'The Baby-Sitters Club' Season 2 Gives Us the Perfect Representation of the Horse Girl
The episode "Claudia and the New Girl" of the Netflix series is an homage to horse girls everywhere.
Season 2 of Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club, which adapts the classic Ann L. Martin books for a new generation, remains absolutely charming and wholesome, finding ways to tap into the specific anxieties of middle school girls while staying sweet without verging into saccharine. This season, the girls face new challenges: Kristy (Sophie Grace) moves into a posh neighborhood with her mom's new husband's family; Mary Anne (Malia Baker) gets a boyfriend; Stacey (Shay Rudolph) has to remember that it's OK not to be in total control all the time, especially when it comes to her diabetes; and Claudia (Momona Tanada) has to deal with loss.
But some new members of the team drop in with their own lessons to learn and dramas to hash out. One matter in particular comes to a head in Episode 2, "Claudia and the New Girl," where the super-cool Claudia Kishi has to train the excitable Mallory Pike (Vivian Watson) on the eponymous club's operations. It's a half-hour that will speak to you if you've ever been the weird insecure girl who just likes to write fantasy novels about horses.
Claudia has always, even before the Netflix adaptation, been the coolest member of the Baby-Sitters Club, and the show only reaffirmed that with her tweenage effortlessness and incredible outfits that make me, a 31-year-old woman, envious. It wholly makes sense to me that Mallory is intimidated. In reality, I was probably more of a Mallory, with a dash of Kristy's competitive streak and a hint of Stacey's perfectionism, than I was a Claudia at that age. I was easily intimidated by girls who seemed as confident as Claudia Kishi. Whereas they were pulling together effortless looks, I was bedazzling a pair of jorts with a hot glue gun (it was as bad as it sounds) in an effort to approximate their aesthetic.
The episode, told from Claudia's perspective, is flush with secondhand embarrassment from Mallory's desperate actions. She so badly wants to be liked by Claudia that her desire to impress translates to a disastrous overeagerness. She misidentifies fruit as being Japanese out of ignorance; she breaks plates; she wakes up sleeping babies. But she just really wants to be respected by her similarly creative peer. You see, Mallory is also a dreamer—it just manifests in a less stylish way. Instead of painting and crafting and putting together fabulous outfits, she writes stories where all the main characters are horses.
"I read this thing recently that said all great literature is two stories: A person goes on an adventure or a person comes to town," Mallory says. "And I thought to myself, 'What if you did both things at once? But instead of a person, it's a horse and the horse gallops through town to, like, the end of eternity?'"
Mallory is a horse girl, which basically explains it all. I have authority on this topic because I, too, was a horse girl. We're an excitable bunch, often consumed with fantasies in our heads, usually involving us galloping through the forest like Arwen in The Fellowship of the Ring. (What? Just me?)
The Baby-Sitters Club is, of course, a masterclass in empathy, and Claudia eventually realizes that she had been too harsh on Mallory, because Claudia acts similarly anxious around another girl she admires. She's in awe of her sister's new friend, Ashley Wyeth, who has been published in Teen Vogue and is basically the queen of Stoneybrook Middle School. "Claudia and the New Girl" not only captures the horse girl perfectly in Mallory, but how admiration can mess with girls' heads, doing so in the nicest possible way.