Review – The Baby-Sitters Club

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Friday, July 24th. 

Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a TV adaptation of a book series wildly popular with tween girls.

BASHAM: But as WORLD’s Emily Whitten discovered, this is not exactly The Baby-Sitter’s Club children of the ‘80s and ‘90s remember.

EMILY WHITTEN, REVIEWER: Families with middle-school aged daughters and a subscription to Netflix probably noticed the 10 episode series of The Baby-Sitter’s Club released July 3rd. With its G rating, its initial status as a Netflix Top 10 most popular show, and gushing reviews across the internet, it might seem worth watching.

The Baby-Sitter’s Club trailer, [1:50-2:07] “I started the babysitter’s club to take care of kids. But what I realized is, we were more than a club. We were best friends. Baby-Sitter’s Club!”

Here’s the problem: this series replaces some of the books’ traditional values with progressive, pro-LGBTQ themes. And that’s a shame, considering the series’ strengths. The sets, costumes, and characters look like an American Girl movie. The actresses aren’t aged up. They don’t wear skimpy outfits. And the five main characters embrace an entrepreneurial spirit as they create a babysitting business from scratch.

Characters like club founder, Kristy (played by Sophia Grace), and budding artist Claudia (played by Momona Tamada) overcome numerous conflicts to make the club a success. Here in Episode 1, Kristy and Claudia butt heads over whether they should take a client named Watson:

Netflix, The Babysitter’s Club, Episode 1, [17:39] “…he’s just some jerk who’s trying to find a way to abandon his kids on one of only two days a week he gets to see them. My club isn’t going to help him do that. Period. You mean, our club. And he’s the only person that’s called this entire meeting. Period. Mary Anne, is the calendar open? Kristy and I are free. Kristy has made her feelings very clear. Mary Anne, do you want to sit for Watson tomorrow? Mary Anne, no. Quit bossing her around. Honestly, you’re making me remember why I stopped hanging out with you so much.”

As the girls work out their problems, they learn how to listen actively and be quick to forgive. Potential boyfriends do play a role, but episodes focus more on relationships among the baby-sitters and their parents.

Unfortunately, creator Rachel Shukert also updates author Ann M. Martin’s beloved characters in unhelpful ways. Several parents of baby-sitters and their clients live gay lifestyles. Claudia dreams about her future “life-partner” rather than a husband, and she cheerfully describes painting nude models in her art class.

Worse, in Episode 4, Mary-Anne (played by Malia Baker) insists medical personnel use incorrect female pronouns for a transgender boy she’s watching.

Netflix, The Babysitter’s Club, Episode 4, [17:12-17:40] “I know that you guys are busy, but as you would see if you looked at her and not her chart, Bailey is not a boy and by treating her like one, you are completely ignoring who she is. You’re making her feel insignificant and humiliated. And that’s not going to make her feel good or safe or calm. From now on, please recognize her for who she is….”

The series presents transgender kids as normal, and Mary Anne stridently enforces the new morality, leaving no room for dissent. If that feels like propaganda, consider this: Shukert worked with LGBT activist organization, GLAAD, to “make sure everything was presented in a way that younger kids would be able to understand.”

And that’s just the beginning. From climate change to a wedding led by a self-proclaimed witch, this is a whole new Stoneybrook. Babysitter Dawn, played by Xochitl Gomez, leads a Les Miserables-inspired protest against her summer camp for charging money for its activities:

Netflix, The Babysitter’s Club, Episode 10, [18:16] “She’s back. Mimi’s jeep is heading towards us. Time to take a stand. Long live the revolution!”

We’re meant to chuckle at Dawn’s overreaction. But given recent political turmoil and violent protests, I’m not laughing. The logic is too insidious. Just think: The Baby-Sitter’s Club is a babysitting business created by girls who accept money in exchange for work. If you don’t give them money, they don’t babysit for you. But when camp workers ask campers to pay for services, Dawn calls it an “unfair pay system” that creates “haves and have nots.”

Instead of protesting, Dawn could give her babysitting money to pay for poor campers’ activities. But that solution would take away her opportunity to shine, revealing her real goal isn’t justice but self-actualization. 

As for why reviewers and parents seem to love the series, be aware that adult viewers make up part of the intended audience. According to an interview in The Hollywood Reporter, Shukert had them in mind when giving the babysitters’ parents larger roles and casting actors like Alicia Silverstone from Clueless and. I suspect their inclusion had something to do with the over-the-top humor and political posturing as well.

For all the inclusion and diversity here, one type of person doesn’t exist in the new Stoneybrook: anyone who disagrees with the new ideology. Thoughtful Christians clearly aren’t welcome in Shukert’s new club. For that reason, Christian tweens may feel more at home with a series like Disney’s Liv and Maddie, also available on Netflix.

I’m Emily Whitten.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.