The friend zone (or friendship zone) is a popular psychology concept found in many pseudo-psychology texts geared towards a male audience about "dating advice." It refers to the situation where the female has begun to view a male as a friend only and not a potential suitor, a psychological classification supposedly exceptionally difficult to undo.
Sex columnist Catherine Townsend cites a feared loss of romance and mystery as well as a fear of rejection. On the other hand, Cosmopolitan magazine notes that in a 2001 Match.com survey, 71% of respondents hoped that they would fall in love with a friend. It has also been suggested that women may also become victims of the "friend zone".
The term friend zone was popularized by a 1994 episode of the television sitcom Friends, where the character Ross Geller, lovesick for Rachel Green, was labeled "Mayor of the Friend Zone". The question of whether a man can ever "escape 'The Friend Zone' and begin dating one of his female friends" was key to what made the Ross and Rachel pairing on the show a "geek dream couple".
The TV show Scrubs uses the term "the friend zone" on the episode "My Best Friend's Mistake" in Season 1. J.D. explains that once something important, a turning point, occurs between a guy and a girl, they have 48 hours to do something about it or else the guy will be stuck in the girl's "friend zone" forever. J.D. doesn't get to finish kissing Elliot in 48 hours, so he enters a hospital room called "Friend Zone" with a room full of guys who used to like Elliot, but Elliot didn't like them back in the same way.
The 2005 film Just Friends also deals with the "friend zone" and how it impacts on the main character of the film (played by Ryan Reynolds) when he re-unites with his female friend from high school (played by Amy Smart) for the first time in 10 years after an incident at a high school graduation party at her home in which she said that she loves him "like a brother", dashing any hopes of him having her as a girlfriend.