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Stage Fright - Baby-sitters Club Snark-fest! [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Dissecting the unintentional hilarity of The Baby-sitters Club.

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Stage Fright [Feb. 12th, 2013|05:45 pm]
Baby-sitters Club Snark-fest!

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[darth_firefly]
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A long, long time ago – shortly after the first BSC novels were published – I read my first Ann M. Martin work – Stage Fright. It came in a box set that also included Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade, the best of the four in that set – and Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You which I categorize as a guilty pleasure, as I'd like to club the main character with a frying pan. There was a fourth book that I don't even remember the title of, I just remember that it was about these two girls trying to meet some celebrity guy and the main character was a girl who needed a good smack with a frying pan too.

ANYWAY...

Stage Fright when I read this book in third grade, I thought it was good. Because I was nine and didn't know any better. I read it again some time ago, and found it rather... meh. I read it three days ago and found that it's... a bag of mixed nuts. It's got it's good parts, but other parts are rather aggravating. In short, Ann used to know how to write kids and somehow forgot. But I still like it better than A Corner of the Universe, which makes me want to gouge my eyes out.



Meet Sara. She's a nine-year old girl who is an only child, loves cats, crafts and hates parties, being the center of attention and gym. Much her to her dismay, her mom wants her to love parties, be social because she wants her daughter to be happy. Never seeing that trying to do that is something she hates and it won't make her happy. It will make her miserable.

We open at Sara's cousin's birthday party where all the invitees, save Sara, are trying to get the magician to be the assistant. There's no shame in this. I don't see how not doing this is a big deal. Sara's best friend, Wendy gets chosen and that's just fine.

In fact, all is going pretty well until Carol (Sara's cousin) suggests they all read their fortunes out loud. Sara is promptly mortified as she HATES that sort of thing. Given that her fortune reads You won't be lonely for long! A handsome stranger will sweep you off your feet by the end of the month! I really can't blame her. When you're in the age of cooties, this is horrifying.

Wendy, however, saves the day for Sara by stating she accidentally ate her fortune.

The party ends and Sara's dreading returning home because her mother, Liz, thinks her daughter should be a social butterfly.

Her mom can't understand why Sara won't be enthusiastic in telling about the party – and you know what? Given that the things that happened aren't interesting to her, I really don't blame Sara at all. It's like a book club – if you hate the book and you only read it because you want to see if maybe, just maybe, the book will redeem yourself – usually the best thing you can do is say 'at least I finished it' however, if you find the book is interesting, is on a subject you care about, you can't shut up about it.

Odds are, if the party had involved painting pottery, seeing how clay is made or the like, since Sara is so craft-minded, she would not shut up about it.

But it was Carol's party, so it meant games.

I don't get Sara and the games thing – just play, Sara. No one said you had to win.

But as Ann and her self-insert character of Liz hates shy people, we really can't win either.

The upshot is that Liz tells Sara that it's not normal to hang out in her room all the time.

...this was in the days before the internet. Liz has no idea what's coming, does she?

Sara and her parents go to Burger King in their Volkswagen named Hugh. I don't know why it's called that and it's never explained, so why is it included?

I don't know. I'm listening to disaster documentaries on You Tube - how's that for random?

A few days later, Sara is hot and bored in her classroom. It's 91 degrees outside – and yes, Sara, it is very hard to care about anything when it's that hot and you're stuck in a classroom. So I'll agree – and fractions are rather dull. Oh and surprise! We're in Riverside, New Jersey. For those of you who care to know, it's a suburb of Philadelphia and the city is never mentioned once. Apparently Philadelphia doesn't get the cool factor NYC will in later series and all that...

Moving right along, Wendy passes Sara a note that informs her that their teacher's (Mrs Fischer) bra strap is showing. Mature girls, real mature. And how cute, they're acting like proper almost ten year olds, not babies, like many girls their age will revert to in the BSC world.

Sara mentions how good the school year has been and how she and Wendy made a replica of a stained glass window from a church in Paris (again, we're not told, but when I hear 'church in Paris' there's one that immediately comes to mind.) now, if they made an EXACT COPY of the window I'm thinking it is, Liz should get off her daughter's ass about being shy. MOVING ON... sorry, keep getting side tracked there...

Mrs. Fischer, instead of giving the usual homework assignments, has three kids hand out three separate booklets – all of which turn out to be plays. She wants the class to perform at a festival that takes place at the end of the school year, and she wants them all to have the chance to perform, so she chose three plays that have enough parts for everyone.

Assignment for class: read three plays and pick the one you want to perform.

Sara goes into mental meltdown. She doesn't like to talk in class and has no idea how she's going to get up on stage and do it in front of a ton of people.

Unfortunately, her problems are going to multiply.

The next day, Sara heads off for school with her I Heart Cats book bag and her Garfield Lunch Box and is actually in a decent mood – only to have it crushed when Wendy announces that she's moving. At first, our plucky protagonist thinks her friend is kidding to make her feel better about the play, but nope – it's true and this is the worst thing ever.

I'd be pissed too.

So after a lunch of pizzaburger – I'm sure that tastes better than it sounds – and fueled by the hope that the move isn't definite, Sara, Carol and Wendy head out into the sunshine to work on their Barbie poem.

They're trying to get into the Guinness Book – this is typical kid stuff and I am annoyed that everyone refers to the late Sir Alec Guinness as a movie star. Call him an actor, please. The girls are under the impression that he's the author of the World Records Book – which I can sort of see, I mean, I used to think that the Joseph with the coat of many colors was the same Joseph who was married to Mary in the Bible. I was a kid. I didn't know any better.

The girls also don't know about law suits, which is what Mattel would smack them with for their poem – which, from what we see, is the exact same sort of thing you can find on fanfiction.net. Only theirs is a little more coherent than some of the ramblings there.

Since Carol isn't in their classroom and thus, free of the play, they head back into class and Mrs. Fischer has the class put their heads down so they can vote on which play they're going to perform.

Sara's voting for Uncle Elmer's Fabulous Idea because she'll have the best chance of getting a tiny part.

Apparently nine other people must be thinking the same thing, because with 10 votes, Uncle Elmer's wins.

Assignment for tonight: reread the play and pick a part to try out for.

Yeah, Sara's not down with that at all.

Sara, sorry honey, it's time to make a little effort. You don't need a lead role, you just need to give it a try.

But this is Ann writing and Ann hates shy people. Almost as much as she hates gingers.

LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: anagramofbrat
2013-02-13 12:30 am (UTC)
Today I learned that that the Joseph with the coat of many colors was not the same Joseph who was married to Mary in the Bible...
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[User Picture]From: aceattorneysho
2013-02-13 12:43 am (UTC)
Oh Ann. You are... well you don't seem to understand the kids. Or shy people. Or schools.

And the pizzaburger is reminding me of this burger at the Greek/Italian diner by my house. It's a burger on two slices of buttered French bread and, I think, provolone with a very generous helping of spaghetti on the side. It's called the spaghetti burger and it is delicious and I NEED one right now.
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[User Picture]From: choclytgremlins
2013-02-13 01:50 am (UTC)
Guh. Listen, child, if I had to spend hours every day sitting quietly in school and trying not to fidget or scratch too much and somehow managed to do it, you can get up onstage and say three lines. I would have died of happiness if one of my teachers had wanted to put on a play, so let the kids who like that kind of thing have a little fun. I understand that stage fright is a very real thing - hell, I got it sometimes after having been an actor for years, I would clam up in the wings - but sometimes we have to do things that are hard for us.

Please tell me this isn't going to turn into her being cast as the lead. No teacher with half a heart would do that to a kid who had a problem with it.

But, as you said, this is Ann writing a shy person, and Ann thinks that being shy is somehow pathological.
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[User Picture]From: julietvalcouer
2013-02-13 04:09 am (UTC)
You encountered a lot of teachers with a minimum of half a heart? In grade school? What kind of weird-ass alternate universe did you live in, because I want to move there.
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[User Picture]From: kerssido
2013-02-13 01:50 am (UTC)
How do I make my daughter happy? I know! Make her do things she hates!
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[User Picture]From: hippie_in_dior
2013-02-13 02:24 am (UTC)
Does anyone else find it disturbing how Ann is so down on shyness, when it seems to be one of her own personality traits? Mary Anne was based on her, right? Sometimes I feel like this is a little like The Lonely Doll.
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[User Picture]From: tooimpurenangel
2013-02-13 02:42 am (UTC)
The fourth book was The Friendship Pact by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I remember the cover and something about...aprons?
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[User Picture]From: darth_firefly
2013-02-13 02:57 am (UTC)
Yes! That was the one! The main character couldn't sew, so instead of you know, making a half-assed apron that looked awful, she just cut the thing out of the bolt of fabric. Not surprising, her home-ec teacher just about killed her.
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[User Picture]From: julietvalcouer
2013-02-13 04:12 am (UTC)
I don't get Sara and the games thing – just play, Sara. No one said you had to win.

I kind of get this. If you know you're not going to win, and you don't like doing it, why get browbeaten into playing?

And I feel for the kid. A smart teacher would make up a non-performing role (I *always* wanted a big part in plays, but I knew people who didn't) like costume mistress or student director or set painter or SOMETHING for kids who desperately did not want to perform so they could participate without getting an ulcer. But this is an Annverse, meaning the shy retiring kid must be violently shoved onto the stage OR ELSE...something.
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[User Picture]From: alula_auburn
2013-02-13 06:57 am (UTC)
There were a lot of party games I disliked because they meant having attention drawn to you. I specifically remember praying not to get tagged in Duck Duck Goose when I was still in preschool. Musical chairs, too.

Yes, there's an extent to which some amount of stage fright/public speaking anxiety has to be conquered to cope with real life. But this is almost assuredly a stupid way to do it. I needed to learn to speak up in class and give oral reports. I didn't need to learn it was "fun" to be forced to lip-sync to "Leader of the Pack" in an all-school assembly. One of those is not a life skill, unless you have fairly specific and peculiar ambitions.

LOL, Mattel is BRUTAL with copyright/trademark claims. On par with Disney. (For real, if you want to read about Barbie shenanigans, Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll by MG Lord is A-MAZ-ING. I literally read my copy to pieces. I'm still haunted by the Skipper doll that grew breasts, and the reports of conferences about what should be under Ken's shorts. A-MAZ-ING.
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[User Picture]From: kakeochi_umai
2013-02-13 08:05 am (UTC)
hates parties, being the center of attention and gym. Much her to her dismay, her mom wants her to love parties, be social because she wants her daughter to be happy. Never seeing that trying to do that is something she hates and it won't make her happy. It will make her miserable.
If this book were written by anyone else, I would be all over it like Stacey on something that has a penis or Kristy on an opportunity for another inane cult event. Since it's our favourite share-the-self-loathing shy girl, however, I feel the sense of impending doom that the other BSC members must feel every time they hear the words "Great Idea".

The upshot is that Liz tells Sara that it's not normal to hang out in her room all the time.
FUCK. YOU. LIZ. FUCK YOU AND THE PERPETUALLY CRAPPING HORSE YOU RODE IN ON. If you want your shy daughter to spend more time with you, be someone that she'll want to spend time with. You get shy people out of their shells by drawing them out, not attempting to shame them out. The latter will just make them avoid you more, because why would ANYONE want to spend time with someone who shits on them all the time?

The girls also don't know about law suits, which is what Mattel would smack them with for their poem
Heh, just wait until Aqua come on the scene, Mattel. Annnnnnnnd now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon.
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[User Picture]From: frankdbunny
2013-02-14 12:33 am (UTC)
Have you ever heard this version?
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[User Picture]From: kakeochi_umai
2013-02-14 03:09 am (UTC)
Ha! Also, one of the related links was "Is Barbie based on a German sex doll?"
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[User Picture]From: sarajayechan
2013-06-20 08:19 pm (UTC)
If you want your shy daughter to spend more time with you, be someone that she'll want to spend time with. You get shy people out of their shells by drawing them out, not attempting to shame them out. The latter will just make them avoid you more, because why would ANYONE want to spend time with someone who shits on them all the time?

YES. THIS. I read this book when I was a kid and I definitely remember thinking Sara's mom was awful. Actually I get annoyed with any parents who try to push their kids to be social and go IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO BE POPULAR!! (Why yes I also did read Mostly Michael) Encouraging your kids to do things = good. Forcing them = bad.
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[User Picture]From: kahran042
2013-02-21 08:35 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, why do you think that Liz is Ann's self-insert?
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From: shatisarockgod
2017-04-08 12:56 am (UTC)
her mom wants her to love parties, be social because she wants her daughter to be happy.--Cause that's the ONLY way to be happy!

Never seeing that trying to do that is something she hates and it won't make her happy. It will make her miserable.--I swear Ann writes some of the shittiest adults. It should be pretty obvious that this won't make Sara happy. I really don't see the problem with a person having a few people in their life that they want to hang out with. It's fine to be a social butterfly and it's fine to NOT be one.

We open at Sara's cousin's birthday party where all the invitees, save Sara, are trying to get the magician to be the assistant.--Putting myself in Sara's place, I'd be the same way.

You won't be lonely for long! A handsome stranger will sweep you off your feet by the end of the month!--What? Wouldn't a fortune like that make sense for somebody older? I'd expect something a bit more kid friendly tbh.

Wendy, however, saves the day for Sara by stating she accidentally ate her fortune. --*sighs* Let me guess, Wendy's a fat girl? It seems like a set up for a fat joke considering who wrote the book.

The upshot is that Liz tells Sara that it's not normal to hang out in her room all the time.--*rolls eyes*

She wants the class to perform at a festival that takes place at the end of the school year, and she wants them all to have the chance to perform,--And what if you don't want that chance? Some people really don't consider something like this an honor to do.

Sara goes into mental meltdown. She doesn't like to talk in class and has no idea how she's going to get up on stage and do it in front of a ton of people.--I don't blame her.

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