In elementary school, you probably browsed the school’s library bookshelves for what felt like hours on end. At one point or another, you might have stumbled upon a series of colorful paperbacks with hand-painted cover art of different scenarios in a dated ‘80s fashion and letter blocks that spell out The Baby-Sitters Club. Whether you read all of the books or just one, chances are you couldn’t help but fall in love with this series.
My obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club started when I was 7 years old and trying to read actual chapter books. My older sister started collecting the entire series in the ‘80s, and to this day, we go to bookstores on the hunt to find original editions of the books we have yet to add to our collection. Because I always saw the books in my sister’s bookshelves, I decided to try them, and I was instantly addicted.
You’re probably wondering: Why am I talking about one of my favorite childhood book series? Well, in July, Netflix released its TV-show adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club. As soon as I saw the trailer, I instantly called my best friend (she read the series with me in second grade) and told her that we needed to watch this together. The night that it came out, we set up a Netflix watch party and relived our childhood.
The original books and previous movie and TV adaptations of them are heavily rooted in millennial nostalgia, but Netflix chose to take a different route. Instead of purely recreating an ‘80s tween sitcom, Netflix perfectly blends nostalgia with modern elements in 10, 30-minute episodes, allowing a new generation to fall in love with this timeless classic.
Check out the series’ trailer here.
If you have not yet read the books or seen the show, you might be debating whether it’s binge-worthy or not. But hear me out before you decide to gloss it over. Here’s why you need to watch this show, even if you never read the books:
- The cast diversity is immaculate
Even as a children’s middle-grade level book in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, The Baby-Sitters Club included two girls of color: Claudia Kishi, an artsy Japanese-American fashion icon and Jessi Ramsey, an immensely talented dancer who’s Black. Reading the books as a kid, I looked up to Claudia because, even though she was Japanese-American, she didn’t fit into the Asian stereotype. She didn’t always make straight-A’s, but she was still hard-working. She was an artist that had a strong obsession with junk food, fashion and Nancy Drew books. And before you ask, yes, I did read the entire Nancy Drew series because of Claudia Kishi.
In the 2020 adaptation, Netflix decided to take the series’ diversity up a notch. Instead of portraying Dawn Schafer as the picture-perfect California bleach-blond, Xochitl Gomez perfectly portrays the character in classic Gen Z fashion. In the show, Dawn is a strong political activist that never shies away from calling out injustice, even organizing peaceful protests. Mary-Anne also differs slightly from her original book character. The books describe Mary-Anne to be on the shorter side with brown hair and brown eyes, and on the covers, she’s always depicted as Caucasian. In the new Netflix show, Malia Baker, who is of mixed race, portrays the soft-spoken, caring and organized young teen.
- The fashion
Okay, if you’ve read the series or seen the 1995 movie, you know that The Baby-Sitters Club does not play around when it comes to fashion. Whether you’re into more trendy and sophisticated pieces like Stacey McGill, the number-savvy treasurer that hails from New York, a comfortable and sporty tomboy style like the outspoken president Kristy Thomas or funky and colorful outfits like the iconic Claudia Kishi, there’s a character whose wardrobe you’ll want to own. Even though the ‘80s fashion in the books is iconic, the series’ style team deserves a round of applause for perfectly encapsulating each girl’s individuality through her wardrobe. Even a decade later, I still wish I could have Claudia’s closet.
- It’s a breath of fresh air
2020 hasn’t exactly been the most uplifting year (*cough* thanks, COVID-19 *cough*), but you would never know based on The Baby-Sitters Club’s atmosphere. The show is light-hearted and uplifting, perfectly recreating the child-like atmosphere from the novels without being too corny. Considering that it’s never bad to have a good pick-me-up once in a while, The Baby-Sitters Club is the perfect series to binge when you want to try to find a little bit of positivity in your day.
- The modern take on current social issues
Okay, I know I just mentioned that the show has a light-hearted and uplifting atmosphere, but The Baby-Sitters Club isn’t afraid to tackle heavy topics, either. Even in the original book publications in the ‘80s, author Ann M. Martin wanted to tackle important, relevant issues while simultaneously creating a light-hearted children’s book. For example, many of the characters are children of divorced parents or raised by single parents in various situations. For the ‘80s, these were still taboo topics because issues like divorce were not as prevalent and normalized as they are today.
Netflix took The Baby-Sitters Club’s progressive attitude to the next level with the 2020 adaptation. For example, I think that the show perfectly addresses LGBTQ+ youth identity. The newest adaptation took a more relaxed approach to heavy-hitting topics like this, just like Ann M. Martin did in the original books. Instead of making the topic a spectacle, the show presents it in a very casual and nonchalant manner. By including it in such a normal way, the series helped to show that it’s simply just a part of life.
- The nostalgia
Now, forgive me, but this is the perfect moment to insert this quote from the trailer.
Kristy: Are you sure this thing actually works?
Claudia: The Etsy shop I bought it from said it’s fully operational.
Kristy: Yeah, but it’s 25 years old.
Claudia: It’s iconic.
To clarify, I know that many people who read the books did not grow up with the original ‘80s nostalgia that it evokes. Rather, when I refer to nostalgia, I mean the feeling of reading the books as a kid.
The Netflix show chronologically follows the first eight books, and the last two episodes reference the second super special. Episode after episode, I grew increasingly excited because each one is a modern re-telling of the original series. Even though I’m no longer an eight-year-old kid reading the books for the first time, watching this series a decade later reignited that warm, familiar feeling of reading a Baby-Sitters Club book in my bedroom after school.
Watching it for the first time, I couldn’t help but grow excited pointing out the small details referenced in the book that Netflix brought to life. To name a few, the Twizzlers in the hollowed book, the Nancy Drew collection on Claudia’s bookshelves and Kristy’s iconic director’s chair transported me back to my childhood. Instead of envisioning the exact details in the description of Claudia’s room at every meeting in my mind, I can now see it physically. Even though I have seen older adaptations from the ‘90s, they shy in comparison. The Netflix series incorporates the perfect mix of modern and nostalgic elements, creating a show that ignites child-like wonder within you.
- Karen Brewer
Now, if you’ve only seen the trailer without reading any of the books, don’t worry, you’ll grow to love this character. In the books, Karen is Kristy’s quirky seven-year-old stepsister that makes a rare appearance. However, Netflix made her into a recurring character and gave her a larger role. If you have yet to watch the series, just know that whenever Karen comes on screen, the scene is an absolute treat. (Also, rest in peace Krakatoa. If you know, you know.)
- Reminiscent of your own experiences growing up
Because this series revolves around the lives of a group of young, teenage girls, many of the primary themes take you back to awkward middle school days, but don’t worry, it’s in a good way. It’s safe to say that middle school wasn’t the highlight of our lives, but we can definitely admit that we had some experiences that helped make us who we are today. Watching the characters go through specific struggles like wanting to fit in or getting their period for the first time reminded me of my personal experiences when I was their age. Now that I am older, I can look back at these memories with a bittersweet feeling. At the time, those moments were definitely ones I wish I could redo, but they shaped me into who I am today, and I will be forever grateful for that.
- The sisterhood
Even though The Baby-Sitters Club targets a younger audience, that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn a thing or two about the sisterhood and friendship that these girls have. Each episode highlights a certain character’s story, showing each girl’s unique personality and individuality. As the show progresses, and you see the characters interact with each other, you can feel the genuine bond and love that they feel for one another. Whether a friendship is only a few months or multiple years old, this show reminds you that both can be just as fulfilling as the other. Watching the series with my best friend reminded me why I loved it so much. In more ways than one, The Baby-Sitters Club brings people together. As you binge the series, you realize that you’re watching more than just a group of friends running a small business. Instead, you’re watching them grow up and mature, tackling every issue that life throws at them. And the best part? Instead of fighting alone, they do it together through thick and thin.
If you haven’t yet watched Netflix’s recent adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club, grab your best friend, a bowl of popcorn and your favorite blanket, and queue it up! You won’t regret it.