Little Women and the Babysitters Club
Posted On June 23, 2023
The idea for this post came following an unfortunate remake, a serendipitous discovery of an original, and my daughter realizing similarities in literature, at only 10 years old.
My son has been at church camp for two weeks. When he is away, my daughter and I find fun “girl” shows and movies to watch together. I saw a banner on Netflix for a new Babysitters Club series and thought, “That might be fun.” I did NOT fully research it ahead of time. In the first episode, I realized how much they had modernized the classic of my own preteen-teen years. The girls all had cell phones for example. Then they added diversity of the characters, not just in ethnicity, but also in sexuality, which was not present in the books. In the fourth episode, one of the girls is babysitting and the viewer quickly figures out this is a transgender child. I immediately turned off the show and my daughter and I had a discussion about why we would not continue watching the series. While the world may view such choices as acceptable, as Christians, we walk in agreement with God’s word. I get to choose what messages come into my home and how we deal with them. I choose not to let Hollywood raise my children.
This unfortunate event led me down a rabbit hole of research into the Babysitters Club. I found some strange articles, that seemed bent on portraying the wholesome babysitters of my girlhood into modern feminists with little regard for morality. I vaguely remembered a theme song so I looked up the older series and found it on Freevee. To my relief, these were the wholesome girls I knew and loved growing up. My daughter and I were still able to have important discussions with the series. In one of these episodes, the babysitters hold a father/daughter event. I observed that Kristy’s character was wearing a dress even though she hated dresses. My daughter said, “Like Jo!” I looked at her in amazement. She made a literary comparison! This spurred another conversation about how the March sisters of Little Women and the original Four Babysitters had similar characteristics. Maybe you can find similar characteristics in your own friend group.
In both series, the natural leader in the group is also described as loud, opinionated, and talkative. She’s also a tomboy in both stories, preferring sports to fashion. Though Kristy and Jo both prefer comfort over style, this looks different based on the time period. Their character traits allow them to be effective leaders, teachers, and entrepreneurs. They don’t discount themselves for being a girl or wishing to be someone else. They rally their strength, in spite of opposition, and break through the stereotypes of their day – all without being labeled (because such labels are a fairly modern phenomenon).
The Quiet One
The opposite of the loud, extroverted friend is the quiet, introverted friend. Let’s make one important distinction first: the Quiet One is not quiet because she has nothing to say. She is often worth listening to because when she speaks, she has spent time observing and thinking about what to say. Mary Ann and Beth fill this role in their series. Both are shy, but good listeners. Neither prefers to be the center of attention. The characters differ in one big way: Beth has no desire to leave home, while Mary Ann is not allowed to be away from home much (her over-protective father gets a bad rap, at least when you look at it from a parenting point of view many years later).
The Artistic One
Claudia and Amy each prefer the arts to math, science, and history. Claudia makes her own jewelry, creates one-of-a-kind outfits, and doodles her way through middle school. Amy travels Europe studying every aspect of art, though doesn’t feel that she masters any. Creativity sets these characters apart in their respective groups. As a homeschool parent, I think these characters’ talents were looked at as a weakness rather than a strength. After all, who’s to say that art isn’t math, science, and history?
While Claudia and Amy are well-dressed and sophisticated, they are not the leading ladies of the fashion world in their groups. The role falls to Stacey and Meg. Stacey moves from the fashion-forward New York City, while Meg has to scrimp and save (or rely on rich friends) for fancy clothes, yet each carries themselves with an air of high society. This looks different in the Civil War era than in the 1990s, but the goal is the same: To be noticed and valued.
The Rabbit Trail
We each read with our own unique lenses. I never read anything into the Babysitters Club, other than using my imagination to see them as described. Gender identity and sexuality were not discussed in the books and my lenses didn’t add them to the reading. Getting caught up with the world’s view is a rabbit trail that will lead only to destruction. This may not be the popular stance, but the Christian worldview is still the right stance.