[identity profile] firecausesburns.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ship_manifesto
TITLE: Both Different and Alike
AUTHOR: Madeleine ([livejournal.com profile] firecausesburns)
FANDOM: The Baby-Sitters Club
PAIRING: Kristy Thomas/Mary Anne Spier

We’ve known each other practically forever, and even though we’re total opposites, we seem to have some kind of special chemistry that helps us stick together.

The Baby-Sitters Club
These are the books that many girls in their twenties and late teens fondly remember. The series started in 1986 and finished in 2000, the books chronicling about two years in the lives of the main characters. The first year of the books, seventh grade for the older characters, passed in the first nine books, but from then on the characters remained in eighth grade for over 120 regular books as well as 15 Super Specials, 36 Mysteries, 4 Super Mysteries, and 14 Friends Forever spinoff books, before finally graduating from eighth grade at the end of the Friends Forever series. The four original main characters were Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey, and throughout the series Dawn, Mallory, Jessi and Abby were also introduced as club members.

There is still a small but active BSC fandom alive on Livejournal. The main community is [livejournal.com profile] babysittersclub, where all aspects of the series are discussed. Other communities include [livejournal.com profile] bscsnark, where people generally post snarky recaps of the books, and [livejournal.com profile] bsclove - here lies the femmeslash. There is also a reasonable amount of BSC fanfiction on fanfiction.net. With eight young girls as the main characters of the series, it is no surprise that femmeslash exists. There are several popular pairings, but my personal favourite, and one of the favoured ones, is Kristy Thomas and Mary Anne Spier.

Kristy Thomas

"And Kristy. She was my lifesaver."

Kristy is the shortest girl in eighth grade at SMS, but her five-foot frame seems far too small to contain the force of her personality. She’s described varyingly as plain and cute, with brown hair and eyes, but one detail that is never left out is that Kristy could not care less about how she dresses. She wears clothes "only because it’s against the law to go to school naked", and she wears virtually the same thing any day – jeans and a turtleneck in winter, shorts and a T-shirt in summer.

The first book is told form Kristy’s perspective, as she was the one to actually come up with the idea of the BSC. She is one of the three characters to be a member of the club in every BSC book, and she is the backbone of the club as the president.

Kristy is describes by her closest friends as an 'Idea Machine' – when someone has a problem, Kristy has a solution. Her friends describe her as outgoing, good-natured, ambitious and smart, while people who don't like her could well describe her as domineering and imperious.

When Kristy was six, her father walked out on her family, then consisting of herself, her mother, two older brothers, and a baby brother. Kristy’s mother started to work full-time, meaning that Kristy and her older brothers became a lot more independent, very quickly. Several years later, when Kristy was twelve, her mother started dating a millionaire named Watson Brewer, and they married that summer, meaning that Kristy gained a stepfather and a little stepsister and stepbrother. Not long after, her mother and Watson adopted a Vietnamese toddler named Emily, and her grandmother also moved in.

Kristy is very athletic, and especially loves playing softball. She coaches a softball team for young children, aged between two and nine. (The two-year-old is a prime example of how the characters in BSC act years older than they actually are.) She was the one to come up with the idea of the BSC, and loves spending time with children, especially organising them in festivals and other events. Claudia believes that Kristy understands children better than any of the other club members. She likes animals, and is a dog person.

Mary Anne Spier

"She happens to be the warmest, sweetest, most sensitive person around."

In the first few books of the series, Mary Anne Spier was the youngest-looking seventh-grader in school. The only daughter of a widowed father, Mary Anne was brought up in a very strict home. After her mother’s death of cancer when Mary Anne was just a few months old, her father sent her to live with her grandparents for about a year, and when she returned home, he was determined to show how good a parent he could be. For years, Mary Anne had to wear her hair in braids, wear very conservative clothing, and live in a bedroom more suited to a six-year-old. Eventually, at twelve, Mary Anne managed to convince her father that she was old enough to make her own choices about how she dressed and what her room looked like like. In the next few books, she made her first friend on her own (she’d grown up with Kristy and Claudia, and she’d met Stacey through Claudia), got her first pet, and found her first boyfriend. Fairly early on in the series, Mary Anne’s father married Sharon, the mother of Mary Anne’s other best friend Dawn.

Along with Kristy and Claudia, Mary Anne is an original member of the club and remains a member throughout the series. As secretary, she is responsible for keeping track of every sitter’s schedule and for maintaining information on all of the club’s clients.

Mary Anne is small, with long brown hair (which she gets cut very short later on in the series) and brown eyes. She and Kristy are often described as looking similar. As mentioned earlier, in the first few books her clothing was much too young for her (her father bought all her clothes for her – dresses better suited to a six-year-old). Later on, she develops her own neat, preppy style.

Those close to Mary Anne describbe her as shy, sweet, romantic, sensitive and an excellent listener. Those who dislike her would be more inclined to call her weak, uninteresting or cowardly. She has no interest in sport at all (her idea of exercise is “a walk around the bookstore”), preferring to read, watch movies and do needlework. She also loves animals, especially cats, and of course, loves children. Mary Anne shows a great deal of character development in the Friends forever series, breaking up with Logan and trying to learn to become her own person.

The Pairing

Canon has strong evidence that both girls are heterosexual. Kristy had two male romantic interests through the series (one long-standing and one only in one book), while Mary Anne had a steady boyfriend from book 10 right through to 131, and broke up with him during the 14-book "Friends Forever" spinoff series. However, Kristy is one of the two characters most likely to be seen by fans as homosexual (the other is Abby), probably due to the fact that she is a tomboy and she shows great disdain for a lot of males, and is also athletic and an excellent softball player.

In canon, these two are lifelong best friends. To quote Kristy, "She and I have been friends as long as I can remember, and somehow I know that we always will be friends. I can just picture us at eighty-five, sitting in rockers on a porch somewhere and exchanging memories of the good old days." While Mary Anne is the more sentimental of the two of them, Kristy is the one who describes Mary Anne with more affection. This is possibly because Mary Anne is Kristy’s only best friend, while Mary Anne has another best friend, Dawn, and a boyfriend, Logan. Mary Anne depends on Kristy because they have been friends forever and because Kristy has always been Mary Anne’s strength, and Kristy depends on Mary Anne because she is not especially close to anyone else – she has good friends, but Mary Anne is the girl who has always been there and who she knows will always be there. "Do you know the song 'The Wind Beneath My Wings'? That's how I feel about Mary Anne," Kristy says at one point. Mary Anne and Kristy were close friends from babyhood, living next door to one another until Kristy’s mother remarried and moved away, in the summer between seventh grade and eighth.

The friendship between Kristy and Mary Anne canonically seems to be just that – a close, loving friendship. The girls often seem more like sisters than friends. However, with the right mindset it is fairly easy to see the romantic potential between them. Kristy and Mary Anne have been best friends all their lives, and have grown up and learned about the world together. As young children they would have learned about relationships together, and as they grew older it seem likely (at least in my mind) that they would have shared feelings and hopes and fears with each other that they could not share with anyone else.

Kristy and Mary Anne are friends purely because they care so much about each other. Kristy, especially, is not the type to stay close to someone if she doesn’t like them. The friendship between Kristy and Mary Anne isn’t as volatile as that of Mary Anne and Dawn, as superficial as that of Claudia and Stacey, or as clingy as that of Mallory and Jessi. It isn’t dramatic, full of fights and reunions. It’s long-lasting, close, loving, reliable, and always there. Kristy and Mary Anne are each other's home.

Ironically, some of the strongest Kristy-Mary Anne plot arcs involve Mary Anne’s close friendship with Dawn. Books #4 and #5 deal with Kristy’s jealousy when Dawn and Mary Anne become friends. In #30, when Dawn’s mother and Mary Anne’s father announce their engagement, Kristy seems upset, and as Mary Anne understands, hurt – hurt that Dawn and Mary Anne will be brought closer together. Kristy is scared that Dawn is taking her Mary Anne, her other half, away from her. Mary Anne gives her this note:

"Dear Kristy,
As you and I grow up, we’ll both have lots of friends – and a lot of things will change. But one thing will never change: you were my very first best friend. I love you.
Mary Anne"

In Super Special 13, all the members except Kristy and Mallory take a trip to Hawaii. Mary Anne is very upset at having to leave Kristy behind, and starts to cry. Says Kristy:

"I’m much less emotional about things like this. I only cry at really serious stuff.
I hope Mary Anne didn’t feel the tears drip onto the back of her new BSC T-shirt."

Kristy is proud of the fact that she is very emotionally stable and does not cry easily. However, the idea of Mary Anne leaving her for two weeks is something that moves her to tears. This is a small but beautiful reminder of the deep way in which they care for each other.

The Fanfiction

Pretend manages to take a situation I thought would be impossible to write about – pre-slash of Kristy and Mary Anne at seven years old – and make it lovely. This fic is a testament to the beautiful closeness they’ve shared since they were children.

Project Gaymo is remarkable in that it reads almost exactly like a BSC book, except that Kristy and Mary Anne are in love. The crazy Pike kids, the interaction with the rest of the BSC, and the dynamic between Kristy and Mary Anne are all just perfect.

Mary Anne and the Deep Thaw explores the tender beginnings of a relationship between a high-school-aged Kristy and Mary Anne. With an appearance by a wonderfully canonical Richard Spier, Mary Anne’s father.

New and Improved is just brilliant. There isn’t much more I can say, really.

The Final Words

When trying to think of the perfect words to conclude this essay, I realised that someone else had written them already. So, in closing, I’d like to quote some lyrics from Sleepthief’s wonderful ‘You Did a Good Thing’.

"She was your childhood friend
All of your heart you gave her
And though the times have changed her
She’ll always be home"
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