Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Nancy Drew

Man, the next time I stupidly wonder aloud why I'm so tired someone should just slap me upside the head and say "Because you're SICK, stupid!" In full-blown sick mode at the moment (sneezing fits, congestion, aches, fatigue) and even having been chewing Zicam, drinking echinacea tea, and taking DayQuil (which usually works pretty well for me) I'm definitely feeling it. Limping along through the day...

So, anyway, Nancy Drew. From 1977 to 1979, I was a huge fan of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries television series. (I was oddly attracted to Shaun Cassidy for reasons I can't begin to fathom now. Parker Stevenson was far cuter to my adult eye... and I thought that maybe he was just too "adult" to be attractive to a seven year old, but my lifelong love of Harrison Ford's Han Solo flies in the face of that theory. Oh well, I was a child, what can I say?) My memories of the Nancy Drew series remain fond and they fueled many games of pretend where I was a spunky child detective solving "mysteries" of my own. By the time I was in third grade, I had checked out all of the Nancy Drew mysteries from our public library and had started on the Hardy Boys series (while I liked the Hardy Boys on tv just fine, I always enjoyed Nancy Drew books better).

I've written before that Kate and I have played several of the Nancy Drew computer games together. Kate is not the avid reader that I was at her age; she loves stories but reading comes harder to her and she still struggles enough that reading for "fun" isn't much fun after all. Still, we've listened to all the Nancy Drew stories that have been released in audiobook format. Kate follows in my footsteps to Nancy Drew fandom as I followed my own mother. I imagine the feeling to be something like what sports fan parents feel when their kids discover their own love of the Cubs or the Broncos.

There have been several attempts to "update" Nancy Drew to appeal to kids today. I think this is foolishness! Nancy doesn't need to be turned into a pre-teen (ala the "Baby Looney Toons" fad of a few years back where all the classic cartoon characters were recast as diaper-wearing toddler versions of themselves) or made into a boy-crazy would-be sorority girl to capture the attention of today's Bratz-loving grade schoolers. There is a new movie out this summer that neither Kate nor I am looking forward to (but will probably see despite our skepticism) because, well, Nancy Drew isn't a Valley Girl! There's also a modern series of books (Nancy Drew Girl Detective) which aimed at the 8-12 year old audience (which is firmly where I was when I was reading the originals) but in a dumbed down and modernized tone that's unrecognizable as the Nancy Drew of the previous 70 years.

I'd been thinking that maybe my expectations were unrealistic, that my memories of the Nancy Drew mysteries of my childhood were those typical overly rosy impressions of youth (like my crush on Shaun Cassidy). To my delight, I can say that's not the case! One of the things I picked up at Scarecrow Video the other night was a DVD of the collected Nancy Drew episodes from the tv show. Kate and I watched the pilot episode and one other together last night and that old show holds up! Pamela Sue Martin IS Nancy Drew. She's clever and accomplished without being a know-it-all, she's remarkably pretty and extremely fashionable without needing supporting characters to comment on her clothing choices. You just notice that she's put together. She's exuberant and genuinely appealing. Sure, there are some hilarious gaffes in the 70s show (like scenes that are clearly being filmed in broad daylight but which claim to be taking place in the middle of the night, or scenes of the California coast which are supposedly in New England) but for a television show of that era the quality is really there. Most importantly, Nancy is the Nancy we expect. Kate watched this with me and loved it (though she hates the doofus casting of Ned as an uptight geek/comedy relief character; that's a valid complaint).

The treatment of Nancy Drew today, which foolishly relies on inane superficialities instead of focusing on those timeless characteristics that make Nancy Drew so iconic, reminds me a bit of the constant search for "the girl game" in the game industry. That approach is never going to get the desired result. The 1977 series shows it's possible to do Nancy Drew for the screen and to do it right.

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Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Yeah, when you said you had a sore throat the other day, I was afraid to break it to you about the three other people I know who've had sore throats recently that launched into a pretty awful and long-lasting influenza ride. I hope your bout is short-lived!

Have to agree about the quest for "girls' games." IMO, the problem is that usually such games are being designed, written, laid out, art directed, and marketed by mostly men, who no matter how enlightened and empathic and wonderful in every way they may be will mostly never be able to understand what it's like to be a girl the way women does. Having recently worked on a game for girls in which almost exclusively men were making the key decisions, I will say that even though they often mean well, they frequently miss the point and, more importantly, they too seldom trust or solicit the advice of the women they work with.

I suspect movies for girls suffer from many of the same problems. It's a shame not just culturally but from a business point of view: Girls will go repeatedly to see a movie they love (take Titanic, for example), guaranteeing loads of box-office cash. A little investment in making movie girls love could pay off for movie studios.



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