Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is spectacular.

I know there are more important things in the world to discuss right now, but let’s do this.

The amount of smoking that takes place in this movie, which is basically a comedy for kids, is actually impressive. There is lite gun play [“The dishes are done, man!] Everybody has straight up yellow teeth (probably because everyone is smoking all the time). In a totally unbelievable early 90s twist, a kid in a Grateful Dead shirt hangs out with the metal heads. Kenny, a Misfits fan, has a sole Rolling Stones tattoo.


The conceit, you’ll surely recall, is that a 37-year-old mother of 5, goes on an unannounced 2 month trip to Australia and when the kids’ tough babysitter dies after she sees a poster showing off exposed breasts and pizza crusts spinning on a turn table, she has a heart attack. The kids, of course, stuff her in a trunk and drop her off at a coroner.

So that they don’t have to tell their mother, Christina Applegate’s Sue Ellen gets a job as an Executive Admin at a company that develops school and corporate uniforms by lying on her resume. She doesn’t know how to use a computer. She makes $37,500 a year. In a twist that resonates with this particular moment, her boss’ boyfriend, who is also a superior at the company, tries to bed Sue Ellen by telling her that older women [as he assumes she is] shouldn’t be ashamed of talking about their age because that’s when their juices start flowing and pretty soon they’ll be smoking “post-coital” cigarettes. When she asks if he’s talking about them having sex, he says only if she wants him to mean that. Otherwise she’s misunderstanding.

Oh, and josh Charles’ parents want him to go to college to study oceanography.

David Duchovny looks like this.

Honestly, though, despite all of it’s irresponsibility (for another post entirely, a case could be made that it is a thinly veiled argument for the strengths of libertarianism), it has a shockingly strong feminist message. With the exception of Charles’ ocean-loving boyfriend, all of the men are smarmy or grabby. Sue Ellen’s boss describes them all as grown boys. And that same boss’ belief in Sue Ellen, and advocacy on her behalf, is surprisingly touching.


Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.