A Criticism of Tales from the Friend Zone

Tales from the Friend Zone (TFTFZ) is an Internet love advice show that gets its content from online letter-senders.

It resembles long-running Philippine TV show Maalala Mo Kaya (MMK), which presents a host reading out a letter, reenactment, and words of wisdom from the host afterwards. However, unlike MMK, the online show’s reenactment does not come with audible dialogues from performers. The story relies on a voiceover of host Ramon Bautista reading the letter. In contrast with MMK’s solemn story treatment, TFTFZ gives a lighthearted take on the woes of people stuck in the Friend Zone.

The room where Ramon Bautista can be seen contains objects that suggest his status as an established personality. His well-known face is complemented by expensive things surrounding his living room, such as a Macbook Pro, a flatscreen TV, and a condo interior with wall lights.

Ramon Bautista is wearing a playfully-designed t-shirt with “Hangal na Luha” (Silly Tears) written in comic superhero-style font. Despite his age and the expected mature character expected to come with it, he wears this hip shirt that shows his lighthearted personality.

The title of episode 2 “Mahal kita, kaso finriend zone mo ako 😥 “ immediately links itself to the youth by using an emoticon that is used in online chatting and text messaging.

In episode 2, host Ramon Bautista seems to intentionally misspell the word “reciprocate” on a small whiteboard while giving his advice. He erases what he writes and changes it to an uncomplicated “Love is 2 way.” What’s more, he later on breaks the seriousness of his advice by saying “…at ‘yang rules na ‘yan, inimbento ko lang.” These ironies become acceptable because the nature of the show basically says that it does not take itself seriously and does not attempt to be taken seriously by its viewer.

Furthermore, its exaggerated use of consonants in naming of characters “Khimberlhynn” and “Jhonnehl” apparently alludes to “Jejemon” language, a common theme of jokes.

The show uses an old-sounding theme song but then presents modern characters distinguishable by their clothes and use of a touchscreen cellphone and an iMac. Its lyrics “kaibigan lang pala, kaibigan lang pala” seem to be a voice for a friendzoned person laughing at their own misfortune or a person teasing a friend who has been friendzoned by someone else.

The story for the episode immediately starts off with Khimberlhynn meeting Jhonnehl at school. They find that they have a common interest, which is dancing. Eventually, Khimberlhynn confesses her feelings for Jhonnehl. Khimberlhynn’s character has a defamiliarizing effect through her tendency to go after the guy (being first to confess feelings and giving expensive gifts), contrary to the norm. This unconventional attitude is complemented by her pixie cut hair. She is also seen sitting on the driver’s seat when she gives Jhonnehl her gift.

Their relationship becomes vague when Jhonnehl tells her that they should not rush things and that they still have a lot of time to get to know each other. Tension occurs as her expressed feelings are not reciprocated by Jhonnehl. He does not acknowledge if he has romantic feelings for her as well. This state of being neither in a platonic nor romantic relationship puts the girl in a vulnerable situation. Still, Khimberlhynn continues to be affectionate to Jhonnehl by giving him an extravagant gift in the form of an iMac. In a Marxist point of view, it is worth mentioning that this suggests “big feelings” for a significant other is represented by “big gifts.” Obviously, the situation is exaggerated through the fact that the box of the iMac is placed on Jhonnehl’s lap while they are inside the car. The scene comes across as comical.

Things get more complicated when she sees him with another girl yet assumes that they are just friends. Khimberlhynn’s story climaxes when her friend tells her that she saw Jhonnehl holding hands with another girl. Her story suspends its resolution or closurem since she is still seeking advice from Ramon Bautista. In a way, it gets resolved by Ramon Bautista’s advice that she could have avoided being in that position if she did not expect anything in her relationship with Jhonnehl.

“TALES FROM THE FRIEND ZONE Episode 02.” YouTube. June 27, 2012. Accessed September 18, 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI3cUdkRKMs.


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