Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” finds balance in its heartwarming, but politically aware nature. The streaming service released the series on July 3, garnering mass-intrigue into one sitter in particular: Claudia Kishi. Since author Ann M. Martin introduced us to the girls in 1986, Claudia has been a standout character. In the ’80s and ’90s, Asian American representation was low in popular culture. “When you don’t see yourself in media,” CB Lee, a science fiction author, says in the “The Claudia Kishi Club” documentary. “You go on thinking ‘I’m broken’ or ‘I’m not normal’ or ‘I don’t exist.’” As the documentary explains, Claudia was a pillar for Asian American fans of “The Baby-Sitters Club” who would grow up to be creatives.
Her character did not play into stereotypes, nor fulfill a secondary role. With the 2020 iteration of “The Baby-Sitter’s Club,” we see Claudia Kishi elevating the role’s agency of an already beloved character. Below are some of Claudia’s most important moments in the show.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The show is filled with small, but meaningful moments
One shot in “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” that is filled with significance is only seconds long. Executive producer Naia Cucukov fought to keep it. As she told NBC News, “The first time I saw that shot, I just burst out into tears… It just made me feel so seen.”
The shot Cucukov is referring to is a quick glimpse of a pile of shoes. It’s an example of the small details added to the show to make Claudia’s story more culturally intentional. The moment, as noted by NBC News, is a nod to the practice in many Asian and Asian American homes to take your shoes off at the door.
2. Claudia has always known she is an artist
Claudia’s self-assuredness is admirable, for adults and tweens alike. In the opening of “Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls,” she begins by listing her various areas of talent. We learn she is a true creative soul. She butts heads with her highly intelligent, often monotone sister Janine. She also can’t meet her parents expectations to do better in school subjects, like math. Despite the pressure, Claudia knows her place in the world.
“Seeing someone like Claudia who was kind of forging her own path, definitely helped me feel more connected to my own identity,” Gale Galligan, a graphic novelist working on adaptations of “The Baby-Sitters Club,” says in the documentary. “Knowing that there’s not just one way to be an Asian person— I can just be me and that’s fine.
3. She is honest
Another admirable moment also comes in episode 2. As mentioned, Claudia feels pressured to do well in school, especially when it comes time to take a math test. Mr. and Mrs. Kishi will only allow Claudia to go to the Halloween dance if she does well on the exam. Claudia fails, but initially tells her parents she got an A. For one, she doesn’t want to leave BFF Stacey McGill all alone. Also on the line is to go to the dance with her crush, fellow artist Trevor Sandbourne. Just as she gets ready to leave, Claudia admits to her parents about her failing grade. “I’m not Janine and I’m tired of feeling like I have to be,” she explains. “I’d rather focus on all the things I’m good at.”
4. Claudia sees deeper meaning in life’s hurdles
Episode two circles around a news story about an intruder who calls people from inside their homes. In true artist fashion, however, Claudia knows the real phantom caller is not human, but the doubtful thoughts that plague one’s mind. The only way to get rid of them is to be confident and authentic.
5. Through Claudia, a national audience learns important Japanese American history
Despite the episode being called “Claudia and Mean Janine,” the Kishi sisters experience an enlightening moment together after visiting Mimi in the hospital. Janine’s intellect finally comes in handy. She breaks down that after a brain injury, like a stroke, someone’s oldest memories can be easier to access. We learn Mimi, at age 5, and her family were incarcerated at Manzanar. “During World War II, Japanese Americans, American citizens, were classified as enemy aliens by the U.S. The U.S. government ripped them from their homes and put them into prison camps all because they were Japanese,” Janine says. Claudia knows about the internment camps, but it’s a teaching moment for her as she processes the heaviness of her family’s direct connection to an awful moment in history.
6. “Art should be for everybody.”
The girls’ arrival to summer camp takes a hit to their high expectations. So, in true BSC spirit, they take charge to make Camp Moosehead a more inclusive, fun space for everyone (to the agitation of Camp Director Philomena Means). When Claudia and Dawn attend their first day of arts and crafts, they are horrified by the extra high costs to partake in tie dye. They then devise a plan to hold their own art class. Claudia leads the way, instructing kids on what to gather for their environmentally-friendly group project. Plans backfire when camp staff discover the kids out in the woods unsupervised and Claudia becomes a “political prisoner,” banished to her cabin by Director Philomena. By sticking up for others, Claudia proves her artistic integrity— she expresses emotion in art and protest.
Honorable Mention: The clothes!
One of Claudia’s many talents, as she notes herself in episode 2, is fashion. Between her numerous jumpsuits and staple statement earrings, watching Claudia express herself through the clothes she wears is a joy, especially given she is supposed to be in life’s primary awkward phase. Above, we see Claudia’s look up close for Kristy’s mom’s wedding. The decorative hat and hot pink eyeliner may be a bit extravagant, even for Claudia, but it exudes her core styling tropes: fun patterns, bright colors and chunky earrings.