Monday, November 22, 2010

The Babysitter That Nobody Liked

Everything you need to know about Mallory Pike's personality and social status is summed up in the fact that, at age 11 and in middle school, her best outfit was described (by her) as this:
I finally decided on my red jumper that said Mallory across the front, a short-sleeved white blouse, and white tights with little red hearts all over them. --BSC #14: Hello, Mallory
Dear goodness, this girl has worse fashion sense than I do, and for years my favorite item of clothing was a rainbow-striped Lisa Frank sweatshirt that I still stand by, thank you very much, but at least it didn't have my name on it. And at least it wasn't a whole entire outfit, topped off with penny loafers.

It might not surprise you to know that Mallory Pike, oldest of eight children and unfortunately frizzy-haired, was one of my favorite members of the Baby-Sitters Club. (Bonus points to whoever can guess who the other favorite is.) Not only was Mallory a wannabe writer, like myself, but there were many other STARTLING SIMILARITIES and our shared lack of fashion sense was only the beginning.

Which is why I always hated that she was so, um, well, hated. It was like Ann M. Martin thought to herself - now that I have all of these awesome characters that my readers will be totally jealous of, I need to create someone that awkward preteen girls the world over can feel superior to. And thus Mallory Pike came into existence. She had frizzy red hair, seven younger siblings she was raising always babysitting for free, wanted to be a famous writer, was a total bookworm, and had no friends before joining the BSC and -- let's be honest -- none of those girls liked her. 

They had her draw a map of the digestive system and define the difference between "creeping" and "crawling" in order to determine if she was good enough to join their club. When the girls went to NYC and she took an art class with Claudia, both Claudia and the teacher basically felt sorry for her because she was drawing cute little mice during what was supposed to be a real art class. The only reason Jessi was her best friend in the first place was because Stonybrook is apparently Racism Capital, USA, and the other girls in sixth grade were like GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM LIKE AFRICA OR WHEREVER. That is not even a joke. Mallory was best friend by default. Whenever any of the older girls in the Baby-Sitters Club talk about Mallory there's always this sort of oh, poor Mallory attitude. Like they feel really, really sorry for her just because she's Mallory Pike, which is, apparently, synonymous with loser.

Mallory was the punching bag of the Baby-Sitters Club. And of her family. AND OF THE UNIVERSE. Braces, frizzy red hair, glasses, zero fashion sense -- this is the universal image of the nerd. And because this isn't Disney Channel, Mallory never gets to take off her glasses and everyone suddenly realizes she's OMG SO BEAUTIFUL!!!

While the other girls with hobbies get to be supremely talented (Jessi's dancing, Claudia's art), Mallory's writing gets about one sentence in the infamous Chapter Two, tacked onto the end of a freaking paragraph about what a great dancer Jessi is. And while the other members were getting paid to babysit, Mallory was stuck watching her six younger siblings all the time, free of charge, no matter what else she was doing. "Oh, you have homework? Oh, you have plans? SO WHAT? HERE ARE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS. PLEASE RAISE THEM FOR US." (As a sidenote: Stonybrook parents = WORST. PARENTS. EVER.)

So why do I love Mallory so much?

I don't know.

Partly because she's that representation of every sad, lame, awkward part of every teen girl. Partly because there was so much there. So much potential for her character, this gawky, geeky girl whose own friends didn't even really like her, to become something awesome. But, because it's the BSC and nothing ever changes, Mallory Pike will forever be stuck in the sixth grade with bad hair, glasses, braces, and cringe-worthy fashion sense. She'll always be overshadowed by her cooler friends, always just on the outside of the group she desperately wants to be a part of, and always the total embodiment of that girl you don't want to be.

But honestly? I WANT TO BE MALLORY PIKE'S FRIEND. I feel like we would get along. 

(Oh and also? There's a Get Smart episode about a frizzy redheaded children's writer/illustrator who holds the key to a case that Max is on. She's really awkward and shy and plain-looking -- until the makeover montage -- and I'm convinced that she's Mallory Pike all grown up. The titles of her children's books? The Tiger That Couldn't, and The Elephant That Wouldn't. Obviously her childhood scarred her for life.)


  1. HAHA, I love your summation on Mallory. Mary Anne was always my favorite. Now that I look back on it, I can't believe they were JUST 11 and babysitting like they were--well, she and Jessi. I'm currently rereading my way through the Superspecials...good times!

  2. Oh my gosh, this is such a fantastic post! I'm impressed by how much thought you've given all of this. I also have to say I loved Mallory because she loved books, and I remember one book talked about how she gave Jessi earrings that looked like books and I thought that was really cool. Yeah, I'm awesome.

  3. That's so true, and I love her too! But don't fret, I avenged her in my "What do they wear now?" fashion post: "Mallory turned out to be even more stylish than Stacey, simply because she’s not overdoing it, and she enjoys pretty things. As a young girl, she is fascinated by Stacey’s and Claudia’s styles, but they are the only fashionistas she knows. Growing up (and going to boarding school), she met more stylish people, and discovered that you don’t need to go overboard with fashion. [...]"

  4. I'm guessing your other favorite was Mary Anne too.

    Reading all your posts about BSC and what they were really like (the racism, absent parents...) makes me wonder how John Green ever wrote (or was it edited?) them for a while.

  5. Jennila I didn't know that John Green ever edited them... are you sure? I know David Levithan did. HAHA OH, THE BSC. Yes, it had all these horrible things but in such an over-the-top ridiculous way that it was pretty laughable actually. And YES! Mary Anne was my other favorite. :)