Over the break, I watched seasons 1 and 2 of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix with my dad. We originally clicked on it as a joke, planning on watching it the way we watched H20: Just Add Water or Liv and Maddie (disclaimer: I grew up on and adore Liv and Maddie, but I wouldn’t consider it intelligent television). The Baby-Sitters Club, however, is different. It’s real, almost brutal, genuinely funny (in season 2 at least), and, honestly, the kind of television that I would like kids in this generation to be growing up on.
For context, the premise of The Baby-Sitters Club is pretty self explanatory: a group of twelve to thirteen year old girls in a generic American suburb (Stoneybrook) decide to start a babysitting club for a bit of profit. They work together to manage the club, and all take jobs where they can. The series covers their babysitting careers as well as standard issue teen drama (friendships, feelings, fights, boys— every topic a thirteen year old could need guidance on).
The Baby-Sitters Club
Its got its surface level flaws, obviously. The hard to stomach “girl power” messaging that seems so prevalent in the last decade, for example, took us a while to move past. The rich step-dad character, the painfully awkward (but nonetheless appreciated) LGBTQ representation, and all of the surface flaws and shallowness of the show were tedious. And the show’s tendency to sacrifice the girls’ real and complicated feelings for a “friendship is magic” quick fix that silences real issues drove me crazy for a while.
But watching the show reignited my obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club, which had started with one actual book (Dawn and the Impossible Three, I think) when I was a little kid. Since then, it had made its way to the (very good) comic books in my early teens and, finally, found its way here.
In this analysis of The Baby-Sitters Club multiverse, I want to talk about representation, diversity, young romance, TV tropes, and the way that I and many other kids found themselves in the world of the club (also, I’ll be going off of the comic books and recent Netflix show, not the actual novels or the older show adaptations, I’ve yet to dive into).
The core of the BSC is comprised of Kristy Thomas, Claudia Kishi, Mary Anne Spier, Stacey McGill, and Dawn Schafer. Throughout all the various plots, more characters are added to the club-- like Jessi and Mallory (best friends who work as Junior Officers) or Logan Bruno (Mary-Anne’s boyfriend and possibly the best boyfriend figure in kids comic books today).
Logan and The Boys
Those who know me well know that I’m obsessed with the symbolism of Logan Bruno. Logan is Mary-Anne’s boyfriend and an associate member of The Babysitters Club, and I consider him one of the best “expendable boyfriend” characters we’ve seen in the past decade (comparable to Kristoff from Frozen or Lucas from Girl Meets World-- a personal favorite). He’s supportive above all else, charming, respectful, and good with kids: all things that we’ve been trained to see as boring characteristics in fictional men. In actuality, we should be praising this kind of character. He’s everything that young girls should be taught to look out for when they start dating-- someone who's comfortable enough in his masculinity to hang out with a group of all girls and feel comfortable, someone who’s good with kids and nice to old people, and, most importantly, someone who treats his partner with respect. Logan’s a big step up from the hyper-masculine Prince Charmings’ of the olden days.
Kristy Thomas has always been my favorite. In many ways, she was the closest thing I saw to myself in many of the books I read as a kid. She was independent, ambitious, and the responsible and respectable president and founder of the BSC. In other words, she’s “bossy”. While Kristy is a beloved character, she can’t help but to fall into the same category as overused stereotypes about bossy, “killjoy” type girls (think Candace from Phineas and Ferb, Lucy from Peanuts, Susie from Calvin and Hobbes, etc.).
This is probably my favorite part of the new Netflix series. The show has an opportunity to cling to this trope, but instead, The Baby-Sitters Club shows Kristy’s ambition and clear vision as what it is-- the potential for a great leader. Instead of being bossy, she knows what she wants. Instead of being a control freak, she's a go-getter, and instead of being demanding, she’s “the idea man”. It’s a much more flattering, and realistic, take on what it means to be a leader.
Claudia Kishi is the universal fan-favorite of The Baby-Sitters Club. She’s eccentric, loud, charming, and exactly who she is. Her arc deals with extremely real issues that I won’t get into for fear of spoilers, but are impressively raw for a kids show. This being said, I really want to mention a short documentary film available on Netflix, “The Claudia Kishi Club,” which features Asian-American artists, creators, writers, and fans of the series and talks about the character of Claudia Kishi and how important she was for Asian-American representation at a time where there were almost no Asian characters in media, let alone children’s media. The film talks about the importance of representation, the magic of Claudia, and the Asian-American experience (it explains everything much better than I ever could. It’s really worth a watch).
The Baby-Sitters Club is not what most people immediately think of when they think of an iconic piece of media that withstood the test of time and has proved itself useful and beloved to whole generations of kids. But despite this, it’s been on shelves and on screens since 1986, produced two television series, a movie, and a comic book adaptation. I consider the comic books and the Netflix show to hold some of the best lessons kids should be learning these days, and I would recommend it to anyone with the time and interest.
The Baby-Sitters Club can be streamed on Netflix, and the comic books are probably available wherever you buy books.