Most of the time when you ask someone who their favourite Friends character is, the answer is usually Rachel or Chandler. It’s rarely Phoebe or Joey. I think a lot of the time they’re seen more as secondary characters, purely there to provide comic relief alongside the two main couples; Monica & Chandler and Ross & Rachel. Especially given the fact that those four had known each other long before Joey and Phoebe came along. It sometimes feels like the Monica/Chandler/Ross/Rachel show, with Phoebe and Joey just being more like extras.
In my opinion, Phoebe and Joey are the most underrated characters in the entire 10 seasons of Friends – here’s why. I’ll start with Phoebe.
First, she has probably had the hardest life out of the entire group. Her childhood and teen years were spent living on the street. She had to beg for money because she had no family other than her twin sister. And after all that she still grew up to make something of herself. Throughout the show she revealed that she lived in Prague, got hepatitis when a pimp spit in her mouth, and stabbed a cop – “HE STABBED ME FIRST!”. I do think this made Phoebe a bit defensive and insecure though (and tbh I don’t blame her). And it did make her quite sensitive to things that other people wouldn’t bat an eyeid at.
2. She is selfless.
From the big things such as being a surrogate for her step-brother who, at the time, she’d only known for a short while, to wanting to return the $7,000 she received when she found the thumb in her drink, because she felt it wasn’t hers to keep. AND let’s not forget she gave $1,000 of it to a homeless woman, and gave the rest to Chandler. Remember when she was trying to prove to Joey that there was such thing as a selfless good deed? It’s also times like when she covered for Rachel when she was pregnant at the beginning of season 8.
3. Talking of which, can we just talk about how much of a massive thing her surrogacy was? I always got the impression that she’d pretty much decided she wanted to do it straight away. But it was the rest of the group and her birth mother who were focusing more on the reasons not to do it. Also, the scene where she talks to the triplets at the hospital just after she’d given birth breaks my heart every time. Scenes like that show how much of an incredible actress Lisa Kudrow is, and it’s a shame she wasn’t given more serious scenes and storylines like that.
4. Girl’s got morals.
She’s a vegetarian, because she believes killing animals for meat and fur is wrong. In the early 90’s I can imagine how little choice there would have been for vegetarian friendly food. Remember when she was pregnant with the triplets and she was craving meat? The only way she would allow herself to eat meat was because Joey offered to give up meat for her “so no extra cows would die”. (Another plus for the Joey column). Even though we all know that’s not really how it works, it shows such an adorable side of their friendship. And when she gets that Mink coat, at first she goes against her own morals when she realises she actually likes it. But it doesn’t take long before she starts to feel guilty about it and eventually gets rid of it.
5. She stands up for what she believes in. Remember officer Gary? She moved in with him and even though she had really strong feelings for him, she broke it off immediately when he shot a bird. Similar situation when she was with Mike, who she absolutely loved. When she found out he didn’t want to get married she ended their relationship because she knew they wanted different things. I’m so glad her and Mike worked out in the end though. Her only other major love interest throughout the show was David, who she was tortured with since season 1 but they weren’t ever properly together. He was always the one who got away. It was nice to see her have her happy ending and finally have the family she always wanted.
6. She isn’t judgemental or discriminative.
Throughout the show she revealed that she had a few friends who she knew from her days living on the street. And even though those friends may still be living on the street or mugging people etc, she still saw the good in them and doesn’t think any less of them than people who are living a more steady lifestyle like herself now. In fact, and quite weirdly ironically, the only people she is judgemental against are the snotty, upper class people (such as Mike’s parents, and Rachel’s friends from before she moved to the city) who think they are better than everyone else.
7. She’s hella determined. Even though she’s not an amazing guitarist or singer, she writes and performs her own music just because she loves it. Numerous times over the 10 years people have said her music sucks. (Or lied to her and told her they loved it). But she still continues with it because it makes her happy, despite the fact no one else has any faith in her. She mentioned in series 8 that she didn’t go to high school, but her and a few others would meet behind a dumpster to learn French. Then, a couple seasons later we found out that Phoebe was fluent in French when she tried to teach Joey.
8. She isn’t afraid to JUST. BE. HER.
She is so unapologetic about her quirks and “weirdness”. I think that’s one thing we could all learn from her. From the way she runs, to changing her name to Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock just because she thinks it’s funny. And no matter how hard she tried to be more conservative when meeting Mike’s parents, she just couldn’t be anything but herself. It’s so cute when Mike says “you’re so wonderfully weird” in his wedding vows. It’s so nice that she finally found someone who loved her ‘weirdness’ and her quirks. I also love how she’s happy “just being a masseuse”. Many of the other characters are so career driven, which isn’t a bad thing at all. But where the others would always want more Phoe15be is again happy just doing what she loves. She doesn’t feel the need to be anything more than she is.
9. She’s honest. Sometimes brutally honest but honest nonetheless. She’s the kind of friend who will tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. Back when Paolo made a pass at Phoebe, she told Rachel straight away even though they weren’t really that close friends at that point. She knew that it could’ve put their friendship in jeopardy because there was a chance that Rachel wouldn’t believe her. Or Rachel could have blamed her, effectively ruining their friendship.
Whenever I think about Joey, I get really sad for him. (Let me just point out here that I haven’t seen his spin-off, so I don’t know what happened with him after the main show finished. Would I be an awful person to say I wouldn’t really count it?). At the end of the final season of Friends, Monica & Chandler were both in great jobs, had been married for a couple of years, they’d just adopted two beautiful twins, and were off to live in a big house in the suburbs. Ross & Rachel were back together (even though she should’ve stayed on that damn plane), they had a daughter, both in great jobs. Phoebe was married to Mike and finally had the family she always wanted.
But Joey never got a happy ending. He never got his big acting break. He didn’t have anyone else to share the end of the season with. Even though he’d proven he could be in a relationship (Rachel, Charlie, Janine, Kathy, Erin, etc), but at the end of the whole ten seasons he was alone, in pretty much the same career position he was at the start of the show.
First, he proposed to both Rachel and Phoebe when he learned they were pregnant. (Even though Phoebe was covering for Rachel). Despite Joey being known as a serial womaniser, he still had respect for women, especially his female friends. I’m trying to cast my mind back and even though he dated and slept with a lot of women, I can’t ever remember him being disrespectful or derogatory towards women. He loved women. And had one of the women he’d slept with become pregnant, I 100% believe he would have “done the right thing” with them, too. He has 7 sisters so I think that’s what made him so protective of the women close to him. He also had a genuine friendship with all three of the main women. Can you say the same for the other two guys?
2. He fell in love with Rachel while she was pregnant. Even though this was really bad timing, the fact that he fell in love with her while she was pregnant is huge. His love for her was born out of genuine friendship. He wasn’t one to fall in love, for a start. And he’d never thought about having a family, or being with a women who had a child before. In season 1 he dates a single mother, and her children were seen as an inconvenience. Not long ago I read this Twitter thread about how Joey and Rachel should have ended up together, and after reading that I have to say I am totally team Joey.
3. When Joey tells Rachel he’s in love with her and she rejects him, he doesn’t make it awkward for the rest of the group. All he cares about is Rachel and he just wants her to be alright, and for their friendship to continue because he genuinely values her as a friend.
4. He continuously forgave people when they did him wrong.
This isn’t to say Joey never made mistakes. But when Kathy cheated on Joey with Chandler, Joey was devastated at first but eventually forgives Chandler pretty much instantly when he realises how strong Chandler’s feelings are for Kathy. Joey puts aside his feelings so that his best friend could be happy. Also let me point out here how the others told Chandler that if he’d gone straight to Joey first and told him he had feelings for Kathy, Joey would’ve stepped aside. TRUE STORY. Also when he and Rachel finally did get together, he didn’t want to do anything with her until he’d spoken to Ross about it. Ross didn’t give Joey the same courtesy when he got with Charlie. (I think he might have for a split second, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t last long). Because everyone already thought that Charlie and Ross were more suited anyway.
5. Even when all of his friends often made light of his acting career (same as they did with Phoebe’s music career), he still pursued his dream. He never stopped believing in himself. This is why it breaks my heart that throughout the whole 10 seasons he never got his ‘big break’. It would’ve been such a glorious moment for him to prove to the others that he actually could make it.
6. He ended his relationship with Janine because she didn’t like Monica & Chandler. Again proving that his friends are the most important thing in his life. He could’ve easily continued with the younger Joey stereotype and just maintained a sexual relationship with her, but he realised he actually wanted an actual relationship with someone who could get on with his friends.
7. Remember when Monica first got her job at Alessandro’s, and she was being bullied by her colleagues? Who stood up for her? JOEY DID. Joey even told Monica to hire him as a waiter, just so she could then fire him and make an example of him to gain respect from her colleagues. Even when Joey doesn’t go through with their original plan at first, he still tries to talk her up and tell everyone how nice Monica is. But when Monica reached breaking point Joey stood up for her and let her fire him, even though it would cost him a second income.
8. Let’s not forget how much of a part he played in Monica and Chandler’s relationship when they first got together. He repeatedly made himself look bad, and sometimes just plain weird while trying to keep their relationship quiet. And he does actually keep the secret. Even though he knew everyone else would be thrilled for them, he still stayed quiet about them because his best friend had asked him to.
9. He’s incredibly loyal.
He has probably the worst agent ever, and he still stays loyal to Estelle even though she rarely ever gets him good acting jobs. The same goes for his loyalty to his friends and family, and even the women he dates. He may not have actually been in relationships with a lot of the women he went out with, but from memory, I don’t think he actually cheated on any of them.
10. Probably one of my favourite Joey moments is when he gives Phoebe “the perfect kiss” to tick off her list when she finds out she’s actually 31. It’s such a sweet and pure moment between the two of them AND IT MAKES MY HEART HURT.
Now, I’m not saying for one minute that they were both perfect and never made mistakes or questionable decisions. BUT, I do feel that they were both highly underrated in the show and everything they did came from a good place born from good intentions.
Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts!