Monday, August 4, 2014

BSC #56: Keep Out, Claudia!

By Ann M. Martin. Published August 1992.

These outfits are all shockingly close to those described, so keep
that picture in mind.

And now, for a Very Special Episode of The Baby-sitters Club.

Everyone rejoice! The BSC has new clients, the Lowells! And when Mary Anne sits for them, she is utterly charmed by Caitlin, Mackie, and Celeste, who are dressed just perfectly, and ask a lot of very curious questions. Mary Anne lets them watch the evil TV (!), but I guess because they’re looking for Leave It to Beaver, it’s not a problem. Mary Anne helps Celeste draw, but looks up when she hears the older two giggling. They couldn’t find the Beave, but there are a couple of Asian kids onscreen. Mary Anne doesn’t get the funny, but just shrugs it off.

Mary Anne had such a great experience, Claudia is really looking forward to her own job at the Lowells’. She even arrives ten minutes early. But when Mrs. Lowell opens the door, she gives Claudia the big once-over, and is obviously displeased. Claudia figures she must just be dressed too wildly. She turns on the charm to compensate, but Mrs. Lowell seems reluctant to leave. Once she finally does, Claud gives Caitlin and Mackie a snack. After they eat, they run screaming through the house, the complete opposite of the little angels Mary Anne made them out to be. They’re rude and demanding the entire job.

The next time Mrs. Lowell calls the BSC, she asks to speak to Kristy, and asks her if she can have any other sitter than Claudia. Bitch, please! Claudia is crushed and confused, of course, and starts questioning her sitting skills.

So in lieu of Claudia, the club then sends out Jessi to the Lowells’. But when she arrives, Mrs. Lowell won’t even let Jessi through the door. She gets one look at Jessi, and says she made a mistake; she doesn’t actually need a sitter that day, and shuts the door. Jessi is quite upset, and cries on her way over to Mal’s house.

Everyone is totes confused as to what the hell is going on. Mary Anne is scheduled for their next job, but Kristy asks if she can take it instead, to get to the bottom of it.  She prepares very carefully, even wearing a skirt. But after giving Kristy the customary once-over, Mrs. Lowell seems quite pleased with Kristy, and welcomes her in. Kristy tries to find out what is going on, asking if there have been any problems, but Mrs. Lowell just insists the kids adored Mary Anne, and gets cut off by the kids before she can give an excuse for the Jessi brushoff. Kristy tries some gentle probing with the kids, and they call Claudia the “funny-looking one.” Charming. Then they just about choke to death when Kristy tells them about a sitter they never saw, who happens to be African-American. Through their sputtering, Kristy manages to get something like “that’s why Mommy didn’t like her.”

So, it FINALLY occurs to one of them as to what might be happening. And Kristy does something I thought she was fundamentally against. She actually chooses to talk about her problem to the adults in her life!


So she tells her mom, Watson, and Nannie that she thinks the Lowells may be racist, and explains everything that’s been happening. And they can’t deny that it does seem to appear that Kristy’s suspicions are right, even though she desperately wants them to tell her she’s wrong.

When Kristy tells the BSC of her suspicions, everyone is horrified. A racist in our very own Stoneybrook? Claudia, who has apparently gone thirteen years without experiencing any racism herself, is particularly scandalized and hurt. But Jessi’s all, “Eh, it happens. Been there, done that. It sucks, but you shouldn’t be surprised by that shit.” I’m sure you’re all well versed in 90’s VSE’s in TV shows and books, so I’ll spare you the ensuing conversation.

Claudia then talks to her family about what’s going on! What is happening? Good job, girls! Janine informs Claudia about the Japanese internment camps during WWII, and Claudia is shocked that that could happen to her own people in her own country.

THEN, that racist bitch actually has the nerve to call for another sitter, this time specifically requesting a blonde-haired, blue-eyed sitter. Bitch has balls, I’ll give her that. Despite having two in stock, Kristy tells her they’re all out. She suggests Logan, who is a boy, and Mrs. Lowell quickly shoots that down. Kristy tells her she’d do it herself, but she’s sitting for her adopted Vietnamese sister. Mrs. Lowell tells her she doesn’t need a sitter after all.

I’m going to speed through the B storyline, because I really don’t love it. Thanks to the Rodowsky boys, Claudia gets a Great Idea™. Kristy, wtf is going on here? You’re majorly slacking in the idea department lately! But I still love you from earlier, so I’ll let it slide.

Claudia’s idea is to have the kids form a band, with all the kids in town, of course. A few of them actually play real instruments, the others can play kazoos and “drums”, and a few will sing. It’s decided they’ll learn songs from Annie, so the Perfect Perkins girls totally own this shit. After they’ve done a fuck ton of work, Jackie decides what they actually need to be learning is all the songs from Fiddler on the Roof. They also need a name, and he comes up with All the Children. And they’ll put on a show! I should have been counting how many different shows the kids put on throughout the series.

The Lowell kids are part of All the Children, but when Mrs. Lowell hears they’ve changed the program to songs about Jews, she quickly pulls them. On the day of the performance (which of course goes GREAT) however, the girls see Caitlin and Mackie watching forlornly, and disappearing quickly.

o   Their naiveté in taking so long to consider racism is actually kind of sweet, I think. And so different from later Jessi, who jumps to the racism conclusion so quickly, including thinking her own BFF is suddenly prejudiced. Not Jessi’s finest moment.

o   Kristy sits for her brothers and sisters, since everyone else in her family are busy. Her mom and Watson are out “looking for a day of peace.” Seriously, Watson? I know Karen is a handful, and it does seem like Karen and Andrew are always there, but they’re really not. You only get to see them a few days a month. So maybe save your “days of peace” for when you actually don’t have a chance to spend time with your children. Yes, I’m being totes judgey.

o   Is everyone in Stoneybrook so damned charmed by children? The band practices in the Newtons’ backyard, and you can hear them from all over the neighborhood. I would personally be calling to file a noise complaint. And get off my lawn!

o   During their VSE discussion, they all come up with reasons as to why someone like the Lowells might not like them. Mary Anne starts fucking crying because she’s afraid skinheads will come after her because some of her ancestors were Russian. Jesus, Mary Anne. Get it together.

o   Y’all, I love Bustle, but this article got a bit of a side-eye from me. OBVIOUSLY we haven’t all forgotten about all of these series. However, I do admit to having not even heard of some of these, and to also forgetting I actually have some of the Pen Pals series. They’re seriously ridiculous. So maybe tomorrow…


  1. I can't remember...did the BSC decide to just "not be available" if the Lowells called, or to outright say no to any requests for a sitter? I think it was the former, and if so, that's a little disappointing. Although it was fun to read Kristy's phone conversation detailing why the Lowells wouldn't want any of the sitters.

    1. It was indeed the former, and the way they handled it was definitely passive aggressive. But I go back and forth in how I feel about this. On the one hand, I wish they had outright stood up for what they believe in. But on the other, I think this may actually be more realistic, age-wise. I really don't know.

    2. That's true, they are only 13/11. But when Jessi joined she asked about the possibility of clients not wanting her to sit and Kristy said that the BSC wouldn't want families like that as clients. But again, 13/11.

  2. That Bustle article is wrong! The Saddle Club even had an awesome TV show that was a joint venture between Canada and Australia! Who could forget that? And I can still name every Sleepover Friends book, describe the plot and at least one snack they ate. Never forget!

    1. Yes! I didn't discover that until a few years ago, and then totally binge watched on YouTube.

      And we will keep the candles lit for our YA heroines!