At 26, I learned a lot from Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Dawn.

By Isabel Jones
Jul 24, 2020 @ 9:06 am
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Credit: Netflix

When I first saw the trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club, I thought (out loud) “Why would I care about 11-year-olds?” I balk at PG-13 movies (just say fuck! Say it!), so the prospect of sinking five hours into a TV-G felt like more of a chore than an escape. But after reading positive feedback (from adults), I passed the remote to my inner headband-wearing, gel pen-collecting middle school self. She was delighted — and so was I.

While I dabbled in the book series growing up, Sweet Valley High was always my mass-market paperback series of choice; so the nostalgia factor that drew a lot of the reboot’s over-14 audience wasn’t quite there for me. But BSC was able to do something that a lot of projects aren’t — especially those that aim to attract an audience that has clearly aged out of the demo. The show’s young characters aren’t written with an undertone of condescension. These kids, while unable to vote or stay out past 10 p.m., are more mature and thoughtful than the bulk of legal adults I know. They stand up for the marginalized, they talk through personal conflicts, they organize and budget (!). You empathize with their struggles and everything it means to be a child in today’s world, but watching Kristy Thomas (Sophie Grace) resist letting her mom’s boyfriend (Alicia Silverstone and Mark Feuerstein, respectively) into her life is a different experience than watching Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) stumble through adolescence in Eighth Grade or watching Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) reckon with a dark reality that they don’t quite understand in The Florida Project. The Baby-Sitters Club knows who it is ultimately catering to: Kids! But in the show’s honesty and aversion to over-Disney-fying its plotlines, a larger demographic has emerged.

Credit: Liane Hentscher/Netflix

I’ve never worked in TV or movies, but I imagine that it’s really hard to produce just about anything these days (global pandemic aside). The responsibility to entertain people is great, but so is the responsibility to share a message with one’s platform. It’s no longer enough to label something “escapism” and ignore the turmoil all around us. And honestly, BSC has balanced these two directives better than most projects I’ve seen in the past year. The show gives us capital “D” Drama — parental dating, competing babysitters, costume balls — but it also gently and sensitively discusses real issues that affect and are perpetuated by the young and old alike, including anxiety, sexism, the stigma around illness, discrimination against the transgender community, discrimination against immigrants, economic inequality … If these children are the future, perhaps I’ll stop plotting my move to Canada.