Joey Tribbiani: more respectful than you think

I like Friends. I acknowledge that it’s problematic (OH SO WHITE, and at least one joke per episode mocking one of the men for being feminine) but it is also

  1. Funny
  2. Groundbreaking regarding gay marriage in pop culture
  3. Really funny

I don’t get how so many different people can be so close. Ross is constantly mocked for his love of science, for example. You’d think once he’d like to hang with people who don’t pretend to fall asleep when he says anything about his work. There are glaring inconsistencies: Chandler moving from Knicks fan to a feminine dude who never watches ESPN and knows nothing about sports. Monica and Chandler arguing about buying an arcade game and then Monica freaking with joy when Phoebe buys them a Ms. Pac-Man machine. Monica being hyper competitive until she’s in charge of a kitchen of people who don’t like her, then she is someone who fears conflict. Where the hell did Ben go? Why doesn’t Ross react to Rachel taking Emma to France with her?

Yeah, I’ve had some fun with the TV Tropes Friends page.

EntertainingI was thinking about Joey the other day, the guy who sleeps with women and never calls them back. Reprehensible behavior and it makes me wonder why the women in the group like him. But I realized something startling recently: Joey respects women’s agency. If a woman says no, he is done with the pursuit. No “why” or wheedling or following or creeping.

It happens several times:

  • He hits on the woman at the medical research lab, asking if he can do a study on his effect on attractive receptionists, she says they already have the results and they’re not good, and he says OK and walks away.
  • He is set up on a double blind date with Phoebe’s friend but focuses only on convincing Phoebe that he and her blind date are old friends. When his date gets up to leave, he says, “you’re leaving too?” and she says, “I will stay if you can tell me my name.” and he says, “have a good night.”
  • We don’t see the full conversation, but after Charlie dumps him in Barbados, he is sad, but says he has to go get another hotel room for the night. He doesn’t argue or try to make it work at least till they get home.

He may be superficial and only want hot women. He may have a revolving door to his bedroom. But Joey respects “no.”

If you don’t understand how revolutionary this is, read some stories about women dealing with men on online dating sites.

Then I got the NoStringsAtttached [sic] messages, with multiple guys sending me messages asking me to watch them cam, or meeting up with them within the hour, or talk with them on the phone or cyber. I would say no and they usually didn’t take it too well.

Also, a horrible feeling that there are some terrifying, awful men out there that will in one breath call you the most beautiful creature in the world, and then—when you fail to meet whatever demand or expectation they’ve laid out for you—will say things to you that you’re pretty sure only get said during prison riots.

I’ve read so many stories about women who get, “hello beautiful.” and when the women say, “not interested” the guys turn into “well I was just messaging you to make you feel good about yourself, you fat bitch.” 

Aside: Needless to say, I’m unbelievably grateful that I met my husband before online dating took off.

Ross and Chandler both do some questionable things. When Phoebe is sending massage clients to Ross’ apartment, and a client shows up when she isn’t there, Ross says he’s a masseuse too because the woman at the door is very attractive. The joke is that she has brought her father there to be massaged, and Ross has to rub an old man for an hour. Hahahaa! But I keep thinking about the lengths he would go to in order to touch a woman. Erk. In another episode, Chandler poses as another man when a woman makes a wrong number phone call, sets up a date with her, and then when her date mysteriously doesn’t show up, he arrives as himself to console her. Which isn’t quite tricking her into bed, but he tricks her in order to eventually have sex with her, nonetheless. So on the surface, Joey is the worst to women, but his flaws are all out in the open.

Say what you will about Friends. You’re probably right. But it definitely had some nuanced characters and the most womanizing character on the show was also the one who accepted women’s decisions without question.

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