05 8 / 2013
There was a lot of stuff growing up in the 90s that I missed out on – among other things, I never had light-up shoes, I never had a Skip-It, and I never had an Easy Bake Oven. The Easy Bake Oven thing, I got over that. My cousin had one and it was boring. The food in this picture took approximately eleven hours to make and tasted like chemicals:
But in the last twenty years, I’ve never gotten over the fact that my mom banned the Baby-Sitters Club books and TV show in our house. It is a cultural touchstone for women of my generation, and one I am routinely left out of. (I didn’t understand the hype when they put the show on Netflix.) Mom told me it was “too grown-up,” and once when I checked a BSC book out of the school library, she found it in my backpack, and I got in major trouble.
This only made me more curious, because in fourth grade, my favorite TV show was Mad About You. My mom’s friend showed me and my little sister the Flowers in the Attic movie (terrifying), and they are still friends. In that movie, the mother locks her kids in the attic and then poisons them, and one of the kids feeds a younger kid with his own blood. I also did a school project on American legend Shirley Jones, and my mom let me read Shirley’s autobiography, which included a detailed description of the time her then-husband Jack Cassidy sat naked in a corner and declared himself Jesus Christ.
If I was allowed to consume all of this media, then what in the WORLD was in those Baby-Sitters Club books????
I just bought the first three BSC books from Amazon, and I’m going to read them and find out just what is so scandalous about them. I really am genuinely intrigued.
First up, Kristy’s Great Idea.
The plot of the book is basically that this girl Kristy gets her friends together (well, two friends and one new girl who is afraid of candy) to form a babysitting club/business. They hold office hours where neighborhood moms can call one number and reach four potential babysitters, rather than having to call four different girls. The book mostly serves to introduce us to the characters, who I hope will have more interesting stories to tell in the future. Upcoming titles “The Truth About Stacey” and “Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls” suggest there is intrigue to come. Also, I assume because of Mom’s vehement disapproval that Kristy eventually becomes a Heidi Fleiss-type character and the Babysitters Club becomes a big prostitution ring, with drugs.
Kristy is the narrator of this book, and I dislike her from page one, where she mouths off in social studies class for no good reason. She later explains in her punishment essay that this was bad because “Being rude was distracting to other students and made Stoneybrook Middle School look bad to visitors,” suggesting that she completely missed the point of the assignment. Basically, she’s a rude person. She gets really irritated when her single working mother asks her to watch her little brother after school, and yet she loves kids so much she wants to start a babysitting business. Clearly she is not in the Babysitters Club for the right reasons. I don’t understand her, and I wouldn’t trust her with my hypothetical kids.
She gets somewhat of a pass because her dad abandoned his wife and four kids to move to California and start a new family – this is barely touched upon in the book, but seriously, that’ll fuck you up. A subplot of the book is Kristy becoming friendlier with her mother’s new boyfriend, Watson, who becomes engaged to Mrs. Thomas by the end of the book. Poor Watson.
Claudia is the cool one. She is Asian, and I’m pretty sure there is a fashion blog about her. Here is the first real description of Claudia, from page 7: “Claudia is really into art and always off at art classes, or else holed up in her room, painting or drawing. Or reading mysteries. That’s her other passion.” Also, she has a phone in her room, which makes her awesome for 1987. Claudia has an older sister, Janine, who has an IQ of 196. (Marilyn vos Savant once held the record for Highest IQ with 190, so Janine’s parents better call Guinness.)
Kristy says, “I’m sure it’s because of Janine that Claudia concentrates on art and is a terrible student. I was relieved to hear that Janine wasn’t home.” This is an example of how Claudia doesn’t really apply herself at life, and how Kristy is kind of a bitch.
Mary Anne has no personality. She has a father who won’t let her spend $3 of her own money on pizza, and that’s it. Mary Anne’s mother is dead, which might explain her reserved nature. She is the perfect best friend for a bossy girl like Kristy, since she has no opinions. Book four is called “Mary Anne Saves the Day,” and honestly I was so surprised to see that title because Mary Anne is so boring that such a feat seems impossible. I was curious throughout the book whether or not Mary Anne’s father and Kristy’s mother had ever slept together.
Stacey is a new girl with a dark secret: she is terrified of candy. Actually, she has diabetes, but this isn’t revealed until the end of the book. Before the big reveal, Stacey recoils at the sight of candy, which seems a little dramatic. It prompts Kristy to think Stacey is on a strict diet, and Kristy spends a lot of time criticizing Stacey for being on a diet when she is so skinny. Later, Kristy thinks Stacey has anorexia. Kristy is super-judgmental and kind of obsessed with Stacey’s eating habits.
The climax of this novel happens when the Babysitters Club is on the brink of collapse and Kristy has had enough of Stacey’s lies:
Kristy: “Mary Anne saw you come home with your parents on Saturday. How come you made your mom say you stayed in New York?”
Stacey: “Are you accusing my mom of lying?”
Kristy: “I guess so.”
Claudia jumps to Stacey’s defense, saying Kristy doesn’t “have any tact at all.” Mary Anne remains silent, because Mary Anne.
Stacey caves and tells the club that she has diabetes, and the girls are way more accepting of this than Stacey expected them to be. The 80s were a different time. The club is restored to its former glory.
My only other concern is that the Babysitters Club seems totally above Claudia and I don’t understand what she’s getting out of it. When Mary Anne and Kristy tell her the idea for the club, the book says:
“A baby-sitters club?” she squealed.
I’d only known Claudia for 29 pages, but she doesn’t seem like someone who would squeal, and she seems too busy with art and failing school to have time to babysit. Later, when the club is about to disband because of member disgruntlement, Claudia says, “Whose dumb idea was this club anyway? Four people all wanting the same job. That’s stupid.”
Yeah, no kidding.
Anyway, on to the next book.
Will Mary Anne’s father find love?
Will Claudia realize she is too cool for the Babysitters Club? (Because she is.)
Will Kristy shut the fuck up already?
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