Netflix has released an “original” series based on a popular book series from my childhood, “The Baby-Sitters Club.”
Like most stories targeted at “tween” girls, the topics in the books revolved around boys, family, illness, and more. Much to my chagrin, though, Episode 4 of the Netflix series sneaks in issues surrounding a transgender child.
The novels, written by Ann M. Martin and published from 1986 to 2000, were wildly popular and sold 176 million copies. The Netflix show also is about a group of preteens and teenagers who operate their own babysitting service.
But I don’t appreciate Netflix using the sweet, nostalgic “Baby-Sitters Club” series as a Trojan horse to discuss a controversial and potentially harmful subject that young children often aren’t equipped to understand.
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Netflix writer Rose Dommu posted a thread via the Netflix Twitter account to explain why, as a trans woman, the transgender episode of “Baby-Sitters Club” meant so much to her. The Twitter thread is worth reading, providing insight into exactly why I think this was a bad idea for the writers of the Netflix series to adapt the books into something more progressive.
Dommu writes: “This generation’s BSC handle[s] the same dramas as their original incarnations, with the circumstances updated for 2020.”
This is convenient and important: Parents who might give the OK for their children to watch Netflix’s “Baby-Sitter’s Club” because it’s just like the familiar book series might not appreciate this particular episode. Indeed, most of the series likely does stick more closely to the books, just not Episode 4, which definitely updates “circumstances” to reflect the very progressive era we now inhabit. Dommu calls this episode a “timely and poignant modernization.”
Mary Anne, one of the babysitters, ends up watching Bailey, a boy who has decided to be a girl. The scene the writers used to demonstrate this is related to clothing. Dommu describes the scene well:
Ready for an outfit change, Bailey explains that the closet is full of her “old clothes,” while her new clothes are much more sparkly—taste! Mary Anne understands immediately that Bailey knows who she is & has supportive parents who trust their daughter and want her to be happy.
Later in the episode, Mary Anne confides in her friend Dawn about babysitting a transgender child, Dawn, who prides herself on hailing from California, explains: “The same way that you know you’re right-handed, Bailey knows she’s a girl. And we all want our outsides to match our insides right? And it’s rad to have parents and a babysitter who get it. She’s really lucky.”
Later, Bailey comes down with a fever and Mary Anne takes the child to the hospital. This is clearly a ploy to allow the child to experience what transgender people call being “misgendered.” The doctors refer to Bailey as “he” and suggest that he change into a blue gown for examination.
Mary Anne pulls the doctors aside and explains that even though he might look like a boy, and his chart might say he is a boy, and indeed he was born an actual boy, he feels like a girl. And therefore the doctors must refer to Bailey as a girl or they are “ignoring who she is” and making “her feel insignificant or humiliated.” The doctors, of course, apologize.
Dommu, writing the Twitter thread about the importance of the episode, explains: “What this episode ultimately gives me is hope. It illustrates what was articulated so perfectly in @Disclosure_Doc: You can’t be what you can’t see. Imagine the young trans children who are going to watch this & see a version of themselves who is actualized, supported, and HAPPY.”
I’m disappointed to see the writers adapting this great book series use it as an opportunity to sneak in such a complicated issue, which most audience members, likely between 7 and 15 years old, are unable to truly grasp—especially the younger ones.
That the creators of the show not only sneak in this subplot but later highlight it on the Netflix Twitter account as a point of pride shows how important it is to them to showcase progressive ideology, even to small children.
Research shows that simply encouraging children to transition socially is one of the more harmful ways to respond to gender dysphoria, which is clearly what Bailey is experiencing in the show. Many health care professionals encourage therapy first rather than a transition to the other sex. It’s too bad that option wasn’t shown here at all.
Of course, parents can use their own discretion when it comes to allowing their kids to watch this show. I have two daughters; I decided they could watch this episode and we would discuss it together. I then explained what I believed to be more accurate, honest, and helpful to young children about transgender ideology.
Other parents may choose not to allow their children to see it. That’s up to them.
“The Baby-Sitters Club” so far is a charming series that discusses topics that tweens already are thinking about, such as babysitting, school, friends, and boys.
Why introduce to them a topic that’s not only rare but actually harmful for kids? It’s disappointing to say the least.