Recently, it feels like Hollywood is trying to change some of America’s most beloved characters by amplifying the sex, violence, crime and angst for shock value and ratings. Nancy Drew is on track to become the latest casualty of this trend.
The CW, a cable TV channel, recently released a trailer for its new show Nancy Drew, which is set to debut in October. It’s a radical take on the beloved teenage detective and literary icon. Nancy is still a crime fighter, but she also spends her time having casual sex with Ned Nickerson, working in a diner and dealing with the supernatural. This definitely won’t be the Nancy Drew you remember.
The show takes its stylistic and progressive cues from the titillating and extremely popular Riverdale series, which Plugged In calls “trashy and tawdry” for good reason. There is none of the innocent fun of the original “Archie” comics in Riverdale. Instead the series is filled with sex (including between a teacher and a high school student), gangs, violence, death, homosexuality, a cult and other issues that previously would have never graced the pages of the original comics. There’s also Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which takes an often playful and silly set of comic characters who now say things like, “praise Satan” and practice the darkest of black magic. Nancy Drew appears to follow the same script.
“The show is not necessarily designed for 12-year-olds,” executive producer Stephanie Savage told the Television Critics Association. That’s a strange assertion since most young women pick up Nancy Drew around that age.
The actress who plays Nancy, Kennedy McMann, adds, “She’s sort of navigating the extreme loss (of her mother). She’s extremely lonely. She’s trying to figure out a way to deal with her feelings and is kind of throwing things against the wall. I think that that’s very normal and very relatable, and (sex) is just one way that she’s figuring out how to fill these voids.”
That’s just what teenagers and young adults need, to see a literary icon having sex in order to fill a void left after her mother died. This absolutely not the coping mechanism that we want to teach young people is okay.
Hollywood many times claims that they create things in order to start a conversation, e.g. Euphoria and 13 Reasons Why, but never seem to truly understand the impact that portraying unhealthy activity can cause. What’s wrong with a little old-fashioned story about a young woman who attends church, goes to counseling to help manage her grief and who solves crimes on the side? In the 1969 book, “The Clue of the Tapping Heels,” Nancy says she attends church “as often as (she) can.” For the 2019 Nancy Drew, that’s no longer true. Instead of classic Americana with morality and decency, we get the latest version of the Gossip Girls, Pretty Little Liars and other dramas where teenagers have little supervision or parental support but lots of drama and sex.
There is nothing wrong with having a great and powerful mystery story, and I would be keen for a Nancy Drew series that gave its heroine a modern twist without losing the character in the process. But the new Nancy Drew television series gets dark. The ghost in the story is “real,” not part of the criminal’s plan to hide the crime, and apparently some members of the diner staff where Nancy works, including her friends Bess and George, have criminal motivations for a murder that happens in the initial episode. That’s not how I remember most Nancy Drew stories going.
As a young fan of both Nancy Drew and the Archie comic series, I find the breakdown and sexualization of these great characters incredibly depressing. When I first heard about Riverdale, I was excited. But when the details of the series started to come out, I realized that what made the comic series so special was lost in a desire for a dark, gritty tale that didn’t resemble the original material at all. One of the series’ initial story lines involved Archie, the main character, having an affair with his teacher, Miss Grundy. If you’re familiar with either of these characters, then you know how far off the series is from its comic roots.
Nancy Drew appears like it will follow a similar path, and who knows what else the series will have in store for the audience. It’s a shame that an incredible character will be lost in favor of storylines filled with unrealistic drama, the supernatural and sex. The television series’ creators should ignore the Riverdale aesthetic and instead focus on what made the material successful for almost 100 years, a great, intelligent heroine who solves crimes with the help of her best friends.