We Need More Stories About Friendship

Rachel Shukert, left, showrunner and executive producer of Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club,” at her Los Angeles home, and Ann M. Martin, author of the book series “The Baby-Sitters Club,” at her New York home.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Don't let the subject matter throw you off. This isn't a throwaway series of books for young adults. These are the books that turn people into readers, and this is a show that focuses on the overlooked skill of friendship:

Premiering Friday, the 10-episode reboot opens with a modern wink to an origin story as important to some as Spider-Man’s or Batman’s. Sporty seventh grader Kristy Thomas (Sophie Grace) watches as her single mom, Elizabeth (Alicia Silverstone), is in need of a sitter to watch her youngest son. Elizabeth huffs about young people these days being hard to get in touch with, as well as the high fees of internet-based babysitting services: “When I was a kid, my mother would just call some girl in the neighborhood on a landline,” she says. “And she would answer, because it was part of the social contract.”
Kristy’s great idea is born: a babysitting club.

She enlists her shy bestie Mary Anne Spier (Malia Baker) as secretary, their artistic friend and neighbor Claudia Kishi (Momona Tamada) as vice president, fashionable new girl from New York City Stacey McGill (Shay Rudolph) as treasurer, and eventually environmentally conscious California transplant Dawn Schafer (Xochitl Gomez) as an alternate officer. (Claudia also serves as the resident BSC host because she has a phone — one of those now-vintage transparent landlines with brightly-colored hardware — in her room.)
“When I saw them all together for the first time, that was one of the top five moments of my life,” Shukert says. “Maybe ahead of my wedding, but after having my son.” The way she speaks with reverence about the series, it’s easy to believe she isn’t joking.

That adoration, steeped in childhood memories untouched by the corrosion of time, made for a surreal adaptation process. Shukert says rereading the original book series, which ran until 2000 and has sold more than 180 million copies, she was struck by how she remembered very specific details — like Stacey painting her toenails with pink polish accented by a green dot or Claudia having white tights with plaits all over them or how Eleanor Marshall, one of the kids the girls babysit, was allergic to strawberries. But what came more sharply into focus was how the girls’ environment and experiences shaped how they navigated the world...

The reason why we need more of this type of storytelling is obvious--we're inundated with images and viral videos and police reports about individuals who cannot navigate polite society without looking like a jackass.

It's my personal opinion that there is a crisis in our society that centers around an inability to find and make friends with people who can check our impulse to do stupid shit. You need people around you who can call you on your bullshit. And you need to understand that this affects everyone, not just adults. So, if there's a vehicle out there for young people who can watch real friendships evolve and change, then this is the type of content that should be applauded and rewarded.


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