Dim-witted characters get taken advantage of… a lot. No where is this truer than with Joey Tribbiani — another tragic figure in the roster of Friends. So many people take advantage of Joey, from his tailor molesting him to his first “girlfriend” when he moved to the city (the one with the Adam’s apple) to the casting director of Days of Our Lives (DOOL).
Frequently, Joey is used by women, but his dim-wittedness leads him to believe it’s the opposite. Consider how many women Joey brings back to his apartment… they know where he lives, but how many make an effort to return? Joey is an actor, something most women on the show immediately discredit (see Lydia’s mother), and most don’t see Joey as a long-term romance (see Erin [aka Charlotte from Sex in the City]).
There’s even evidence of women seeking Joey for a slice of his stardom. When Joey uses his role of Dr. Drake Ramoray to entice women, it’s really the opposite and women sleep with Joey knowing full well he was on DOOL. Just look at his stalker, Erika (Brooke Shields), Rachel in the ‘What-If’ episode, and even Lauren (Kate’s understudy) who leads with, “I scheduled my classes around Days of Our Lives.”
We’re led to believe that Joey is a ladies man… but for the first 3 seasons, the alleged womanizer has an extremely hard time picking up women. All of them provide a certain challenge or obstacle, and it’s only when Kate Miller destroys him that he loses all hope of finding love and becomes a genuine womanizer.
That’s the tragedy of Joseph Francis Tribbiani Jr., he is a hopeless romantic used for his good looks and ‘fame.’ Yet he doesn’t waver. For the longest time, he continues pursuing women because, more than anything else (more than sandwiches, jam, and sex), Joey wants kids.
Based on concrete evidence from the seasons, here’s what we know about Joey.
- He believes in monogamy
In The One with the Boobies, Joey’s dad comes to visit and it’s revealed he’s having an affair. This is a crushing blow to Joey who forces his dad to either break it off with Ronni (the girlfriend) or come clean with his mother. During this episode, Joey confesses to Chandler, “I’m always going out with all these women. And I always figured, when the right one comes along, I’d be able to be a stand-up guy and go the distance, y’know?” This shows that Joey believes in the prospect of marriage… and it’s not the only time either.
In The One with the Giant Poking Device, Joey tells Chandler about Janice and her ex-husband’s affair. Contrary to what Chandler thinks, Joey actually tells him to bow out, knowing that if Janice and her ex can reunite their family, then Chandler shouldn’t be the other guy that gets in the way.
And, of course, in The One with the Home Study, Joey is willing to beat (with a bat) whoever is in Monica’s apartment cheating on Chandler.
- He’s a family man
Joey is very protective of his family and friends… and other people’s families. First of all, Joey is the beacon for all his sisters and he tries to make sure they make good choices and aren’t taken advantage (like when Chandler fools around with two of them).
Additionally, Joey freaks out (to a degree) more than Chandler when he finds out Ross kissed Chandler’s mom.
Furthermore, and this coincides with the aforementioned monogamy point, in The One with Monica’s Boots, Joey’s sister Dina is pregnant, so what does he do? He drags the boyfriend, Bobby, to his apartment and begins to officiate a wedding.
- He’s not that macho; he’s romantic
First of all, Joey is the only Friend to build a career on an art form. Joey romanticizes the life of an actor. When he explains it to Rachel; when he tries to dissuade Ben from an audition; when he talks to Lydia’s mother. He always says, “I’m an actor” with a grin and a wistful look in his eyes.
Joey, who probably would’ve been more suited to the pipe-fitting business (of his father’s), follows his pipe dream to be an actor despite the amount of pressure his family (not just his father) put on him, “When they were all over you to go into your father’s pipe-fitting business, did you cave?”
Furthermore, and to me this is most telling, in The One with the Chicken Pox, Joey reimagines his life since he’s put to work for Chandler as a data processor. Joey’s fabricated life reveals that he’s married (to Karen) with two little girls — not even boys, as his macho exterior would suggest. Then, of course, he quits when Chandler has an affair with Karen (attacking his monogamous values).
All these things lead to why Joey dates women at all instead of having one-night stands. He wants to be married, he wants kids, he wants a family. This is why Lydia is his soulmate, but you can see this unfolding in each of his relationships.
2. Joey Tribbiani’s Type
Joey has less of a “type” and more of “phases” he goes through. In seasons 1-3, he’s a “Hopeless Romantic,” but after Kate Miller crushes him, he turns into a womanizer for seasons 4-8. By seasons 9 and 10, when Joey’s not making a last-ditch effort for romance, he’s a caricature of his former self.
Joey as a Hopeless Romantic (1-3)
Joey doesn’t become a womanizer until after Kate Miller. Watching the first 3 seasons, you rarely see any of Joey’s one-night stands. We hear of them, but never see them and, by not depicting his sexcapades, we’re detached from the emotional havoc he’s allegedly wrecking upon these women.
So when Joey does have a relationship story line, it’s with women he has to work for; put a genuine effort in to date… and they often punish him for his romantic advances.
Joey doesn’t try to seduce Ursula, he actually wants a genuine and meaningful relationship with her. Of course, she punishes him by lying about her feelings, not calling him back, and treating him… well, the way he treats women in later seasons — womanizers are made, not born.
- Angela Delveccio
This is one of the often overlooked girls Joey dates. We first see her in The One with the East German Laundry Detergent as a girl Joey dated, dumped, but now wants her back. The ‘obstacle’ is she’s dating someone else, so Joey enlists Monica to help break them up. Based on that information alone, this appears to be a carnal affair… but it’s not.
Angela and Joey had a legitimate relationship as Chandler later recounts (3 seasons later in The One with the Dirty Girl), “What did you get Angela Delvaccio for her birthday?” To which Joey responds, “She didn’t have a birthday while we were going out?” to which, Chandler reveals, “For three years?!”
Joey actually had something with this woman, making his desire to win her back all the more noble. No doubt, Joey saw a future with Angela; hope that they may be compatible to have a family and that’s why he wants to win her back.
In The One with the Monkey, Joey picks up a single mom who brings her kids to the New Year’s party. Throughout the episode, Joey is not offput by the children, but rather puts them before Sandy. She starts making lewd comments about mentally undressing Joey as an elf, and Joey feels that’s inappropriate talk for children.
No where is Joey’s compassion for children more pronounced than in this episode, when the two children fall asleep and Joey tucks them in while Sandy fools around with another guy (Max). Joey puts the kids first.
Despite episodes (see The One with all the Cheesecakes) of Joey putting sex before friends, Joey put kids before sex… and this isn’t the only time this happens either…
Joey proposes to Phoebe when he finds out (however untrue) that she’s pregnant in The One with the Red Sweater. Joey puts family (and the prospect of kids) first. Humorously, in that same episode, Joey proposes to Rachel when he discovers she’s pregnant (and this is before the subplot of the Joey and Rachel romance). And… truthfully, this is why I think Joey starts having a crush on Rachel at all. It’s less sexual and more about starting a family with someone he was friends with first.
The “friends first” is a concept Monica and Chandler allude to in The One with the Cop (Season 5). Joey fears that he’s in love with Monica, but she (and Chandler) tell Joey he envies the intimacy… something that, by this point in the series, he’s lost hope of ever achieving. They tell Joey to build a foundation and be friends first. Who does he turn to, but Rachel… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
- Kate Miller
Kate Miller is the last woman Joey dates where he believes there could be something more. Their last night where they’re truly together, they don’t have sex, they talk. Kate and Joey are on an even level… she even makes Joey repent for all the one-night stands he’s had in the past.
So when she leaves Joey… he’s crushed. He’s genuinely torn and believes that he cannot/will not find love. This transforms Joey from the hopeless romantic to full-blown womanizer.
Joey as a Womanizer (4-8)
Season 4 marks Joey’s initial descent. Starting with Kathy, Joey dates two other women at the same time. When he talks about getting her a birthday present, it’s nothing romantic, but rather a coupon and a pen. This is the guy who previously took the amputee to a cabin in the woods; who took Ursula to the Ice Capades, bought her a nice sweater for her birthday, and planned on taking her to the Rainbow Room; who (with Erin) fantasizes about surprising her with a bed and breakfast in Vermont.
He is not invested in Kathy; he’s not invested in any of these women. He sleeps with a stripper, a bridesmaid, the girl who punches him, Janine (the dancer) and Susan Sarandon.
The only relationship that was actually meaningful was Erin.
- Erin (Charlotte from Sex in the City)
In The One with Ross’s Library Book, Erin is Joey’s latest fling, and this episode reinforces everything Joey holds dear. By this point in the series, Joey feels undeserving of love or that it’s simply “not-in-the-cards” for him. Every romantic endeavor since 1994 has ended in flames, so he has stopped trying altogether.
He tells Rachel to tell Erin he’s not looking for anything serious, but Rachel decides to play matchmaker. After she re-sets Joey up on a date with Erin, Joey’s desire of a family and having a serious relationship is rekindled. He sees the long-term and openly confesses, “We have so much in common! She loves sandwiches, sports — although she is a Met fan. Not much of an issue now but if we ever have kids…”
However, this relationship, like so many others, crumbles because Erin doesn’t see a future with Joey, and this provides a great deal of insight into Joey’s love life. Women don’t see Joey as a long-term romance either. Most are probably like Erin, and are relieved when Joey calls it off so they don’t have to.
Just look at Erin exchange with Rachel and Phoebe:
Erin: Look, he’s a really great guy… but I just don’t see this having a future.
Rachel: But you said that you liked him! I mean what happened?!
Erin: I’m sorry I… It’s just there’s no real spark.
Phoebe: No spark? Didn’t you sleep together?
If Erin is symptomatic of all the one-night stands Joey has — which for all intents and purposes she is — then this shows the sex is not one-sided. Erin doesn’t mind she slept with Joey, she got what she wanted as much as Joey did. The difference is Joey wants more and can’t have it.
When Rachel tells Joey that Erin’s not interested, he responds with, “It’s cool… Y’know I’m a loner too!” but there’s nothing less sincere. This only evidences why he is the way he is.
This is also a core reason why Joey dates Charlie Wheeler. Erin is representative of all Joey’s one-night stands… so he dates a woman above his class (or intelligence) because she should know what she’s getting into. Joey trusts Charlie’s judgement that this is a real relationship and puts significant effort into dating her.
Joey as a Caricature (9, 10)
In seasons 9 and 10, Joey is a shadow of his former self. He objectifies women for objectifying women’s sake. He wants to sleep with Ross and Rachel’s nanny only because he can’t have her; in The One with the Sharks, Joey can’t remember if he already slept with the woman in the familiar apartment. This is Joey at rock bottom. Women are interchangeable. They are literally shapes without faces or names. And he now treats women the way women like Kate and Ursula treated him.
He even puts food above women at this point, in The One with the Birth Mother where Joey “doesn’t share food.”
One of the worst moments is a throwaway line in The One with Rachel’s Dream where Rachel asks:
Rachel: Is this the bed where Olivia lost her virginity?
Joey: I don’t know, but one of the extras sure did.
His romance with Rachel is sparked because it’s a last ditch effort for a family with a woman he still sees as a person.
The only other female Joey bonds with is Mackenzie (Dakota Fanning) in The One with Princess Consuela. In their scene, Joey says, “if Monica and Chandler move out here… and now Phoebe is married to Mike, that just leaves me and Ross and Rache, you know what I mean? … I feel like I’m losing my friends.” Noticeably, when Joey feels like he’s losing his friends, the one person he finds comfort in, is a child.
3. Joey Tribbiani’s Soulmate is Lydia
Lydia from The One with the Birth is Joey’s soulmate because she represents everything Joey holds dear. She’s having a baby and Joey is prepared to start a family. She fights with Joey — no doubt an emulation of his Italian household. And, perhaps most interesting, she puts up a front to mask how she feels as Joey does daily with the one-night stands.
During the contractions, Joey asks:
Joey: Yeah, so, uh, so, uh, what’s the deal with this father guy, I mean, if someone was havin’ my baby somewhere, I’d wanna know about it, you know?
Lydia: Hey, Knick fan, am I interested in your views on fatherhood? Uh, no.
Joey: Ok, look, maybe I should just go.
Lydia: Maybe you should.
And although Lydia doesn’t give Joey any indication that she wants him to stay, Joey returns. He fights for what he wants. It’s an active approach to dating that we only see in the first season; this diehard effort to be with a woman he cares about.
- Joey does the same for Melanie (fruit basket lady), by not getting his needs met first.
- Joey does the same for Lorraine (The One with the Candy Hearts), by ensuring there’s a date for her friend.
- Joey does the same for Annabelle (The One with the Breast Milk), by having a Mexican standoff against the cowboy.
Joey abandons his friends in the hospital to help Lydia give birth and he’s actually attentive. When he does return to Carol’s delivery room, he’s practically an expert, “Relax. You’re only at nine centimeters. And the baby’s at zero station.” In fact, the only thing that stops Joey from pursuing Lydia… is his stance on monogamy.
When Joey returns to Lydia’s room, the father is there. And just like with his own father, and Janice with her ex-husband, Joey bows out — unwilling to be that guy. His morality is his downfall; why his story ends without romance.
Worst of all, at the end of the episode, when the father of Lydia’s child says, “The Knicks suck,” Lydia retorts, “Eh, they’re not so bad,” meaning Joey wouldn’t have the problem he had with Erin.
PS. I can’t in good conscience include this in the analysis since it wasn’t intentional… BUT, if I wanted to, there’s a decent chance that Lydia is the reason Estelle hires Joey considering this is how they met.