How Turning Red and The Baby-Sitters Club Prove We Need More Teen Girl Tales

It’s a bit funny to remember how, thirteen years ago, the enemy of fandom had a face, and it was Robert Pattinson. This is a bit of an exaggeration, except maybe it isn’t, when one remembers how the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, that annual orgy of fandom love, featured a nasty undercurrent of young men “protesting” Twilight‘s invasion of Hall H.

In the year 2022, of course, Pattinson has now been embraced to some degree by the fanboys as our newest on-screen Batman. But while that might have changed, the vibes of those lackluster protests remain a too-familiar echo of an attitude to which female members of fandom have always been aware: In the pantheon of the great media landscape which distracts and delights us daily, girly shit is always seen as second-class. Not important. Not because it’s bad, of course. But because it’s not “relatable.”

“Relatable” is the word that CinemaBlend managing director Sean O’Connell made the poor choice to use when discussing his publicly shamed review of Turning Red, the new Pixar film about a 13-year-old girl coping with the beginnings of puberty a curse which causes all the women in her family to turn into giant red pandas when they experience big emotions.

O’Connell’s review and comments on Twitter went viral this month for all the reasons for which one never wants to go viral, but they provided a valuable service in terms of igniting a conversation about how this particular demographic has been treated for quite some time, in the eyes of Hollywood and beyond.

The Netflix adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club was the rare type of show that aimed directly for this nebulous young female audience, but did so with enough wisdom, empathy, and wit to make it the sort of show that should be appreciated and enjoyed by people outside of its target demographic. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, which led to its recently announced cancellation, creating an even greater dearth of content specifically for this age group.

Vulture writer Kathryn VanArendonk’s incredibly important interview with BSC creator Rachel Shukert put this issue into stark relief, as Shukert noted: “Girls are expected to go straight from Doc McStuffins to Euphoria. They’re not ready for TV about having sex, but they don’t want to be little girls. So who are they?”