Netflix recently dropped ten episodes of a new Baby-Sitters Club series. Based on the books by Ann M. Martin, the show follows a handful of middle school girls who start a club designed to promote a team baby-sitting business. Each friend in the group has her own story to tell with her different family dynamics, interests, difficulties and triumphs.
A couple days ago, I hit “play,” just to see if the series lived up to all the critical hype. Five hours later, I’d binged the whole thing—it may have been the balm for my soul that I didn’t even realize I needed!
So if you’re also wondering why the show is getting so much love and whether you should check it out, I’m here to spell out a bit more about what makes the new Baby-Sitters Club so special.
The Nostalgia Factor
Frolic is a website with an inherently book-loving fan base, so I bet we have some original BSC readers out there! The ten episodes of the Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix re-hash some of the most classic storylines from the original book series and its subsequent media adaptations. The characters are also re-contextualized just a bit for the 21st century, but their core characteristics like Claudia’s artistic side and Kristy’s headstrong nature are still present!
For folks who weren’t that into the book series, there’s still a heap of nostalgic fun stuff. For example, the girls set up a landline for their business. They treat it as something whimsical and antique to set them apart—but for adults it’ll remind us of our childhoods before cell phones!
One other cool factor: since nostalgia comes in roughly 20-year cycles, our current culture is already flooded with fashion and imagery that mirrors a 90’s childhood. This means that older viewers (like me!) can watch a new fictional world that looks like the ones they grew up in. Younger viewers will still see an authentic (if slightly more wholesome) version of their own world, too! The result? A comforting piece of media for consumers from ages 5 to 45!
TV-G…Okay With Me!
When I watched the previews of The Baby-Sitters Club, my thought process was initially along the lines of, “Oh, this looks super cute! But also definitely for 10-year-olds. Is it weird for me to watch such a G-rated show?” I was worried that watching this show would make me, as Mary Ann is fond of saying, “a baby.”
The magic of the Baby-Sitters Club is that its wholesome, kid-friendly style is a feature, not a bug.
In a tumultuous world, it’s comforting to realize that with a click of the “still watching?” button we can disappear into a simpler, kinder environment. The lives of our favorite middle schoolers aren’t perfect…but they are positive, forward-thinking, and relationship-focused.
The Baby-Sitters Club’s kid-focused narratives also give viewers a chance to appreciate a reminder of what it’s like to be a pre-teen girl. And no, I’m not talking about the awkwardness, lunch room cliques, and use of slang that ages badly.
Instead, The Baby-Sitters Club focuses on the good things about being young. From Mary Ann taking steps into forming her own identity to Stacey’s sophisticated flair, The Baby-Sitters Club highlights the sheer sense of possibility in each of its characters’ lives. That’s something that would be way harder to achieve if the show were edgier or designed for an older set of characters.
This Is A Show That Respects Its Characters AND Its Viewers
One cool thing about the hip new BSC: The sidelined grown-ups are often just as compelling as the front-and-center kiddos. Viewers get glimpses of Kristy’s mom as she navigates remarriage and blending two families, Mary Ann’s type-A dad who’s struggling to do the right thing for his daughter, and Dawn’s free-spirited mother who’s finding herself again after re-starting in her hometown.
These parents sometimes make mistakes or have good reasons for doing things their kids don’t like. Lots of other shows would have a moment where, for example, Mary Ann’s dad would say something like…
“Mary Ann, the reason I’m so controlling is that after we lost your mother I was afraid of losing you in all kinds of ways. I want you to grow up well but sometimes have no clue what that even means. I worry even more because I am a white man, and you are my beautiful biracial daughter, and there are things I’m afraid I’ll never understand about how to help you grow into that authentic identity. I’m sorry, and now I’m going to officially give you more choices and freedoms.”
Because that’s how all adults talk to the kids in their life, right?!
The Baby-Sitters Club realizes that the cardinal rule of storytelling is, “show, don’t tell.” It respects its viewers to fill in the blanks when it comes to the greater emotional story between the kids and adults. Thanks to its subtle dialogue and deft storytelling with the grown-ups, the whole show is better!
This respect for viewers also translates to a handful of greater values that are embedded in the show. From the everyday uncontroversial presence of LGBTQ characters to the more diverse cast of main characters, The Baby-Sitters Club creates a world with an embedded sense of values like tolerance, acceptance, friendship, and justice.
While there are a few quick overtly political moments that rocked my world in the best way, the new BSC is more about subtly embedded values that it trusts viewers to get on board with over the course of the series.
So, have you checked out the new Baby-Sitters Club? If so, what did you think? Tell @onfrolic all about it!