• Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Missing Innocence

    by  • September 9, 2019 • CW, Paleyfest • 0 Comments

    Nancy Drew

    The CW’s revamp of the beloved children’s character is unsafe for kids – especially young girls.

    “I don’t go searching in the dark anymore. Not after the darkness found me.”  So says 18 year-old Nancy Drew. Though something of an amateur sleuth as a teenager, Nancy has turned away from solving mysteries and become despondent after the recent death of her mother. Refusing to enter college, Nancy prefers to work as a waitress at a diner in her hometown of Horseshoe Bay. But when a wealthy heiress is murdered, Nancy is once again drawn into a web of mystery and intrigue…including genuine encounters with the supernatural.

    Created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (which also created The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, and many other favorite children’s book series) and published under the pen name of Carolyn Keene, since 1930 the adventures of girl detective Nancy Drew have been a beloved part of childhood for millions of girls. With her friends, tomboy George and girly-girl Bess, her boyfriend Ned Nickerson, and supported by her wealthy, indulgent, and often absent attorney father Carson Drew, Nancy faced peril and solved mysteries in her hometown, then throughout the world – a delightful fantasy figure of innocent adventure for generations of young girl readers

    By contrast, the CW’s new series is “Nancy Drew” in name only, almost unrecognizable to the decades of women who grew up with the character. Produced by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (the same team behind the CW’s Gossip Girl and Dynasty), this version is predictably “dark,” “gritty,” and “mature.” At a Paley Center panel, producer Stephanie Savage claimed that the new series “honors the original character and everything about Nancy Drew,” but then, in complete contradiction, also claimed that it “makes the character relatable to today for people who never read the books.”

    The most obvious change to Nancy Drew is the addition of heaping amounts of gratuitous teenage sex. “She’s definitely not a virgin!” boasts Savage, stating that “18 year-olds have sex. It’s a fact of life. It’s cool to put consensual teen sex on screen!” (Even though a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control shows dramatic decreases in teen sexual activity over the last 25 years.)

    Indeed, after a series of flashbacks about her childhood, the very first time viewers see the present-day Nancy Drew in the new series, Nancy and Ned Nickerson are having wild, bed-rocking sex. Subsequent dialogue makes it clear that Nancy and Ned have just met, and that sex is all that interests Nancy – she pointedly refuses to tell Ned anything about herself, preferring to keep their hook-ups anonymous. Even after she relents and decides to get to know him better, her method is to have even more sex with him, without asking Ned anything about himself.

    Star Kennedy McCann, who plays Nancy Drew, agrees with the show’s new direction, stating that the CW’s version of Nancy is “refreshing. She’s no longer a perfect girl, a perfect daughter, a perfect little robot. That’s not interesting.” Because innocence is never interesting – especially in a character created for children! (Oddly, the millions of girls who’ve read Nancy Drew over the last 90 years have never seemed bothered by the character’s innocence.

    Meanwhile, the other familiar characters from the Nancy Drew milieu have also shed their innocence. Tomboy George is now Nancy’s old enemy from high school, and is her grouchy boss at the diner. (She’s also having an affair with a millionaire suspected of murdering his wife.) Bess has been re-imagined as a wide-eyed, bumbling, status-conscious fashionista, while Nancy’s high-school boyfriend Ned Nickerson is now a convicted killer who did prison time while still a minor. And Nancy’s father, attorney Carson Drew, is also revealed to be having an affair on the side – and may have been doing so even while his wife was dying of cancer. Naturally, Nancy is estranged from her father (while still living in his house), allowing viewers to savor the oh-so-trendy anti-authority, “parents are stupid” attitudes abundant in CW programming.

    One more element is the new series’ embrace of the occult. While occasionally there were apparently supernatural occurrences in the books, they were always exposed as a hoax to mislead witnesses to real, down-to-Earth crimes…a counterfeiter dressing up as a ghost to frighten people away from a hidden headquarters, for example. By contrast, a major theme of CW’s Nancy Drew is existence of genuine supernatural elements. Nancy, George, and Bess attend a séance and supernaturally receive a clue from a disembodied voice in the first episode, and the actual ghost of a dead prom queen figures prominently in the first season story arc. The appearances of the ghost and other supernatural elements are frightening, even shocking, and will be nightmare-inducing for young viewers…so much so that one Paley Center panel attendee called the new Nancy Drew “a horror show.”

    “Nancy Drew is precious to so many people…but this is the Nancy Drew WE are creating – a more adult version than the one for 12 year-olds,” opines Kennedy McCann. Unfortunately, even though the network claims Nancy Drew “isn’t for children,” the many 12 year-olds, and even younger girls, who have read the books will be attracted to the familiar “Nancy Drew” name, and will watch this show anyway …a fact the CW is likely counting on.

    Nancy Drew premieres Wednesday, October 9 at 9:00 p.m. ET on the CW.

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    About

    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

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