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  • I wish I could, but I don't want to.

  • Sometimes Phoebe Buffay can feel a little superfluous on Friends,

  • sort of like the odd friend out.

  • I've always felt kind of like an outsider.

  • You know, the rest of you have these connections that go way back.

  • Major storylines don't usually revolve around her,

  • because she never dates anyone in the group,

  • and we only see her live with other friends briefly.

  • So on one level, it's easy to see Rachel's point

  • that if anyone were to be phased out of the group, it would be Phoebe.

  • You live far away, you're not related.

  • You lift right out.

  • But if you were to take Phoebe out of the show, the mix just wouldn't work.

  • Because she's the mystery ingredient that spices things up,

  • I am pretty cool.

  • the salt, if you will.

  • Phoebe's edgy, layered personality adds complexity to a series that,

  • in her absence, might border on bland.

  • We have it all. We have crushed, cubed, and dry -- watch -- ah.

  • So what is it about Phoebe that the whole group together and adds that extra special magic?

  • P as in Phoebe, H as in hoebie,

  • O as in oebe, E as in ebe,

  • B as in beebee, and E as in...

  • ello there, mate!

  • "PHOEBE BUFFAY: THE MISTERY INGREDIENT OF FRIENDS"

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  • Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you? Everybody!

  • "PHOEBE: THE PUPPET MASTER"

  • Phoebe is the secret mastermind of the group.

  • She uses her insights about other characters to pull invisible strings.

  • I like to think of myself as the puppet master of the group.

  • Phoebe, the puppet master, can be a bit of a troublemaker.

  • Tell him who you originally wanted to hook up with that night.

  • She has a habit of being loose-lipped.

  • Oh my God! Monica, he's the stripper from your bachelorette party!

  • and even straight up meddling in her friends' personal lives.

  • We could set Ross and Rachel up on horrible dates, so they'll realize how good they are together.

  • Phoebe's interference can have a good or bad immediate effect.

  • Oh, no.

  • Yet Phoebe's friends need her straight-talking and boldness

  • because she pushes them to confront their true feelings about things.

  • It's-it's not negative, it's positive.

  • Are you sure?

  • Well, yeah, I lied before.

  • Now you know how you really feel about it.

  • She helps Rachel see that she's still in love with Ross,

  • If someone I was still in love with was getting married--

  • Still in love with?

  • and at another point, she confronts Ross about his love for Rachel.

  • Now he's using this three divorces reason because he wants to stay married to her because he loves her.

  • She pretends to seduce Chandler to get him to openly admit he's dating Monica.

  • I can't have sex with you.

  • And why not?

  • Because I'm in love with Monica!

  • And in the series finale, her phone call to Rachel --

  • Something is wrong with the left Phalange.

  • creates a frenzy on the plane and delays Rachel's flight,

  • which gives Ross the opportunity to confess his love just in time.

  • Phoebe seems to take some pleasure in stirring up drama and then sitting back and watching it play out.

  • I don't want to miss the fight.

  • Like when she uses her friends' lives as material for her book.

  • Monic...Marsha and Chester are planning on seeing a movie Sunday night.

  • Marsha thinks they're supposed to meet at 6. Chester thinks it's at 7.

  • So you knew we were gonna miss the movie?

  • That's right.

  • We get the sense that Phoebe is studying these people

  • and manipulating them far more than we realize.

  • You know what the best part of it is?

  • I get to do my plan laugh.

  • But even if she creates surface trouble,

  • in the long run, she's helping her friends move closer toward what they truly want.

  • We can understand Phoebe's role in the friend group by looking at the Triple Goddess archetype.

  • The idea is that there are three female figures: the maiden, the mother, and the crone.

  • So on Friends, Rachel would be the naive and beautiful maiden of the group.

  • Monica is the practical, mature mother figure.

  • And Phoebe is the wise crone.

  • Yeah, I'm very wise, I know.

  • That's not to say that Phoebe's an old woman,

  • but that she has world experience, perspective and insight beyond her years.

  • There are children coming into the world in this very building, and your negative fighting noises are not the first thing they should be hearing.

  • She sees the big picture more clearly than her friends do.

  • You love her, you always have, you have a child together.

  • There's no right answer.

  • And for the audience, Phoebe serves the function of commenting on the other characters.

  • She points out what's going on with them even when they can't see it themselves.

  • You ate meat!

  • You had sex!

  • It's clear that she's always a whole lot of steps ahead of everyone else.

  • Rachel's pregnant.

  • - Oh my god, I can't believe it! - Holy mother of God!

  • With my child.

  • That is brand new information!

  • "PHEOBE THE SUBSTANCE"

  • Phoebe's world-wisdom and savvy come from the extreme trauma and tragedy she experienced in her past.

  • My mom had killed herself and my dad had run off.

  • And I was living in a gremlin with a guy named Cindy who talked to his hand.

  • The show makes a joke of how terrible Phoebe's childhood was.

  • I lost my mom to suicide.

  • Okay, no way, you cannot use that to get the cute guy and the last blueberry muffin.

  • Did I use that already today? I'm sorry.

  • But ultimately her edge adds a little more substance to Friends,

  • she makes this more than just a show about sheltered people without any exposure to harsh reality.

  • I wasn't rich like you guys, okay?

  • I didn't eat gold and have a flying pony.

  • How Phoebe has responded to her past is also really important.

  • Chandler, the other friend with a painful childhood experience,

  • is still completely emotionally scarred by his parents' divorce.

  • When my parents got divorced, I started using humor as a defense mechanism.

  • So it's amazing that even though Phoebe's been through much, much worse,

  • she's made a conscious choice to be open and kind and optimistic.

  • She still has some hardness to her...

  • Someday I'll tell you about the time I stabbed a cop.

  • Phoebe!

  • HE STABBED ME FIRST!

  • And she's clear about her boundaries.

  • If you touch my guitar again, I'm gonna have to pound on you a little bit.

  • But she keeps these parts of herself in check.

  • In the alternative episode, Phoebe's a Wall Street workaholic driven by anger

  • No, no.I said sell when it hits fifty! Five-O!

  • It's a number that comes after four-nine!

  • So the symbolism is that the Phoebe we know is defined by her choice,

  • not to harden herself by giving in to bitterness,

  • which would have been very easy given all that she's been through.

  • You see that was an actual problem.

  • And yours is just like, you know, a bunch of, you know, high-school crap that nobody really gives...

  • Phoebe knows what it's like to lose people, so she really understands the value of relationships.

  • My friends are the most important thing in my life.

  • And while the six friends are all good to each other,

  • Phoebe also helps people outside of their circle.

  • These jerks might not care about you, but the universe does.

  • Maybe it's because she grew up far less privileged than her friends

  • that she's a generous do-gooder in the world at large.

  • I mean last year I spread a little joy, but not really enough.

  • So this year I'm gonna do the whole city.

  • The other five friends are private citizens,

  • but Phoebe's a world citizen

  • who's driven by her social conscience and desire to be a good humanitarian.

  • Okay, let's start with the free massages at the U.N.

  • Oh, it's my new thing.

  • I figure, Bodies at peace make peace.

  • A lot of her storylines are about her determination to make the world better.

  • I'm gonna find a selfless good deed.

  • I'm gonna beat you, you evil genius.

  • And Phoebe does really hard selfless things,

  • like being the surrogate for her half brother's babies.

  • I know it's gonna be like a million times harder to give up a baby,

  • but oh my God, it's gonna feel a million times better, right?

  • When she can't bring herself to keep the money that shows up in her bank account accidentally,

  • what she says tells us a lot about her value system.

  • I'd never be able to enjoy it.

  • It'd be this giant karmic debt.

  • For Phoebe, good karma and what she puts out into the universe

  • is far more important than the earthly money or success she receives.

  • Phoebe is the exception to the rule of upper-middle class ascension that we see in Friends.

  • She doesn't really have much career ambition. She floats between different jobs,

  • and doesn't have that drive to be the head of her team, the star in a big TV show, or the well-paid executive.

  • So she's a refreshing alternative to the assumption that you need a prestigious, high-powered career in order to see yourself successful.

  • To "Years of hard work finally paying off."

  • And to "Knowing that your career doesn't mean everything."

  • The fact that the more mainstream five friends like Phoebe so much

  • proves that they're more complex and interesting than they might first appear.

  • And Phoebe leads her more sheltered friends by example.

  • She helps them be more empathetic, open-minded people.

  • I believe this is my mother.