Not My Nancy Drew, But So What?

Last fall I was dismayed when I saw a trailer for the forthcoming Nancy Drew film. The girl seemed indistinguishable from numerous other recent tween movie and television characters — perky, great hair, and so forth. Where was the seriously cool girl detective of my memory? I mean, yes she was fashionable, but not in this lame sort of way!

But yesterday I read Polly Shulman’s New York Times article, “Spunky Nancy Drew Faces Her Hardest Case: Hollywood” and had a change of heart. I mean, as Shulman reminded me, it is not as if Nancy wasn’t altered before. My Nancy from the 60s wasn’t the original Nancy at all. For one thing the first Nancy was 16 while mine was 18. I can’t remember if mine drove a roadster or a convertible (which would indicate the particular editions I was reading), but she still had Carson, Ned, George, and Bess around her in some way. Given the fiddling that was done with all of them over the years, who am I to complain if the movies do it again?

But I have to wonder if turning her into a kooky nerd might be a bit of a stretch. This new Nancy is evidently the new girl in a Los Angeles school (quite a shift from the small town in the books I read) with a predilection for retro stuff. Well, I suppose if it all works, it doesn’t matter. After all, this movie isn’t for nostalgic me, but for kids today.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Not My Nancy Drew, But So What?

  1. KT Horning

    I saw that trailer last winter, too, Monica, and I thought the movie looked very promising. I took it to be a gentle parody, based on the understanding that the world has changed a lot over the past century but Nancy remains a constant. Okay, so she’s aged two years and her roadster has changed color but everything else has remained pretty much the same.

    Even when I was 10, I found Nancy predictable and hokey, and I’m sure 10 year olds do today, too. That’s part of her charm.

    I remember a hilarious Nancy Drew parody in National Lampoon in the early 1970s called “The Case of the Missing Heiress” which had Nancy and her chums solving the Patty Hearst mystery. There was a really funny line in it that began “Taking a bobby pin from her hair with her teeth…” It sounds to me like this movie was done in the same spirit.

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  2. KT,

    Thanks for your take on this movie. I”m warming up to it more all the time. And if it is a gentle parody, I’m totally in then! I really hadn’t read the trailer that way at all. Rather, I saw it as yet another movie tapping into the endless tweeny world being so relentlessly promoted (real or not).

    While I enjoyed Nancy Drew as a kid I wasn’t besotted with her. Around the same time I was reading her books I was also reading the Cherry Ames books which I did like a lot. I’m trying to figure out why — I can only remember being charmed by her Candy Stripper uniform! Oh, and the dorm living …now that I think about it, I guess it was the school story aspect I liked.

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  3. Though I prefer when films based on books are highly accurate, if I had to choose between a self-aware G-rated parody and a 90% altered piece that was too contemporary or racy, I’d choose the former. It will be interesting to see how this film does at the box office and in reviews. I am glad that Nancy is preppy rather than trashy.

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  4. KT Horning

    It was the same with me, Monica. I read Nancy Drew but wasn’t besotted. My older sister was, though, so I read her copies of the books. I remember being very aware of the formula and was amused that the characters were always described in the same way, from titian-haired Nancy to her distinguished father Carson Drew to her friends Bess (pleasingly plum) and George (who enjoyed her boyish name).

    One thing that really stood out to me when I was reading the books is that no one ever “said” anything. They always retorted, chortled, added, exclaimed, piped up, explained, went on, observed, cried, remarked, and chimed in.

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