. Kindness and friendship are not tokens that you feed into a meter which eventually rewards you with a girlfriend. They're human things you do for other humans because you are also a human. 

Now, what does all of this have to do with Brooklyn 99? Everything.

A while back I wrote a rather protracted rant about the show, complaining that while I love Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), I was pissed as hell about her storyline. That storyline involved one of the other detectives, the schlubby Detective Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio). At the start of the season, Boyle has a crush on Rosa. Or, more than that, Boyle is obsessed with Rosa. He has dedicated himself to dating her. He obsesses over her. He buys hundreds of dollars in movie tickets on the off chance that she will go out with him. Boyle wants Rosa, and he is sure he's going to get her.

Rosa wants nothing to do with Boyle. He's not her type (the show has established that Rosa likes her guys tall, dark, hot, and monosyllabic), and she's really up front about that. She doesn't want to date him. She'd be okay with being friends, but Boyle keeps trying to make it weird. And here's the thing. We assume, as we're watching this, that Boyle is going to win. That at some point, Boyle will wear Rosa down and she'll go on a date with him, and she'll suddenly realize that she does love him after all. Because that's how the story works, isn't it?

The show even went so far as to have Boyle take a bullet for Rosa, who then felt guilty about how she still didn't want to date him, and then have Boyle reveal that he wasn't taking a bullet for Rosa especially, but that he was sure, someday, "When you do go out with me, and I know you will..." Boyle is sure that Rosa will one day date him because he's a nice guy. Because movies have always told him that this is how it works. And because Rosa is the girl of his dreams. So obviously the plot is going to bring them together, right?

Well, no, actually. So, when I wrote that article I was pissed as hell. But now? I feel awesome. I feel awesome because Boyle is now in an actual good relationship with a genuinely interesting woman who likes him for him and who is actually his type. She's a foodie, she loves classical cinema and doing nerdy stuff, she's an older, sophisticated lady, and she's totally crazy about Boyle.

But even better than Boyle finally being in a functional relationship, you know what happens in the episodes after? Boyle realizes exactly how creepy he's been to Rosa, and he apologizes for it. I mean there is literally a scene where Boyle apologizes for obsessing over Rosa and blaming her for not going out with him. And she forgives him, because she's a good person. They have fun together. They're friends. Real friends. Because Boyle has given up on his crazy idea of dating her, and is now treating Rosa as a person.

Plus, the show makes it clear that Boyle and Rosa weren't going to work as a couple. You know why? Because they have absolutely nothing in common. The woman that Boyle ends up with isn't a carbon copy of Rosa, she's a completely different person. Someone who actually likes the things that Boyle likes and who enjoys going to fancy restaurants and symphonies and stuff like that. Stuff Rosa hates. In reality, the biggest obstacle to Rosa and Boyle getting together wasn't the friendzone, it was the simple fact that Rosa and Boyle don't have anything in common. They don't like the same things at all. Why would they date?

And that's the part that most guys forget about friendzoning. That in all probability, if the two of you aren't dating, there's probably a good reason. Maybe she has a boyfriend already. Maybe she isn't attracted to you. Maybe you have absolutely no common interests. None of those things make her a bitch for not dating you. It's just life. 

So back to bookstore guy, and the other really important side of friendzoning and "Nice Guys". I said I was walking around the bookstore trying to lose him, and while that sounds funny, and it was kind of funny in the moment, it was also kind of not. I mean that I was very literally trying to lose him, because I didn't want him following me out of the store. I did not want this guy to see my car, to remember what it looked like, to find out my name, anything. I do not want this guy to be able to find me.

Why? I'm actually bigger than he is, and I could probably take him in a fight. I doubt he has kickboxing experience, and I really doubt that spends his days lifting fifty pounds of deadweight over his head (hey, who says nannying doesn't build good skills?). 

But he still made me nervous. This was a guy who couldn't take a hint. Who didn't get that I didn't want to talk to him. He was following me. And no matter what part of you is rational and knows the odds, as a girl, in a society where you expect to be blamed for whatever happens to you, it's gonna make you nervous.

He wasn't respecting my space, just like he wasn't respecting the choices of that girl he met. He wasn't respecting my right to my own space and my own privacy, and, really, my own body. I was there to give him the informational scene where I commiserate with him about his love life. I was a side character in the novel of his life, and it didn't matter what I actually thought of this encounter. It was all about him.

That is what made me nervous.

At any rate, the encounter ended surprisingly tamely. Finally fed up with his complaining and his terrible reasoning, I told him to stop treating this girl's friendship as some kind of consolation prize, and as he scratched his chin and said, "That's actually...really good advice," I literally ran away.

And now I can't go back to Barnes and Noble. Well, I can, but I don't really want to. I saw him there again a week later and I hid in the travel section until he went away. He was following a female employee around the store, talking at her.

So this, all of this, is why I'd like to thank Brooklyn 99 today. Because it realized that it had a problem, that Boyle's behavior was unacceptable, and that it was promoting rape culture. And then it freaking fixed the problem.

Thank you.


  1. I have had an enormous crush on Joe Lo Truglio since The State. He was adorable then, he's adorable now... But yeah, I remember how crushed I was that he was playing the unappealing shlub on Brooklyn 99, which was apparently a show about a jerk (no idea if that plotline has changed). I'm sorry some creep is terrorizing the B&N; maybe you could bring a lady posse with you for a while, so you guys can change the vibe into one of boisterous uterine unity? Which will obviously repel douchebags, and then you get your bookstore back. Its a weird thing when TV gets it right, and the real world is almost bizarrely fraught with failure.

    1. I dragged my sister to B&N today and it was happily creeper free. I think I'm mostly adopting a policy of not engaging, and also of going to the bookstore in daylight. Which is probably for the best anyway. I buy too many books... :P

      But yeah. I do want the vibe changed. Dragging more ladies to B&N seems both viable and also a worthwhile hobby.

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