There’s been a lot of buzz about the new 2020 edition of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix (I even got my 9-year-old niece to review it with me for BYT), and a must-watch companion piece is The Claudia Kishi Club; directed and produced by Sue Ding, the short documentary (available now on Netflix) is a love letter to the coolest kid in Stony Brook. (And, very possibly, the entire world.)
The film interviews Naia Cucukov, Gale Galligan, CB Lee, Sarah Kuhn, Yumi Sakugawa and Phil Yu about how they were able to see themselves in Claudia, an Asian American who defied stereotypes and unabashedly forged her own bold path. That kind of representation was uncommon in the 80s and 90s, and many Asian American kids felt validated in Claudia’s free-spiritedness.
“Usually the Asian character or the woman of color character is the one you feel like you sort of have to be, right? Like if you’re playing Harry Potter, you have to be Cho Chang. Whereas I feel like Claudia is the one everyone seems to want to be,” Kuhn says in the film.
And who wouldn’t want to be Claudia – the artist, the fashion icon, the junk food worshiper, the total badass!
But it wasn’t just that she was cool, it was that she was a role model.
“Claudia was so unapologetic about who she was,” says Sakugawa. “Asian American children grow up being told by their elders to not stand out too much, to not create waves, to fit in with the crowd. For an Asian American person, I felt like it was extra special, the idea that we can be our true selves and not hide it from the world.”
“That was such a mood. That was such a big mood for why I related to Claudia so much,” says Lee, who talks about the pressure she felt to fit a specific mold as the perfect daughter when she felt very much outside of that.
Lee goes on to talk about how a lack of representation can do a lot of harm; when you don’t see yourself, it can take a toll on your sense of belonging and self-worth.
But then there’s Claudia Kishi, loudly and proudly herself – a rad, creative, multidimensional Japanese American who takes no shit – busting down the doors and saying, “Come with me!”
If anyone deserves a fan club, it’s most certainly her.
No ode to Claudia Kishi would feel right without loads of brightness and color, and Ding has created a beautifully vibrant vision with The Claudia Kishi Club. I wish it had been longer! But short and sweet is perfectly effective, and it’s the guaranteed best 17 minutes you’ll spend all day.
100% must-watch material.