"The Baby-Sitters Club" brings me back to summers spent running around like a maniac outside, reading chapter books on my parents' porch swing, and thinking about boys for a brief second before remembering that they're disgusting. I first saw this movie at my neighbor Rachel's house. I know I shouldn't use the "b" word, but she was truly a little bitch. Sometimes we had legitimate fun together but more often than not, she only invited me over so that she could terrorize me with her siblings. I left her house in tears more times than I can count but I kept coming back because no other kids lived near me. We watched "BSC" together after a day spent at the local pool, happily sunburned and eating her favorite snack: Kraft singles cheese dipped into Ranch dressing. (These were simpler times.)
Best time to watch:
Watch "BSC" after you've exhausted the 90's nostalgia subreddit but still haven't gotten your fill of payphones, floral overalls, or Letters to Cleo. As an adult, I find it kind of stupid and at least 15 minutes too long, but worth watching for the fashion alone. Check out these batshit outfits worn by Cokie (Marla Sokoloff), the BSC's #1 enemy, and her posse. I thought they were the coolest and desperately wanted the solar system top and knee-high socks.
Worst time to watch:
Don't watch "BSC" when you're alone and sober. This movie is best enjoyed with a joint and a group of snarky friends. My cats did not appreciate my fashion commentary and tbh, it made me resent them.
Where to watch:
If you have Amazon Prime, this baby is streaming for free.
Mrs. Haberman (Ellen Burstyn) is a plant goddess, world traveler, friend of birds, and definite Eileen Fisher fan. No one in Stoneybrook has a cooler house or dons a sassier neck scarf. Haberman for mayor!
It's summer and the BSC needs an easy way to rake in some cold hard cash. Instead of just picking up more babysitting hours or raising their rates since they seem to have a monopoly on the town of Stoneybrook, they decide to open a summer camp. Everything is going great until Kristy (Schuyler Fisk), the club president, gets distracted by her deadbeat dad and his bullshit.
I grew up reading the "BSC" books via Kris, my older cousin with a mail-order subscription. I borrowed the OG series from her and then eventually got into some of the spin-offs and specials, like "The California Diaries" and of course, the mysteries. I always thought Dawn and Stacey were the coolest, although I was clearly more like Mary Anne and Mallory. I fantasized about finding a secret passageway in my house and desperately wanted to go on vacation to (fictional) Sea City. As you might imagine, child Lindsay completely lost her shit when she found out that not only were there hundreds of books to devour, there was also a movie.
Even as a kid, I remember thinking that the movie paled in comparison to the books. Claudia (Tricia Joe) barely has any lines, Kristy's dad (Peter Horton) is a dipshit, and what the fuck is the deal with Alan Gray (Aaron Michael Metchik)? Some things – like Dawn (Larisa Oleynik) eating a bowl of sunflower seeds for dinner – are better left to the imagination. Even so, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it. It's amazing 90s fashion (zero shade), a heavy hit of nostalgia, and teen girl power (kind of).
Stoneybrook, CT is a fantasy land where every problem is solved with a "brilliant idea," a smile, and sometimes an insulin pen. Frenemies exist, but their antics are mild. Parents strike the perfect balance of hands-off and supportive; when they're jerks, they apologize with a handwritten letter. If a pal is in need of study help, everyone will band together to create a rap that leads her to science test victory. Diseases exist, but only manageable ones. (The movie treats Stacey's (Bre Blair) diabetes like it's AIDS, but that's just for dramatic effect.) Who wouldn't want to spend some time in this rose-colored world?
The babysitters might work hard all summer, but it's not because they need the money. As far as we can tell, everyone in this world has money. Mary Anne's dad (aka Dawn's stepdad) is a lawyer and has a dope, albeit weirdly Americana-themed, house with a yard big enough to house an entire summer camp's worth of children.
I have no clue what Watson (Bruce Davison), Kristy's stepdad, does but he's clearly also rich as fuck because they live in a mansion. Stacey is always shopping and taking taxis, so you know the McGills aren't suffering. Claudia, Mallory (Stacy Linn Ramsower), and Jessi (Zelda Harris) aren't developed enough to have backstories/home lives in the movie, but it's safe to assume that they are also from upper-middle-class families. No one who needs money is satisfied by one extra-large pizza as payment for two months of solid labor.
Boys don't have enough personality to cause actual stress. Mary Anne (Rachel Leigh Cook) is pissed at Logan (Austin O'Brien) for a second because he doesn't outright decline Cokie's offer of 5th row center Smashing Pumpkins tickets; he doesn't accept, either. I'm actually fairly certain that Logan has no idea what is going on at any point during the movie. He has approximately five lines that all consist of three or less words. I would describe his personality as "dry toast."
Logan's friend, Alan Gray, has a crush on Dawn and spends the majority of his summer trying to get closer to her. He works at summer camp for free, has a penchant for suspenders, and is fond of lame practical jokes. He's annoying and cringey but never crosses the line. I would have happily traded Alan Gray for the middle school dudes I knew who made it their life's goal to touch every single 7th graders' boobs (obviously without consent) in gym class. AG is milquetoast in comparison. At one point, he sees Dawn collecting scraps in a compost bin and they have this exchange:
Alan: You look very pretty today. And I love what you're doing for the environment!
Dawn: Thank you, Alan.
Alan: Yeah. It makes me wanna fly.
(In the books, AG is Kristy's love interest/annoyance but they presumably switched it up for the movie since she already has a bunch of shit going on with her dad.)
The most "troubling" love interest is Luca (Christian Oliver), the 17-year-old from Switzerland. He meets Stacey when she babysits for his cousin, Rosie, and is infatuated from the jump. Instead of keeping his plans to see a movie, he declares, "I have my whole life to go to the movies," 🤔 and spends the evening eating ice cream with the girls and flirting with Stacey. Despite never asking about her age or interests, he ends their brief interaction by declaring that (like New York City) she is "the best."
Instead of worrying about their age difference, Stacey's main concern is her diabetes. If Luca knows she has it, "he'll think I'm pathetic." Have Stacey's parents explained to her that diabetes is a manageable disease worthy of zero shame? Does she have a therapist? If so, maybe it's time to find her a new one. I fear that teen Stacey is going to be the type of girl who gives dudes blowjobs underneath the bleachers not because she wants to, but because she's desperate for validation.
Thankfully, Luca finds out about her diabetes when she faints on a hike and doesn't give a single fuck. He rightfully freaks out when he learns that she's only 13, though. While in NYC, Stacey and Claudia go with Luca and his friends to a "teen club" and are turned away at the door when the bouncer outs them for their age. I hope this teaches Luca to ask some basic ass questions before actively pursuing someone.
Toward the end of the film, after Kristy's rainy rescue, Luca decides 13 really isn't that big of a deal and kisses Stacey in the doorway of Mallory's cabin. This isn't nearly as problematic as it could be. Do I think it's weird for a high school senior to have a crush on an 8th grader? Yes. Does Luca cross any boundaries? No. If this happened IRL, he would probably exert his experience and European coolness to convince Stacey that anal sex isn't "real" sex. In "BSC" land, they share a chaste kiss coupled with lukewarm promises to reunite next summer. No one gets hurts and everyone walks away happy.
Kristy's dad is arguably the biggest male disappointment in Stoneybrook and even his shenanigans get wrapped up with a neat little bow. He spends the entire film pressuring his daughter to lie for him, which is shady beyond belief. Does he have a custody agreement with Kristy's mom (Jess Needham)? She should take his lying ass to court. He proves he doesn't know dick about Kristy (and that he adheres to gross heteronormative stereotypes) when he buys her a dress. Has he not noticed that Kristy is the type of gal who wears t-shirts tucked into plaid boxer shorts and accessorizes with baseball caps and dirty Converse? Buy the lady a set of baseball cards or a new catcher's mitt and call it a damn day, Patrick.
Worst of all, he stands her up at Monty's on her 13th birthday, leaving her to walk home all alone, crying in the rain. What a monumental douche. Instead of hating him forever and developing daddy issues that will plague her for the rest of her days, this moment makes Kristy realize how much her mom and Watson love her and how lucky she is to have such a great group of friends. Her dad eventually writes a heartfelt apology and Kristy forgives him because her mother helps her see that he's "full of dreams, just like you."
It's tempting to call movies like this shitty because they're pure fantasy without much substance, but I refuse to do that. The world is a tough place for young girls and for people who are different. Dads fuck up, boys are creepy, people with diseases are marginalized, and systems are in place to actively dissuade young girls from following their dreams. "BSC" might make light of tough issues, but for 85 minutes, it allows us to escape to a place where things are a little easier. What's the harm in that?
- I love Frankie Thomas' essay about "BSC" in The Paris Review. Ann M. Martin is queer but only ever wrote straight characters.
- I'm happy to see Kristy riding her bike with a helmet. It stresses me out when characters don't wear them.
- Stoneybrook, CT restaurants mentioned: Burger Town and Pizza Express. They meet up at a cafe to help Claudia study, but it isn't given a name. I'm disappointed that we don't get to see Cabbages and Kings.
- Do we think Jif and Wonder Bread paid for ad placements? I desperately wanted a pb & banana sandwich after watching this movie.
- Weirdly enough, Kyla Pratt is in this movie as Becca Ramsey, Jessi's little sister.
- Nightstand licorice is the only glimpse we get into Claudia's junk food obsession.
- I just realized that Schuyler Fisk is Sissy Spacek's daughter 🤯
- At the beginning of the movie, we hear a bunch of voiceover calls from people who want to hire sitters. Someone asks, "I was wondering, would any of you mind baby-sitting the dog? I mean, he just hates to be left alone." This felt like a glimpse into my future.