Say hello to your (new) friends! Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club reboot is here and it does not disappoint.
Growing up, I was a pretty introverted kid and reading was my way of escaping into the childhood I aspired to have. Being the product of two working parents, I was mostly looked after by Sri Lankan families on our street during school holidays.
Like most children who grew up in Australia in the 90s, I was OBSESSED with The Baby-Sitters Club (the books, TV series and movie). So much so, that I had read the entire collection spanning three libraries situated within a 15km radius of where I lived. I admired these five teens from Stoneybrook for their entrepreneurial initiative to set up a child minding service.
In the Netflix reboot, we return to the leafy, friendly neighbourhood of Stoneybrook Connecticut, and there’s an immediate familiarity as Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn and Stacey are re-introduced.
As a kid, I really connected with the character of Claudia Kishi, though after watching the reboot, I’ve definitely adopted Kristy’s ‘I’m the boss’ leadership tendencies (what can I say, it’s the Capricorn in me).
From reading Nancy Drew and hiding chocolate in my room, to an interest in the arts and combating my parent’s academic expectations, I remembered how much I related to Claudia’s Asian-American childhood in the books as a pre-teen.
As I binged through the episodes, I appreciated how the reboot retained the flavour and authenticity of Ann M. Martin’s original text and titles, while updating it to stay relevant in a contemporary context. The revamped crew are much more culturally representative, socially and politically engaged and the enterprise is much more technologically streamlined.
Claudia is no longer the token migrant narrative, with Mary Anne characterised as African American and bi-racial, and Dawn as Latinx. The show also explores gender identity with the normalcy, equity and compassion this story arc should be given.
Growing up in the digital age, while the iconic BSC phone is kept (but has been purchased off Etsy), each member now has a smartphone to stay connected (and for babysitting emergencies). So while Kristy might be moving out of the neighbouring house to Mary Anne, not being able to communicate via their adjacently facing windows feels like less of a friendship hurdle.
The kid kit still remains the most unique selling point of BSC’s service, giving them the edge over competing business, the Baby-Sitters Agency.
The series has been intelligently scripted for multi-generational appeal, including references that now parents (and original fans) would understand (xoxo Gossip Girl), while preserving the age appropriate context of its cast and intended audience.
The inclusion of 90s icon Alicia Silverstone was a particularly excellent choice, so I guess the casting directors weren’t totally clueless after all (see what I did there).
The final two episodes come to a head with the crew attending Camp Moosehood, where Claudia and Dawn protest against class barriers to accessing the arts program. As someone who currently works in and actively advocates for the creative sector, hearing Dawn and Claudia utter lines like “Art shouldn’t only be the province of the privileged”, “Art is for everybody’ and “The best way to protest is to make great art” warmed my millennial heart.
The reboot depicts the power and complexity of female friendship, and that the perspective and capacity of Gen Z should not be underestimated (hey Greta Thunberg). It’s also re-introduces the text to a whole new generation of young viewers and readers.
And despite 25 years passing since I last hung out with the BSC, perhaps Claudia, Kristy and I aren’t too different in the present after all.
Vyshnavee Wijekumar is a Sri Lankan Tamil writer and arts worker who grew up in Western Sydney and lives in Melbourne. She currently works at Footscray Community Arts Centre, and is also on the board of the Melbourne Women in Film Festival and L2R Dance. She is passionate about representation in the film and television industry, and when she's not writing and working, she's an amateur hip hop dancer. You can follow her on @vylentfemme on Twitter.