Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Babysitters' Club


In light of the late-breaking 90s news that the Babysitters Club* is being revamped for a new generation of kids, it seems only appropriate to give the BSC some well-deserved Children of the 90s fanfare. I occasionally pick up some flack for my coverage of girly topics, but this time around you're just going to have to deal with it. Things are going to get downright feminine here, so don't say I didn't warn you. We're going to talk about slumber parties and crushes on boys and young female entrepreneurship and you're going to like it, dammit.

The Babysitters Club was a formidable 90s franchise, spawning a series of books, a TV show, a feature film, and countless items of allowance-worthy tie-in merchandise. The series focuses on a group of business-minded middle-school aged girls who form a well-organized club to process and dispatch sitters for local childcare requests. As a child, I revered their detail-orientation and maturity, but as an adult, I find it harder to believe that people would trust these 12- and 13-year olds with their easily breakable infants. Youth notwithstanding, it's probably more impressive that the girls managed to get the whole neighborhood to cave to their demands for hourly rates. These girls were good.

Author Ann M. Martin pumped these books out at regular intervals from 1986 to 2000, producing 213 books selling over 176 million copies. This woman is a veritable BSC-producing machine. She had a unique sense of appeal to tweenage girls, piquing their interest with wholesome stories of everyday obstacles.

That front cover offer to join the Fan Club? Totally did that

Martin gave us all of our favorite stock characters, forever categorizing each of us as "a Mary Anne" or "a Kristy". I always wanted to be a Claudia or a Stacey because of their keen fashion sense and model beauty, but I had a nagging suspicion growing up that I was more of a Mallory. If you've ever read the series, you know this to be a huge bummer. You'll be glad to know I managed to escape the Mallory route by never growing curly red hair, getting glasses, or being born into a family of 10, but it was a close one there for awhile.

It's possible I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, as I have yet to properly introduce you to our cast of characters:

Kristy Thomas: Our fearless leader and self-proclaimed tomboy. In 90s young adult books you could always tell if a girl wasn't particularly into her looks if she wore her hair in a ponytail, and Kristy was no exception. I call it the curse of the Elizabeth Wakefield; God forbid a girl has a bad hair day, these YA authors will forever relegate her to being the serious one. Everyone knows all the real fun-loving girls of YA lit wear their hair flowing and loose. It's pretty much the only symbol we have for the personality of a middle-school aged girl.

But enough of Kristy's lamentable ponytail. Kristy is bossy, outspoken, and sporty. She's generally a fair and benevolent ruler, though occasionally she lets the glamor of her presidency of a suburban middle-school babysitting club cloud her better judgment.


Mary Anne Spier: The requisite quiet and shy girl, Mary Anne is Kristy's best friend. The two are initially neighbors until Mary Anne's dad marries Dawn's mom. At the beginning of the series, her single father is very protective and strict, but all that fizzles out once they integrate with the hippie Schafers. Mary Anne is the first of the girls to have a boyfriend, and let me just say that based on the actor in my Scholastic Book Order's VHS copy of Mary Anne and the Brunettes, Logan Bruno is definitely a catch.


Stacey McGill: Our fun, stylish, blonde model friend. I dotted my i's with hearts for probably six months after I read that was Stacey's signature style. I was hoping I would morph into a Stacey on the merit of my bubbly handwriting alone, but the undertaking was generally fruitless. I guess I just wasn't permed enough.

Stacey is a the club's resident exotic sophisticate, with her New York City nativity, modeling career, and diabetes. I was actually jealous of Stacey's diabetes as a kid. She's special in every way, plus she gets a lot of bonus outpourings of attentions due to her periodic hospitalizations. That's the way my 7-year old mind interpreted it, at least. Some people have all the luck.


Claudia Kishi: The artist of the group. Claudia is funky, candy-addicted, and terrible at all things academic. She's also Asian, giving the group a much-needed breath of diversity, at least until Jessi comes along. If you've ever seen the movie, you know that her poor grades warrant summer school and a hearty performance of the chant, "The brain, the brain, the center of the chain!" Her family is pretty by-the-books, so they're naturally bothered by her outlandish appearance. Treble clef earrings and fringed vests? For shame.


Dawn Schafer: The hippie do-gooder of the group. Dawn is a blonde vegetarian Californian, descriptors that the books treat as generally interchangeable. She and Mary Anne are step-sisters, which causes some rifts from time to time but is generally pretty cool. She eventually moves to California and gets her own spin-off book series, but not before the TV show's Dawn got to hang out with Zack Braff. No, really. He was there when Dawn saved the trees. I've even got the video evidence to prove it:





Mallory Pike and Jessi Ramsey: Our junior members, meaning they are a grade younger than the other girls and thus vastly inferior according to the club's rigid membership standards. Mallory comes from a huge family of freakish gingers and Jessi is black and a ballerina. I'm sure they have other traits, but these are the main ones the books tend to dwell on.


When the TV show premiered, I was decidedly heartbroken that my house's sub par cable didn't include HBO or the Disney Channel. Luckily, through the aforementioned magic of Scholastic Book Orders, I got the full set on VHS. I'm still bitter at whoever taped Oprah over the second half of Stacey's Big Break. You know who you are. Anyway, whether or not you were a fan of the show, hopefully you knew the incredibly catchy theme song:



I'm not embarrassed to admit this song graced a few of our pre-gaming playlists in college. Okay, it's totally embarrassing, but I sacrifice myself at the altar of your collective bemusement at my expense. You're welcome.

There was also an eponymous full-length film starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Larissa Oleynik, and some less famous people. The movie wasn't exactly a box-office blockbuster, but was generally pretty satisfying to fans. I know I'm still heartbroken that I no longer have any technological apparatus on which to play my VHS copy. I did, however, recover this song from the soundtrack for your listening enjoyment. Again, I take full responsibility for my terrible, terrible taste in music as a child.



These girls may not have been extraordinary in any way, but children in the 90s took to them for that reason: they were decidedly ordinary. I imagine if the revamped books catch on, an entirely new generation of girls will fall in love with them all over again. Only this time around, they'll all have iPods and cell phones instead of Walkmans and their own phone lines. A small price to pay for some good old-fashioned wholesome fun, don't you think?


*And yes, I heard about Diablo Cody's Sweet Valley High movie project, but that will just have to wait its turn. Honest to blog. See, I can say that here, cause it makes sense.

38 comments:

Nic said...

I LOVED The Babysitters Club!

Practically Perfect... said...

I agree :-) I read a lot of the BSC books when I was in elementary/middle school. I always thought that it would be so cool to organize something like that. I think that I may have even tried to convince some of my friends...!

I think that it's great that they're re-vamping the series for children today. There's so much garbage out there. They need some good role models :-)

KatieSPerk said...

I also wanted to be in the Babysitters Club! What a great post. I still have all of my books!

nikki said...

BSC Forever!!! I was a Mary Anne, wanted to be a Claudia, and feared I was a Mallory.

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

I loved th BSC...and for some odd reason was determined to read them in order! (like it mattered)

Amanda said...

I adore the BSC! Still have most of them. I was probably a mix of Mallory and Mary Anne. I've looked at the redo graphic novels of the stories, but it's just not the same.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I remember the book orders we used to have back in elementary school & everyone used to buy a million of these. Oh woa. I haven't thought of these books in years!

Heidi said...

In the later books, Dawn's Cali friends have cell phones. I'm somewhat embarrassed to know this.

I was (and still am) a Mallory Ann. I even have a Mallory-esque T-shirt that says "So many books...So little time" on it.

One last thing: Please do not let Diablo Cody touch Sweet Valley High. Thank you.

sarah said...

omg this post almost made me cry

I LOVED BSC so much it was embarrassing

... off to download the song ;p

thegamerswife said...

The BSC was my life! I lived and dreamed for those books! I definitely was a Mary Anne. I wonder if I read those books today if I'd love them as much as I remember my 10 year old self loving them! :)

Lauren Kelly said...

Seriously, I probably read EVERY book in this series more than once. LOVED it. I so wanted to be these girls and start my own babysitters club, haha!!! :)

Christy said...

I LOVED BSC!!! I remember the library would have the videos and they were ALWAYS checked out and I would get so mad!!!

Do you remember the Babysitter's Little Sister's books? I had those.

Jenny said...

While the books were good, those video's were fantastic! I will have that theme song in my head all day now:)

Simply Colette said...

I still have my collection in a box in the attic!! Same goes for SVH. Not sure who I would have been, personality wise a mixture of Mary Ann and Stacy, coming from a divorced family, but a California girl like Dawn, although I wasn't really like her. :) Thanks for the good memories.

Brunch at Saks said...

LOVED these books! I am a diabetic, so I was always so happy that Stacey was diabetic because she was the only other girl my age with it! Although, now that I am older, I realize that the author didn't do a really good job at portraying the disease with Stacey- it was very "sugar-coated," for lack of better words! But in all, loved these books!

Melly said...

Oh I LOVE the BSC!!! I started reading the Little Sister books as soon as I could, and then moved up to the Babysitter's Club. I read every single one, including the Super Specials (which I still have, I love them so much). I adored the movie too, and always wanted to be Dawn or Stacy (Dawn since I had short brown hair, and Stacy because she was an NYC girl like me).

Not gonna lie, now that I have an ebook reader I'm mighty tempted to read all the BSC books again, haha!

Heather Taylor said...

I looked like Mary Anne, had some Mallory traits, and idolized Stacey McGill in grade school.

Ali said...

I STILL think about the movie. I started eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches because of it! And the computer game...loved it.

The books were pretty awesome too. ;)

Melly said...

I didn't want to be Dawn, it was Mary-Anne, haha! I'm already forgetting!

Mrs. Potts said...

I so loved this series & the characters. I think I always wanted to be Stacey or Dawn.

Princess Freckles said...

Oh how I love The babysitters Club! I have the movie still and i watched it all the time as a kid! Now that I work as a children's librarian, I can't wait to see the new generation of books. I'll make sure every tween I can get my hands on reads these books! LOL!

Charlotte said...

I still love the TV theme song (and may even currently have it on my iPod, ahem). I never liked the movie, though. I'd be interested to see a new movie version with some of the tween actors of today. :)

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Katie said...

Love the BSC! Still have all of my books (actually, I own the whole series).

My favorites growing up were Stacey and Dawn. Zach Braff in Dawn Saves the Trees = total win! I have that episode on VHS, it's pretty fantastic.

Little Mrs Domestic said...

I looved the babysitters club! Oh and how my friends and I would love to have had our own club. I remember I even had the board game! I can't remember which was my favorite.. I think I went through stages with the main ones. I too had the VHS of the movie but not sure where it got to. I do still have some of my books though that I am saving for my girl. I hope they do make a comeback!

beeyum said...

I loved reading these!

Sarah said...

It broke my heart when I found out that the majority were ghostwritten.

I still remember what Claudia's room looked like in the computer game. I used to sit on the homescreen forever, hoping I'd get a special message or the phone would ring.

Literary Crap said...

I still have a love-mock relationship with the BSC. They've started popping up everywhere in my life!
I've just started to re-read them, so this is a well-timed blog!

Pepper said...

I actually bought the movie on dvd about 4 years ago at a Walmart I think. And that Girl-Girlfriend song was my absolute favorite! I still watch the movie at least once a season. (I'm 23, btw)

Lil' Woman said...

I still dot my eyes with hearts...sad but true...ugh!

Summaiyah Hyder said...

do you (or anyone else) know where i can get the whole set of books? i wish i had kept mine from when i was younger. :(

Anonymous said...

I totally loved this series growing up, and still enjoy occasional reading them.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think the revamped BSC books will be wholesome like the originals? Somehow I doubt it. Everything from my childhood is wrecked when it gets a modern-day remake. The publishing/entertainment industry and pop culture are just so different now. There's no innocence. I don't think kids today have much of a childhood. I'll be shocked if the BSC books are left intact and no Idiotic Powers That Be decide to spice them up to make them more "hip" and "relevant" to today's readers. Bleh.

I wonder why I read these books as a kid...I never babysat, didn't have any siblings/big family, didn't belong to any clubs... basically couldn't relate at all. And it's not that I secretly wanted to do those things - definitely *not* take care of kids.

I guess I just enjoyed reading about the main characters and seeing a bit of myself in most of them ... tomboy, artist, hippie, quiet-with-strict-parents, glasses-wearing-geek... no ballet dancing though. Or fashion sense, unless you count wearing mismatched clashing colours 'cause I didn't know any better and didn't really give a damn (also it was the '80s) - as funky cool style. Sure, let's go with that.

Emily Catherine said...

I just stumbled across your blog,and this is the first post I read. I liked it so much that I added you to my Google Reader feed immediately ;)

I, too, knew on the inside that I was acutally a Mallory. It was my secret shame. A friend of mine even told me once that I was a Mallory. "Just because you have glasses!" she said, but I knew that wasn't true. Looking back upon it now, I see that I most definitely was, and possibly even still am, a Mallory.

My true desire was to be a Dawn. I was a super-liberal and did hang out with a lot of hippies in college, and I do live near the beach. So I guess in the world of stock characters, I might be able to go either way.

digigirl02 said...

The BSC books were the best. They bring back so many fond memories of when I was younger.

Kerree said...

I loved these books! I bet my daughters would love them now too

The World of Lurlene Mcdaniel said...

i was a mary anne growing up and wanted to be a dawn because her name was beautiful and i liked her books.

now im more of a stacey with some mary anne traits. im only like dawn when it comes to advocating things.

by the way mary anne and stacey are my favorites.

metamorphstorm said...

Very entertaining post, but you wrote that Mallory and Jessi were only one grade younger than the other BSC members, but with the exception of that week Claudia spent back in the seventh grade, the difference in grades is two :D

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