Janice From 'Friends' Deserved Better
Janice from Friends, Chandler's on-again-off-again girlfriend, played by Maggie Wheeler, is remembered for a good many things: There, of course, is her nasal voice.
Her grating laugh.
Her iconic declaration of "Oh. My. Gawd!"
But perhaps what she's remembered for most is the overall sentiment the show had towards her character -- namely that she sucked. Chandler's constant struggle in dating her was that though he and his friends despised Janice, he believed he could never do better. She became the embodiment of "settling." Chandler's cycle with her was that he'd date her, gain the self-esteem and courage to break up with her, then try and date other women, then get smited down by those other women, then go back to Janice where it was safe.
However, the truth of the matter is that Chandler, the friends, and even Janice herself, had Janice all wrong. It wasn't Chandler who was better than Janice. It was Janice better than Chandler. Not just that, she was better than Joey and Ross as well.
Before we get into it, I want to make clear that I don't believe Janice is without flaws. She is abrasive, rude, obnoxious, and makes questionable fashion decisions. But you could say all those same things for Chandler. This is a guy that wore so many sweater-vests, you'd think he was trying to get sponsored by the American Association of University Professors. This is a guy that couldn't get two minutes without delivering a line of sarcastic dialogue. Seriously, imagine a human being saying this to another human being without a laugh track or a live studio audience behind it to validate it.
Okay, that one was pretty good, but piled up together, Chandler's quips could get pretty damn irritating. His string of one-liners and sarcastic retorts were so frequent that his friends would "do him" just like they did Janice.
Chandler's flaws match up fairly evenly with Janice's flaws, but Janice shines in her virtues. Let's talk about her confidence (often sited as one of the sexiest qualities in a human being.) Janice is a woman that has no problem announcing her presence whenever she enters a room. She probably even knows her laugh can be offputting for some, but Janice doesn't care. If people don't like the mighty laugh of a strong woman that demands to be heard, then that's their problem. Janice is going to keep doing Janice no matter what shade is thrown her way.
Meanwhile, Chandler's lack of confidence runs deeper than the pit that Gerard Butler kicks that dude into in 300. It's why Chandler hides behind sarcasm and self-deprecating humor. He's afraid to be vulnerable and confront the emotions of himself and others. He's so scared that he asks Phoebe to break up with Janice for him in season 1. This is not the action of a high-value man, and even though Janice is getting dumped, we can at least respect the courage it takes for her to face those breakups head-on, time and time again.
That's to say nothing of the empathy (another highly-valued quality in both a partner and a human being) that Janice displays in taking Chandler back time and time again. She knows that she is setting herself up for heartbreak, but she believes Chandler to be her soulmate and is willing to give him room to grow, thinking that eventually, he'll come back to her. Even in season 7, when Chandler is married to Monica, Janice tells Chandler to call her when his relationship "goes in the pooper." Janice shrugs off heartbreak like it's a minor case of indigestion, while everyone else in the "friends" group whines about getting broken up with like they've fallen feet-first into a woodchipper.
Now, you could point to the time that Janice cheated on Chandler with her husband (they were on a break) as not becoming of a great romantic partner and true, that was not her finest moment. But there's also something positive to be gleaned in this. Again, this is the moment that Janice admits that Chandler is her soulmate, but she chooses to stay with her husband because he's the father of her child. She is putting family above herself, which is a thing that Chandler, who has been permanently marred by his parent's divorce, should understand.
It's Janice's pride in herself and her life choices that puts her out of Chandler's league, but it puts her out of Ross and Joey's too. The case against Ross is an easy one. Janice and Ross dated, each being able to commiserate with the other over being divorcees. But whereas Janice is content with her life path, Ross can't stop complaining about his failed relationships with Emily and Rachel. So Janice dumps him. She knows her worth and knows she doesn't need to be doing emotional labor for Ross to land a man.
As for Joey, we need only look at the time Joey and Janice spent a day together to see who's the better person. We're back in season 3 where Chandler and Janice are dating, and Chandler finds himself head over heels for her. Joey tells Chandler he hates Janice, and after Chandler brings this up to Janice, she confronts Joey about it. She could have easily written Joey off as a jerk, but she instead chooses to find common ground and spends the whole day trying to get Joey to like her because she knows it's important to Chandler.
Imagine your significant other telling you that their best friend can't stand you. Imagine how hurt you would feel and how tempted you would be to throw shade every time that person walks into the room. But Janice uses it as an opportunity to find the good in Joey because her well of self-confidence and compassion allows her to do so. Those are traits that none of her other suitors seem to have, at least none until this guy ...
... and that and a loss of hearing might make you good enough for Janice.
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Top Image: NBC