Friends, Part 2: Ross, Joey, and the Friend Zone

As I said last week, I watched Friends from start to finish for the first time ever during the last few months of 2018. You can read my overall impressions of the show in Part 1. I planned to write some thoughts on each character this week, but I only got as far as Ross and Joey because I had a flu, so tune in next time for my thoughts on the girls and Chandler!

It’s hard to like Ross in the age of internet fanboy misogyny.

You guys, I wish I could like Ross. I love brainy, awkward introverts. I love characters who are logic-oriented and also hopeless romantics. I love characters who love the things I love. But I see so much in Ross Geller that led to the misogyny problem we have in modern geek culture. I feel like if Ross had been born 15 years later, he would be a Red Piller bitching online about “ethics in gaming journalism.” I’d like to think I could enjoy the character and his romance with Rachel without this baggage, but I think his insecurities about her career and his disregard for her feelings would turn me off in any decade.

As a counterpoint, here’s a positive analysis of Ross’ character by an excellent feminist channel. I highly recommend all their Friends character profiles.

To my surprise, I don’t hate Joey.

Yeah, he’s a womanizer, but I never got the sense that he was doing anything coercive with his many, many sexual partners. There were some women who wanted more than a one-night stand when he didn’t, but it didn’t seem like he was trying to make them think he wanted more. And he is a good friend to Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel without expecting the friendship to turn into anything more. For the few seasons he’s interested in Rachel, he doesn’t act like he’s entitled to a romantic or sexual relationship or like she’s doing him wrong by not providing one.

In fact, now that I think of it, the friendzone scene exemplifies why I’m more okay with Joey than Ross. In the first season, Joey explains the concept of “The Friendzone” to Ross. Joey says that Ross is in Rachel’s friendzone because Ross presented himself to Rachel as a potential friend, not a potential partner, so Rachel responded in kind. She categorizes Ross as a friend because he hasn’t told her he’s in love with her. This is pretty much the opposite of how we use the term today. Joey isn’t commiserating with Ross, or denigrating Rachel for considering Ross her friend when that’s all he’s made any effort to be. He’s blaming Ross for not being honest about what he wants sooner. Which is…true, and if this were still how we used the word “friendzone,” I might actually consider it a useful term.

Would I date Joey Tribbiani? Heck no. But this show is about friendship, and between Joey and Ross, Joey is the guy I would rather have in my friend zone.

Next up: Best Geller and everyone else who has shared her impossible apartment!

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