Updated: Jan 27
I loved reading The Baby-Sitters Club series as a little girl -- and I bet you just might have, too. Kristy, Mary Anne, Dawn, and all the rest had such a reach into the lives of so many girls growing up in the 1980s and 90s. While in truth I was probably most like bossy Kristy, I took in every detail of Claudia and Stacey’s cool outfits. I remember the excitement when each new book got released (not to mention the Super Specials!) and of important events in the characters’ lives, like when shy Mary Anne started to date dreamy Logan. I remember reading under my covers with a flashlight, hoping I wouldn’t get caught, but determined to finish the story. My parents may have wished I were reading Jane Eyre, but no doubt I was fostering a love of reading. The books also fostered a love of taking care of young kids with creativity and heart (I feel confident many of those girls would be Primerrily moms, like one of our Primerrily co-founders who started her own “Baby-Sitters Club” business -- including business cards and all!), which ultimately helped me be a better big sister and mom.
So, when I saw that Netflix had adapted The Baby-Sitters Club, with another childhood favorite Alicia Silverstone starring as Kristy’s mom, I felt so excited. I hadn’t read anything about the show, but had heard a general buzz, so I settled in one night with a glass of hot tea for nostalgia to take over and to be transported back to a warm and fuzzy time.
Well, I was definitely transported, but not to a time or place I expected. I was taken to a woke-ified world that did not reflect The Baby-Sitters Club brand I knew, nor did it reflect the show’s G rating -- and I felt victim to bait-and-switch marketing.
Most concerning, Mary Anne babysat for a child who was transitioning from being a boy to being a girl. This storyline certainly was not in any of Ann M. Martin’s books, and is certainly not made of G-rated “nothing-to-see-here” material, but it was clearly being introduced because it is the Leftist’s issue du jour. Critical, complex, or controversial issues like this should be addressed at developmentally appropriate times, and at the discretion of the parent. Unlike here, where an unsuspecting parent who remembers fondly a familiar childhood favorite and relies on a G rating could unexpectedly get asked mature and confused questions from her kids.
Our hearts hurt for any child who is struggling in this way, as “there are serious
discussions to be had about how best to medically treat and socially accommodate.” That said, this issue is being disproportionately misrepresented in the media in ways that are damaging for children, especially when considering the related mental health statistics of young girls. In a public policy panel discussion on the transgender movement, voices from the political left and right set their ideological differences aside as they stood “in solidarity against gender identity legislation, which they have come to recognize as threatening the civil rights of women.”
Another “woke identity” change is that Mary Anne is now biracial, and blonde-haired hippie Dawn from California is now a dark-haired Latina (or, is it Latinx?). To be perfectly clear, we are all for celebrating and appreciating diversity. However, these changes were seemingly made only in a tokenized way. Per one reviewer on Common Sense Media, “It’s like trying too hard to be diverse or something.” The original Baby-Sitters Club books themselves would have been a good place to model an authentic approach to race issues, as I remember a thoughtful treatment of Jessie’s character and what her
experience was like being from one of the few African American families in Stoneybrook. As this review put it, “The Babysitters Club books are already well written that still address issues we deal with today. Why change it?. . . Ann M. Martin wrote an amazing series dealing with issues before their time, successfully.”
“It’s heartbreaking to see Netflix take what was a relatively wholesome book series and turn it into a politically correct, agenda-driven series.” - MovieGuide
For more perspectives, check out MovieGuide, which describes the deceptively G-rated show as “impossible to recommend for families,” saying “It’s heartbreaking to see Netflix take what was a relatively wholesome book series and turn it into a politically correct, agenda-driven series.” For a range of personal reviews, check out more on Common Sense Media, in which another reviewer notes, “I was really excited about watching this with my daughter but it addressed some heavier social issues that I wasn't prepared to discuss with her just yet. It's supposed to be a show for kids, but I feel that some of the changes they made from the original books were unnecessary. We only made it through 4 episodes. . . . just not enjoyable for us.” Another reviewer states, “I wanted to love this show but by ep4 we had to turn it off. There are topics that are very controversial that not everyone will agree with. I definitely don’t think they belong on a kids show. I did talk with my daughter about everything we watched however I will not allow Netflix to try to normalize topics that I don’t personally agree with such as gender identity in a preschooler and witchcraft. Really? Especially when there are lots of other topics they could tackle from the books alone that are still relevant today.” While New York Magazine may describe this show as “smartly update[d] for the world of 2020” and The New York Times describe it as “magical,” by attempting to shoehorn Leftist issues into the show for mainstream everyday media consumption, Netflix is pushing its own agenda in a damaging way.
However, all is not lost. Turn off Netflix (which you might already have done after it released Cuties) and instead, tune back in to some of the old classics that your grandparents, parents, and you yourself grew up with and loved.
If you’re hot on The Baby-Sitters Club nostalgia, Amazon Prime Video has the flick from 1995. Other streaming services have all our favorites archived, one place or another. Simply search “Where to stream [insert name of show].” By the way, if it’s too tough to rid yourself of Netflix (we get it), search specifically for the good old television titles you know and love and trust: from The Wonder Years to Scooby-Doo. With your search activity, data collection will note that authentic originals are in demand. Or, spend some quality family time with beloved musicals from your (and your parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods).
As we say no to Netflix’s woke and misrated remakes, let’s say yes to these authentic original shows and musicals, and the tradition they embody. Wokeness needn’t intrude where it’s not wanted. Let’s awaken the power and values of real nostalgia.
A.J. Grey is a lawyer, mother, and leader in several civic organizations. Her favorite American value is equality, of people and of opportunity.