With the release of Season 2 of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix, the 213-novel series that spawned more or less 8 spin-off series is still a major influence in the 21st century, 35 years after the initial release of the first book!!!
Ann M. Martin was the original author of The Baby-Sitters Club series, although subsequent novels have been penned by ghostwriters. Her series has already birthed a 13-episode series and a film back in 1990 and 1995 respectively. As for 2020, a new Netflix reboot started airing and has definitely been a success so far.
The Netflix series is very accurate to the books while including a lot of 21st-century adaptations to make it more relevant to current times, as well as more inclusive of different races and LGBTQ+ positive. As a long-time fan of the books, the Netflix series has made me very happy despite the book’s inaccuracies, simply because Ann M. Martin is a producer of the Netflix adaptation and many of The Baby-Sitters Club novels have shown how supportive the characters are of racially diverse people.
In The Baby-Sitters Club novels, Jessi, one of the sitters, was always vocal about being an African-American and as early as her first introduction to the series, talked about how her family faced racism issues; she and her younger sister, Becca, struggled to make friends and fit in with the majorly white families in Stonybrook. Additionally, in one of the later novels, Keep Out, Claudia! the story was primarily about a racist family who did not want Claudia, a Japanese-American, and Jessi, an African-American to sit for their children.
Given this supportiveness to racial diversity and the fact that Ann M. Martin is one of the producers of the Netflix adaptation of the series, it is understandable that fans are supportive of the changes that have been made to the series. For example, Dawn, who in the novels is portrayed as blonde-haired and blue-eyed, is now of Latinx heritage and queer. Additionally, several characters have been portrayed differently – Dawn’s father is portrayed as gay, Janine Kishi (Claudia’s sister) is a lesbian, Dr. and Mrs. Johanssen are a married lesbian couple, and Bailey Delvecchio, a new character created for the Netflix series, is portrayed as transgender.
There will always be fans who are unhappy with the portrayal of certain characters when they differ from their book counterparts. For example, I will always be salty about how the Percy Jackson movies portrayed Annabeth Chase. On the other hand, I can understand why the producers decided to change the way Dawn was portrayed in the new Netflix adaptation. Not only is the new depiction of Dawn both diverse racially and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but she also appears more different from Stacey.
In the novels, Stacey and Dawn were both portrayed as blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls, with great fashion sense, into healthy eating (albeit for different reasons), as children of divorced parents, and regularly travel to see their fathers, while living with their mothers most of the time. While there are obvious differences as well – Dawn has a younger brother, Jeff, and Stacey is an only child; Dawn’s mother remarries and Stacey’s mother remains single; Dawn’s best friend is her future stepsister, Mary Anne, and Stacey’s best friend is Claudia – there are more similarities than differences between them.
It makes sense that in the Netflix adaptation, the producers would want to make them appear more different and Dawn is the perfect example to make a member of the LGBTQ+ community, seeing as she is so laid back and “chill”, and the Netflix series kept true to the novel series by giving Stacey and Sam Thomas (Kristy’s brother) a slow-burn flirtation.
As a big fan of the book series and a very appreciative watcher of the Netflix series, I really hope that the series gets picked up for a third season! Of course, there are some things that I’m not as huge a fan of (as a ballet dancer who has been dancing on pointe for over ten years, I got seriously concerned when watching one of the background ballet dancers fall off her block in Jessi and the Superbrat), but on the whole, the series is a great watch and very accurate to the book series! 10/10 recommend!!!