“Friends” Meets “Little Women”


My latest Netlix binge watching show has been the hit television series Friends. I was intrigued to find that Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was discussed in this specific episode (season 3, episode 13), as I knew that we were going to be reading it this semester. Joey is reading Rachel’s favorite book, Little Women, and Rachel is reading Joey’s favorite book, The Shining. There is one scene in particular where Joey and Rachel start telling each other spoilers of each book because Joey accidentally lets one slip and Rachel gets mad. One of the spoilers that Rachel tells Joey about Little Women is that Beth dies and Joey is absolutely shocked and devastated.

Joey is the more immature, and even childish if you will, character in Friends, so I find it ironic that he was the character that the producers picked to read Little Women, since it is considered children’s literature. When Rachel told Joey that Beth dies, his reaction showed the upmost surprise, devastation, and sadness. It is important that we see Joey’s reaction in this scene while other characters, Ross and Chandler, are present as well because they don’t have the same reaction. Their reaction is much more mature, as they don’t jump up in shock, and don’t show much emotion about the matter at all (perhaps because they already knew the plot, but I don’t think they would’ve had the same reaction as Joey under the circumstances anyways). Because Joey is the immature character that he is, I think that his reaction is comparable to how most child readers would react when discovering Beth’s death as well. It is significant that the other characters are there because it reinforces the idea that we can compare Joey’s reactions to those of the child audience. We expect that the children readers would feel that same surprise, devastation and sadness upon learning of her death. At the end of the episode, Joey has read up to the part where Beth has gotten really sick and approaches Rachel with worry and depressed feelings about it. He lays his head upon her chest and she caresses him to comfort him in this sad state. This scene is important when comparing Joey’s and a child reader’s reactions to a child’s death in this text of children’s literature because it is similar to how a mother would comfort her child when they are sad.  It’s fascinating to see how Beth’s death in Little Women is embedded into our entertainment today.

This brings us to the discussion of death in “children’s literature”. According to Peter Hunt’s keyword essay on “Children’s Literature”, “If ‘children’ commonly connotes immaturity, and ‘literature’ commonly connotes sophistication in texts and reading, then the two terms may seem to be incompatible” (42). I find this interesting because death has been an issue that has appeared in multiple children’s literature texts that we have read for this course, and I think that death is a sophisticated issue. This contradicts Peter Hunt’s above thoughts on “children” and “literature” because we see how sophisticated ideas, like death, and the so called “immaturity” of children work together in Little Women, through Beth’s premature death. Joey’s character and this episode Friends also contradicts Peter Hunt’s words since he is an immature adult character, but reads sophisticated literature like The Shining. “’Children’s literature’ as a term carries with it complex emotional freight” (Hunt 47).  Beth’s death is a prime example of this “complex emotional freight” in children’s literature that brings a roller coaster of emotions to the reader.



4 thoughts on ““Friends” Meets “Little Women””

  1. I love that someone used this part of Friends! I do also agree with the fact that the deaths of both Aunt March, and Beth are sophisticated issues. I too think that death is a complex topic and needs to be introduced to children in a way in which they will not fear death, but rather accept it as a part of life. I’m not saying that we need to shelter children and hide them from death but I do not think death is a topic that can just be tossed at child and the child be expected to understand everything about the concept.

    This clip from the same episode of Friends supports your view as well, showing that just knowing Beth is sick effects Joey in big way, and poses the question how would a child react to know Beth is very sick?


  2. The connection that you’ve made in this blog post is very interesting. I think it is really cool that this clip from Friends shows the incompatability between “children” and “literature” so clearly through Joey’s reaction to the intense topics in Little Women, assuming Joey is meant to represent a child. I would also like to note the comments you’ve made about the theme of death in children’s literature. We have discussed in lecture how the children who have died in these stories, for example, Kirsten’s best friend or Tewah-Hokay in The Choctaw Girl, have been generally good girls and not mean, rude or misbehaving. Beth’s death is another good example of this. I also find it interesting that these characters, including Beth, have all died with some kind of underlying faith and lacking fear of what is to come. This makes me wonder if the authors of these stories were trying to use children’s literature as a way to instill religious values or if they have done this as a way of making death less frightening for young readers.

  3. Okay Friends is my favorite!! Thanks for this laugh lol. I think you bring up a super good point though! Death is often a theme in a lot of children’s books and movies. I mean if you look at Disney, almost all of the main characters have a mother who has passed away. Looking back at the literature we’ve read in this class, almost every book has death in it. In Kirsten’s story with her friend, the Choctaw Girl, Josefina’s mom, and obviously now Beth in Little Women. Even in just the books we’ve read death is a really big deal. In a lot of the literature death and religion or talking about heaven and God has usually been paired. Why do you think authors of children’s books include death? Do you think they pair it with religion as a way to make the children feel better about death or less scared?

  4. I liked the comparison that you made of Joey being much like the child audience that “Little Women” was intended for. There is one more scene from this episode that relates to Little Women, which pairs up well with the keyword gender. I couldn’t find a good clip of it, but Joey is talking with Ross and Chandler about the book and they must clarify for him that Jo is a girl and Laurie is a boy. In my mind this really brings to light the fact that Jo and Laurie each have very gendered names that they were given, Josephine and Theodore, but chose to go by other names because they don’t like their name or don’t feel their name fits them.

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