the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Mallory Pike

Over at The Billfold, Nicole Dieker has started a series called “How the Baby-Sitters Club Does Money.” So it’s basically BSC fanfiction, only she’s probably getting paid for it. She is imagining what the BSC will be like as adults, and what their financial/work situations will be like.

Now, as you might imagine, and as you probably do too, since you’re reading this blog, I always get a little protective whenever I see things written about the BSC outside of the fandom. Most of the BSC articles on BuzzFeed or Jezebel are going to be written by people who, at one point, “grew out of” the BSC, and probably haven’t thought about it in fifteen years or so. These articles frequently spell “Mary Anne” with a hyphen and “Jessi” as “Jessie.”

So far, this series contains no such mistakes. I can see that the author at least has a lot of BSC info floating around in her brain, although perhaps she has devoted less real estate to this information than the average Stoneybrookite reader. After two parts of this series have been published, I can say that she is batting 500, in Krusher parlance.

Her Mallory is enjoyable. Mallory has gained some prominence as a writer, even if she is self-publishing. I like any vision of Mallory in the future where she is not a loser. I bet that most of us relate way more to Mallory than we would ever admit. Also, she has Mallory be a part of a poly triad, and while it had never crossed my mind before, I can see that happening.

The Kristy one, though, I was not so fond of. Kristy is a mommyblogger after having a bunch of kids and a bunch of failed businesses. I don’t see Kristy as the mommyblogging type. Starting something like Babble and then somehow convincing Disney to buy it? Sure. But blogging, and just sitting there and not bossing anyone around, just typing her thoughts and dealing with photographs and design? Take a look at her first journal entry from Friends Forever:

First day with this new journal. Am inspired by Mary Anne and all she’s been through. Can’t imagine losing nearly everything I own in a fire. Can’t imagine losing nearly everything I own no matter how it happened. MA is being very brave. She managed to rescue her current diary (the little leather one with the lined, dated pages and the lock and key), which is about her only source of memories these days. Am going to start keeping journals and saving them somewhat fireproof. Think I’ll ask Watson if I can put them in his safe.

Kristy never writes her journal entires in complete sentences. She doesn’t want to spend the time. And working part time in a bank? No way. I also can’t see her ever accepting handouts from Watson. Kristy has always been a hardworker and very ambitious.

Now, I can see Dawn becoming a mommyblogger in the healthy living niche easily. She could use her blog as a platform to make herself feel better than everyone else, and her Vista diaries have been good practice for blogging. Mary Anne could get in with the Mormon mommybloggers with perfect houses and children, since she is so domestically inclined. But Kristy? Not enough power in just having a mommyblog.

For girls who love mysteries so much, there are lot of puzzling things about Stoneybrook that they just blithely seem to ignore. There is, of course, the infamous Time Warp, and the Mystery of Sabrina Bouvier. Nobody ever brought up how they were able to go on so many vacations and celebrate holidays multiple times. They were in a Twilight Zone episode, but Rod Serling didn’t pop in at the end to hammer the point home to the viewer.

Rod Serling

“Seven middle school girls stuck in a world where no one ever ages and doomed to never enter the hallowed halls of Stoneybrook High School. This meeting will now to come to order… in the Twilight Zone.”

There is one major plot point of the Baby-Sitters Club that just seemed to fall off to the wayside, and it has always bothered me. Sure, we can chalk it up to “Ann Hates Mal,” but perhaps there is something more sinister afoot. I am talking about, of course, the death of Ben Hobart’s and Mallory’s relationship. I wrote about it briefly here, but I’d like to go into more detail today.

Now, Mallory and Ben had a rocky relationship. Who could forget their fight over the card catalog, or the Caroling Debacle in Here Come the Bridesmaids!? He did, however, play a Loganesque Supportive Boyfriend role in Mallory Hates Boys… and Gym. But Mallory and Ben were together, and he warranted the occasional Chapter 2 mention and visions of future redheaded children surely danced in Mallory’s head.

Look how cute they were at the dance!

Somewhere along the way, it all went sour. In Abby and the Secret Society, we see that Ben has now become a client of the BSC, and is participating in a bathing cap decoration content with the other clients. He makes a “shark attack” cap, which seems perfectly eleven-year-old boy to me, so I don’t think it was a ghostwriter/editing error in this case. They did not, say, mean to write “James Hobart.” Although frankly, if you can’t tell the Hobart boys apart, you have no business writing BSC books, amirite. He was also in Christmas Chiller, annoying Mallory and also seeming eleven-year-old boyish. Yet in neither book is their romantic history ever mentioned. No “Ugh, ex-boyfriends are SO LAME,” as would be appropriate in the case when a former flame does something totally embarrassing.

But in Stacey and the Stolen Hearts, Ben and Mallory write each other Valentine Grams! This book was published a mere three months after the release of Christmas Chiller. What happened in the interim? Was there some sort of Pike-Hobart melodrama that we never got to witness, and the other sitters weren’t even aware of it? Was it too painful to Mal herself to mention in various books and her chapters in Christmas Chiller? To me, it is a great oversight that Ben and Mallory’s relationship wasn’t given the attention it deserves. We knew about every fight Logan and Mary Anne had, every time Kristy was embarrassed by something involving Bart, Every Stacey Boyfriend Ever, Claudia’s problems finding a steady guy and later being torn between two men… Hell, even Jessi and Quint, her fellow eleven-year-olds, got a satisfying resolution to their story. But Ben? He was vaguely mentioned, I think, during the Spaz Girl era, but Mallory wasn’t in the mental state to deal with the issue.

This still doesn’t explain, however, how Ben was suddenly reverted to Sitting Charge. I want, nay, demand a satisifying explanation and resolution to Ben Hobart and Mallory Pike, Boyfriend and Girlfriend. For all the nerdy girls with wonky noses and glasses, who didn’t deserve to be given such short shrift in the books, we want an answer for the callous treatment of Nerd Love.

Second day of the Challenge! Remember, if you’d like to play along, you can do it in the comments, at the original thread, or on your own blog, like Donica at SMS Cafeteria.

And now, without further adieu: Least Favorite Sitter!

Much like with the “Favorite Sitter” question, anyone who reads this blog or is vaguely acquainted with me probably already knows the answer. Logan. Bruno. Shall I count the ways?

Logan is basically the opposite of my ideal guy. Jock, pushy, makes lame MAN JOKES. Logan is the kind of person who finds Two and a Half Men to be an example of a truly great sitcom.

Then there is the whole Mary Anne-and-Logan relationship, which was at its best in FF#3, when she finally got rid of his ass once and for all. Why does their relationship bug me so much? MA&L represent some kind of bizarre, unpopular quiet girl wish fulfillment. It was always believable for Stacey to have tons of boyfriends. Kristy and Bart were more like friends who played baseball and then sometimes also went to the movies and dances together, and when Bart wanted more, Kristy freaked out. Ben Hobart and Mallory had a cute, clandestine, redheaded relationship. Ok, maybe Quint was a creeper. But this isn’t “creepiest eleven-year-old horndog;” this is “least favorite sitter.”

MA&L had a very serious, adult relationship, in eighth grade. And it was just never believable to me that this popular jock also baby-sat and was into Mary Anne because she was shy and sensitive. What. Girl was barely out of braids when they got together. I also could never see strict Richard sanctioning something like that for Mary Anne. My parents would have been freaked out by the intensity, and they were nowhere near as strict as Richard.

I feel like that whole relationship gave the girls who read the series the idea that when they were in eighth grade, some hunky guy with a cute accent would transfer into their school and love them for their true selves. Let’s face it, those of us who obsessively read the BSC, no matter how awesome we are now, probably were not the most desired girls in our middle schools. We were not the Staceys. Most of us, myself included, probably see more of our middle school selves in Mallory’s “Spaz Girl” experience than Stacey being too pretty to be a part of the cheerleading squad. And that, besides his controlling jerkhead personality, is why I dislike that whole storyline/Logan Bruno so much.

Over at the BSC Boards, user bookwormv1 has come up with a 30 Day BSC Challenge. Play along there, in the comments here, on tumblr, wherever! If you want to play along somewhere other than here in the comments or in the original post, put a link in the comments!

So the first day asks the classic question of which Sitter is your favorite. I think that everyone who has read this blog for a while or interacted with me in the fandom knows my answer to this question. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Stacey McGill girl. I will defend her through all sorts of criticism: being a crappy friend/bitch (have you interacted with a middle school girl lately? Stacey’s pretty darn nice, comparatively!), sluttiness (girl can’t help it if she has game), whatever.

Stacey is super smart, and not afraid to show off her brains. She is stylish. She is independent. I can relate to her more than any of the other sitters.

It is interesting, though, how my favorite sitter has changed over the years. When I first started reading the series, I liked Kristy, because I fancied myself quite the tomboy and very much wished to be athletic, and admired her leadership qualities/bossiness. There was a Dawn stage, where I, too, was interested in the environment and wanted very very long hair. Claudia appeals to my artistic side, although frankly, her spelling is just too bad for me to justify removing Stacey from the top spot.

Interestingly, despite a lifelong affinity for writing and reading, Mallory has never even cracked the top five.

I feel like it’s high time that I wrote something here on the rereleases, but I’ve had a hard time deciding how I feel about them. I am kind of bummed that 2010 is shaping up to be the biggest year in BSCland since ten years ago, when the series ended, and I’m not living in a country where I can really fully participate in what’s going on. The only way I’ll be able to access any of the new books until July is if Amazon decides to put them on the Kindle (go to the pages for the books on and let them know you want them on the Kindle! Do it for me, and, I guess, fans who want to read the books on the subway without anyone else knowing and other BSC fans living abroad who have an ipod touch and the Kindle app), or if someone types up an ebook of them and I can find it somewhere, although I feel that the attitude of the fandom will be similar to the attitude that is taken toward the graphic novels and Main Street. They’re in print, so let’s vote with our dollars and let Scholastic know that these should continue to be published.

Anyway, now that the personal stuff is out of the way, one of the biggest controversies is how the series will be updated. We know that the clothes and hairstyles will be changed to reflect current trends–although, frankly, are trends today (leggings! oversize!) all that different, except now we’ve combined acid-wash jeans and leggings to make JEGGINGS? I’m wearing jeans with zippers on the bottom right now, a style I first was made aware of by the Club. Fresh! Also, the new outfits I’ve heard of so far (featured in the prequel) sound way more hideous. From the USA Today blog post:

Claudia was wearing willowy black pants, cinched at the waist with a drawstring, and a boldly patterned summer shirt with ties that she was adjusting around her midriff. Her
midriff would have been bare, but Claud had slithered into a lacy black tank top before she’d put on the shirt. On her feet were delicate silvery sandals, and her hair, which was looooooong and thick, was held away from her face with two silver combs.

I kind of feel like this isn’t much different from the outfits featured in the series in the late 90s, rather than something a modern 13-year-old would concoct out of thrift store finds and Forever 21. I think Modern Claud would dress like Tavi.

Another issue the reissues bring up is what they’re planning on updating besides the fashions. One thing that has never really sat right with most people in the fandom is the “We don’t care if Jessi is black! We’d like a girl if she were PURPLE and a good sitter!” Even other series of the same time, such as the Saddle Club, didn’t make such a big deal about having a character of a different race, if they reissue the series up until the point where Jessi comes into the picture. See also: Claudia being “exotic.”

Also, I’m sure they’d have to update medical stuff in regard to Stacey. Perhaps she’ll have an insulin pump decorated with glitter or something for her by Claud!

As far as Kristy and Mary Anne go… I don’t know what they’ll update for Mary Anne, because Mary Anne’s early wardrobe seemed very fifties even in the 80s and 90s. I’m having a hard time with modern readers buying the excuse that Watson and Elizabeth need to get married right away so they don’t end up living in sin.

What do you think they’ll update? What would you be sad to see go? What would make you glad?

I found this on youtube. It’s a song by a Czech band called SandWitch entitled “Mallory on Strike.” I’d like to think they were inspired by Ann’s novel, which I have been reading lately.

I have a confession to make. Despite the fact that it is universally mocked for being a terrible, terrible book, I really like Mallory Pike, #1 Fan. Yes, it is quite strange how someone who writes stories about sneaker-wearing field mice would suddenly believe that only real-life experience begets good fiction, but still, I like this book a lot.

I like reading about Mallory’s internship with Henrietta Hayes, even though she messes it up. There was a thread on the BSC livejournal recently which posed the question whether #1 Fan was a response to all of the BSC fans’ questions. I.e., why do I keep on receiving form letters, how much of your own life is in the BSC, etc. Which is an interesting proposition, although it kind of promotes the idea that if you’re a fan of the BSC, you can just show up at Ann’s house and she’ll hire you for a job as a personal assistant, even if you’re, um, eleven years old. I do believe that Ann was still living in New York City at the time, and it’d be a bit more difficult in a doorman building to actually reach Ann’s apartment door than just simply riding your bike up to the front door, like Mallory does.

One thing I find slightly annoying is the Kids Can Do Anything Club. I don’t like do-gooding children all that much. The play is hilarious though, especially how Mallory was just so… thick when she was writing it. Ranessa? Delaware? Um, ok Mallory.

I also like how the BSC formula–Kids make anything better!–is not bought by Mallory’s teacher. Although I’m not sure that Mallory’s teacher is reasonable in his rejection of her proposal; it seemed at least as legit, if not more, as Jessi’s plan to type up the plots of some ballets and interview Mme Noelle. Oh well, plot device!

Do you think this book sucks, or do you actually enjoy it, like I do?

I received Best Friends today, so that’s what I’m reading now and what my next blog post will be about. But if you want to read along with my Stoneybrookite Book Club, the next BSC book I will write about is Logan Likes Mary Anne!.

It always confused me why Jessi and Mallory only had one mystery each. After some lengthy discussion on the top at the BSC boards, I finally found the answer. Jessi and Mallory, at eleven years old, were simply too young to participate in any of the dangerous crime-solving that the much older thirteen-years-old sitters were doing. Even in the Super Mysteries where Mal and Jessi have chapters, i can’t recall them doing any real stakeouts or anything–just keeping the mystery notebook up to date or doing some library research. Despite the total disregard for safety throughout this spinoff, such as the fact that even when someone tries to burn someone’s house down Claudia doesn’t bother to tell her parents about the scary stuff that’s happening to the BSC, at least they left the young’uns out of it.

Mallory and the Trouble With Twins was my favorite BSC book as a kid. I loved the Bellairs shopping trip, and the idea of the twins’ clothes expressing their personalities, and the presents they got for their birthdays. Rereading it now, though, there is one passage that just really bothers me:

Mrs. Arnold showed me into the living room, where an assembly line had been set up on the floor – fifteen paper bags with clown faces on them, fifteen packages of neat-looking barrettes (apparently, all the guests were going to be girls), fifteen sets of Magic Markers, fifteen tiny clip-on koala bears, fifteen candy bars, and fifteen beaded necklaces.

Boy, goody bags had certainly improved since I last got one. When we were little, didn’t goody bags just have, oh, peanuts and a pencil and maybe a plastic ring in them?

Let’s do a little Chapter Two here. Mallory is eleven years old in this book. The twins are having their eighth birthday party. That means that three years ago, Mallory was busy also being eight and attending eight-year-old birthday parties. I don’t think that society would change so drastically in three years that peanuts, a pencil, and a plastic ring being the goody bag standard to suddenly the standard being barrettes, koala bears, candy, markers, and necklaces. I mean, unless the society had a revolution/the ruling government collapsed in those three years, which Ann had never mentioned so I’m going to go out and a limb and say that a revolution had not happened in Stoneybrook.

Now, if Mallory was a baby-sitter in college, I would say that yes, this passage makes sense. I know of some fans who pretend the sitters are older when they read the books, because things just make more sense if you age the sitters by three years. I have a hard time believing that say, Haley Braddock, being only two years older than Mal and Jessi, would really respect them as much as she does (not counting the Haley of Claudia’s Little Liar, who respects no one). What is it about eleven that makes it the “adult” age in Stoneybrook? Are Mallory and Jessi just an exception? But then how does that explain things like chin-tipping?

This is making my brain hurt.

I just finished The All-New Mallory Pike . This book is a favorite of mine, probably because I myself am a Boarding School Survivor. I love reading about her boarding school adventures as they remind me of my own, although her school sounds much more luxurious than mine. Everyone knows that in the joy of the boarding school experience, suffering is inherent. Anyway, I also like reading about Mallory about Riverbend because I like Riverbend Mallory Pike. She is more confident, and no longer playing the “Junior Member” role. I like Mallory being recognized for her kindness, for her brains, not just being the big sister or one of the two who can’t sit at night. I would have loved to see a California Diaries-style series about Mal and her friends at Riverbend. Why has no one written fanfiction about her boarding school life? When asked about what they think happens to the BSC post-graduation from eighth grade, and in many RPGs, Mallory ends up coming back to Stoneybrook for high school. Personally, I see Mal staying at Riverbend till college. What do you all think on this issue?

Also, over at The Miss BSC Pageant, Mary Anne Saves the Day has emerged victorious in the poll for most popular BSC book. All I have to say is: EW. This is one of my least favorite BSC books. I don’t like the fight. I actually don’t really like fights in BSC books in general. They make me feel really uncomfortable, like when you’re hanging out with a couple and they begin airing their dirty laundry in front of you. Awkward. The only one I like is Stacey vs the BSC, because instead of feeling uncomfortable I just bask in the glow of Bitch!Stacey. I also like the book Mary Anne’s Makeover despite the fights, cause there’s so much fashion and gossip. But Saves the Day has neither fashion nor interesting gossip, and Stacey is just kind of pathetic in it. I also don’t like it when Dawn gets so mad at Mary Anne at this one, although I do feel like it’s indicative of their future relationship, which will include lots of petty bitch fights. But yeah. I was disappointed by the results. What do you think about the results?

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