Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Her Enduring Relevance

Why is Nancy Drew still prowling around popular culture? And why is she so hard to adapt successfully?

Comments: 17

  1. As a young boy in the early 70’s, I began reading the Nancy Drew books in hiding; lest anyone catch me with a “girl’s” book. When I got to the third book in the series I grew comfortable enough to read them in front of my parents. In retrospect, Nancy gave me the courage to solve the mystery of my budding self. Reading Nancy Drew books was, to me, a small act of defiance and my first step in a long journey of coming out. No doubt that the books had a strong influence on my own writing and world view today. #NancyDrew2020

  2. @John L. Lipp I had to laugh at what you wrote because I found Nancy Drew books boring and preferred the Hardy boys over her. Of course you can guess that we shared a long journey albeit on opposite sides of the street!!

  3. MJ - love it! Here’s to surviving the journey, no matter which side of the street we end up on.

  4. A great girl detective to update for today would be Judy Bolton. She was socially conscious, fought for the underdog, had more realistic and complicated family and friend relationships, was smart and quick-witted as well as quick-tempered and a bit impulsive, grew up as the series went on rather than staying one age, and had a relationship and later marriage that was based on respect as well as romance.

  5. The Nancy Drew books I read in the mid to late fifties had everything my own life didn’t. First, she had no mother (essential in most good stories for young people), but a well to do father who was there if she needed him, but never intrusive. Second, she lived in a big house in an urbanish area with a housekeeper so she essentially had no chores. Thirdly, she was smart and inquisitive and had resources if she needed them. Finding a ND book I hadn’t read was a good day! And, our lives were not yet so intrusively controlled by devices and connections. My own reading preferences were partially shaped by the Drew series, as well as The Bobbsey Twins. Later I graduated to every Zane Grey book I could find and classic comics. Those classic comics didn’t pull many punches. Reading was then like taking a wonderful trip.

  6. @Dkhatt Best of all, she apparently was a truant.

  7. My sister and I are children of the fifties and sixties; we begged, borrowed and finagled to get our hands on all the Nancy Drew mysteries. We read about a girl that learned how to get things done and feel good about it. She was empowered and let us think that we could something with our lives. In short, she was a role model. It is not a coincidence that my sister was one of the pioneers (male or female) in computer programming. I have a very successful academic career, first in my family to earn a Ph.D. Thank you Nancy!!

  8. I still love the Nancy Drew books I read in the 50s. I think one of the problems with all the permutations is they tried to update her, but didn’t really understand her. The new offering does, indeed, sound like a hot mess. At the core there was innocent adventure. If you don’t keep that, why bother?

  9. Isn't Veronica Mars basically an updated Nancy Drew? I thought the Emma Roberts movie was funny.

  10. What made Nancy Drew great reading as a girl was the LACK of angst, sex, heart capturing, social commentary, what have you. Just a girl bravely and doggedly taking action with minimal fuss. I think it's saying something in and of itself to have a female character just doing, and not having to *be* about or represent some greater thing. Nobody ever worried about the Hardy Boys making any great statements. For whatever reason that doesn't translate well to the screen. Well sorry not sorry. I hope I can still find some of the old-school yellow cover versions for my daughters.

  11. @Sarah -- I agree completely! "Minimal fuss" -- perfect! In my 1950's childhood, Nancy's strength of character, honesty, intelligence, kindness, persistence, and courage set a shining example for us girls. Yes, America was then a simpler place to grow up, but now that I am almost 70, I still believe the values we were raised with are the best foundation for a good life.

  12. The problem is that like the Hardy Boys she’s essentially a bland character.

  13. Here's a novel idea: Don't update her. Don't make her relevant. Make it a period piece, like "Little Women." Make it about the stories, the mysteries. Leave the character as she is. And heaven forfend, no sex or devices!

  14. We need a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/Tom Swift Ultra Thriller series.

  15. Loved those books as a tween, warts (racist, classist) and all. She was smart, brave, kind and had a circle of loyal friends. Everything you want at that age. Oh, and she was rich and independent. I imagine she inspired a few generations of girls, including mine. I never solved a mystery, but I knew to look for clues....

  16. Nancy Drew was for girls coming of age. She did exciting things, enjoyed fashion and friends, etc, without having men forcing their sexuality on her. Please don't update the character. Give young women a view into a world where they are not defined by men's incessant need for them

  17. Maybe it's the slight absurdity of the premise? A teenager that solves crime. Once you see her as a "real" person on screen, the absurdity makes it untenable. Other serial literary characters who are adults haven't had the same issues (Miss Marple, Poirot, Sherlock Holmes). Maybe Nancy Drew on screen would work better as a cartoon.