I have wanted to talk about this one since the first time I saw the trailer. I set it aside, though, figuring I could save it for today and in doing so I’ve had a fair bit of time to think about this movie and all the things that it represents. I think, reasonably, I will be watching this just to see how well the writers manage the topic, but ultimately When We First Met has the potential to continue a disturbingly disastrous conversation that I just don’t think is acceptable in today’s society.
Let’s start with the premise. Noah and Avery meet at a party and it isn’t long before Noah develops feelings for the woman he later describes as the “girl of [his] dreams.” Of course, for Avery, Noah is her very best friend. Flash forward three years and Avery is happily in a relationship with someone else. One night, after returning to a photo booth he and Avery visited on the night they met, he wakes up having traveled back in time and suddenly has the chance to relive and change the events of their lives in order to “get the girl.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Both the story and the trailer look exceedingly cute and funny. You can’t help but feel for the poor guy in love with his best friend but stuck forever in the friendzone. There’s a reason why we easily find ourselves emotionally invested in the guy who is in love with the girl who just doesn’t seem to return his feelings. And I will certainly be watching the movie when it comes out on February 9th (hopefully not cringing the entire time) in order to give it a chance. But at the end of the day, there’s something deeply problematic with this premise and it all comes down to that beyond irritating word, friendzone.
Assuming we don’t all already know why the friendzone is problematic, let me break it down a little bit. This sort of situation has existed for a long time. There has always been the girl pining after the guy who never seems to notice how much she cares and there has always been the boy pining after the girl but he just can’t seem to get her to see how right he is for her. And in both situations, ironically, we find women are often villanized.
In the first, the woman who is villainized is usually the boy’s girlfriend. She’s seen as a terrible person, the only reason why this boy seems so blinded to the perfect girl right in front of him. In most films where this is a plot device, this girlfriend is usually a horrendous person, unreasonably cruel to whomever she can be (often times the girl who has been pining) and audiences resultingly find themselves rooting for the often less popular nice grl instead.
In the second, often the friend who has become the object of the sweetly portrayed boy becomes the woman we villainize. How could she ever not reciprocate the feelings of this boy we all love? How dare she date someone else? We can all see how amazing and special he is, so what’s wrong with her?
Can you see how this is disturbing?
In neither case do we simply chalk it up to the fact that the person who has become the object of the unrequited love is not required to return those feelings, to the fact that they are their own autonomous beings who have the right to love whomever they love. We rarely ask, why does is the piner unable to accept that the feelings are not reciprocated rather than putting unreasonable expectations on the other person simply because they “love” them? Instead we ask what is wrong with the person who doesn’t love the piner back.
I have a lot of problems with the friendzone. And this does, in part, stem from the fact that it came about as a way to be angry and to shame the women who were not interested in a sexual relationship with their friends. As far as I am currently aware, such a response was not prominent among female piners (though the girlfriend hating is still problematic on its own). This toxic idea that men have the right to expect such a relationship simply because they “love” someone is deeply troubling for a number of reasons.
And frankly, I think the best way that I can put this is…how would you feel if you were in Avery’s situation?
Whatever your gender, if you were happy with your partner and a close friend of yours went back in time to change the nature of your relationship, would you be okay with that?
There is no hesitation whatsoever for me. I would feel violated, disgusted, and betrayed.
So the story sounds sweet, the trailer looks funny, but ultimately When We First Met appears to romanticize not only the degradation of a friendship (instead making it all about the sex he never got) but also the destruction of Avery’s right to not reciprocate Noah’s feelings. I’m almost certain the perpetuation of such a discourse is likely to be the route this show takes and Noah will most likely “get the girl” by the end of the film. In such a case, I can only say that everything I mentioned above will fester.
I have hopes that maybe this film will turn out to surprise me, that maybe he wont “get the girl” and a conversation about appreciating friendships can be had rather than having the same old message of male entitlement spread further. I’ve included the trailer below for anyone interested in watching it.
So, what are your thoughts on the matter? I’d love to hear!