Friends is the show we all know and love. It’s the comforting hug at the end of a long day at work, a show we can switch our brains off to watch, and still laugh at the jokes we’ve heard a thousand times before.
Many of us grew up with Friends, and in turn grew up with the six characters, and feeling like they really were our friends.
We love them all for different reasons. I love Rachel because I always secretly wanted to be her; Monica, because she’s scrappy and I see myself in her competitive streak that knows no bounds; Joey is relatable to me for his lack of common sense (ahem), and Chandler because he’s “hopeless and awkward and desperate for love!” (Ed – You forgot Ross. I suspect you weren’t the only one.)
However, Phoebe is undeniably the best of the bunch, and here’s why:
She’s got a conscience
Phoebe is the most socially conscious of the group. She abhors wearing fur for fashion, she’s a vegetarian, and she favours small businesses over big, greedy corporations. She brings this conscientiousness to a group that otherwise wouldn’t really explore social or political issues. She’s got strong, moral beliefs that shape her life and actions, and does her very best to stick to them.
Her morals are so strong, she calls her bank to complain when they accidentally give her $500. I consider myself moral, but I’m not sure I’d even do that! She carries and gives birth to triplets for her brother and his fiancée; her mum tries to talk her out of it, but she chooses to do it because it’ll make them so happy.
Despite Joey’s later claims that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed, that’s pretty unselfish! When she finds out that someone else’s vocals are used on her Smelly Cat release, instead of getting upset or offended, she’s more worried about the ‘Smelly Cat’ singer!
She’s not perfect
Even the most moral of people can slip up sometimes. Phoebe’s aversion to fur and her vegetarianism are so important to her, but she falls foul of both. When she’s pregnant with her brother’s triplets, her pregnancy craving is meat.
She tries her best to resist, but eventually succumbs because she knows she needs to put the babies first. She gets past this moral dilemma through arguably a more moral act, but Joey eases her guilt by swearing off meat while she’s pregnant.
She inherits a fur coat, which initially she despises, until she sees herself in it. When the friends question her decision to wear it, she desperately tries to justify it, telling them minks aren’t very nice.
Eventually her conscience gets the better of her when she thinks a squirrel is guilt tripping her about it (we’ve all been there, right?) Phoebe’s not perfect, but her conscience always wins.
She’s body confident
Time and time again we see women, in both real life and on TV, who are constantly putting themselves down and striving for a perfect body that doesn’t exist. While Friends is refreshing by not showing any of the female characters stuck in this vicious mindset, it goes a step further by giving Phoebe the body confidence rarely seen on a woman.
She regularly states that her sexuality is her strongest trait, and whenever the guys compliment her, she gives a gracious “thanks, I know.”
Because we’re so used to seeing women put themselves down, it’s easy to misconstrue this as arrogance, but we should all be pleased to see a female character happy in herself.
And she doesn’t give a shit about what people think. Take her running; Rachel’s embarrassed to be seen with her, but Phoebe focuses on how good running feels, rather than how she looks. We’d all like to be that confident, right?
Pheobe’s difficult childhood and adolescence is well-known. Her mum killed herself, her dad ran away, and her stepdad was in jail. She grew up on the streets but instead of letting it get her down, she adapted to it and allowed it to strengthen her.
We see this toughness not only come out physically – for example, when she breaks Joey’s nose and exclaims “wow, and I’m a vegetarian!” – but emotionally, as she’s so positive and bright. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, and even helps the other friends stand up for themselves – like writing Ross a note to keep people away from his sandwich (“MY SANDWICH?!).
It’s been 17 years and I’m still wondering what was in that note.
She’s the odd one out
It’s no secret that Pheobe’s the odd one out in the group. It was even revealed recently that she was almost a supporting character rather than a main member of the gang (Ed – WHAT!?!?), because it didn’t make sense that she’d be friends with these people. It’s hard to imagine Friends without Phoebe!
When Rachel finds out Emily has forbidden Ross from seeing her, she lashes out and says that, while she always expected someone to leave the group, she thought it would be Pheobe because “you’re not related, you don’t live nearby, you lift right out.” Phoebe’s understandably upset, but it brings light to the fact that she is the odd one out.
She didn’t grow up with any of the other friends, and her upbringing was significantly different. Her social consciousness also makes her an unlikely fit with the group. We can all relate to being the odd one out, or not feeling like part of a friendship group, so it’s comforting to see Phoebe smash those stereotypes.
Bonus: She also gave us some of the show’s most iconic phrases
See, he’s her lobster!
They don’t know that we know they know we know!
Something is wrong with the left phalange…