Friday, June 29, 2007

The New Nancy Drew

In the WSJ Jennifer Graham gives us a wonderful observation about the problems posed by the new Nancy Drew's age:

In the classic series of books that peaked during the Eisenhower administration, Miss Drew was a young woman, either 16 or 18 years old, depending on the driving laws of the time. She had already stepped out of the pimply pool of seething neuroses that we call high school, and dwelled, unencumbered by a day job, in an orderly world where your housekeeper prepared the meals and tweedy new clothes were charged to your father's account at the local department store. The old Nancy was so mature that the actress who portrayed her on television in the 1970s posed for Playboy. If the new Nancy Drew did that, child pornography laws would have been broken.

The 56 mysteries that made up the original Nancy Drew series, published by Grosset & Dunlap, were sparsely illustrated. But the covers and crude sketches within showed a smartly dressed young woman with classic clothes and a demure, almost matronly, hair style. The reader is told that she is a teenager, but given her demeanor and skill set (Nancy can handle a gun, change a tire, fly a plane, sew a dress and perform water ballet), she transcended the indignities of adolescence and always seemed old enough to drink (not that our heroine ever would).

The Nancy in the Warner Bros. movie, disappointingly, is just a girl. She attends high school and hangs with a puerile, wisecracking 12-year-old. She bribes thieves and clerks with homemade baked goods and carries a "sleuthing kit," no doubt coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you. Approaching cheesiness, she is a caricature of the adolescent overachiever, a girl who outruns her peers on the high-school track with a Peter Pan collar and exaggerated steps; who builds the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in shop class, saying "I only had time for 12 flying buttresses--in actuality there are 26."

Baby boomer mothers who take their daughters to the film expecting the classy heroine of their youth will find instead a 99-minute mockumentary of what Martha Stewart must have been like as a tweener.

Read the rest. Graham has a deep insight into why the filmmakers had to do it this way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The good news is that there is already a modern Nancy Drew, in the shape of Veronica Mars. Okay, so she's still at school (at least in the first two seasons), but she has the "demeanor and skill set" of her prototype.

On the subject of surprisingly good detective stories set in schools, have you by any chance seen a film called 'Brick'? Brilliant, but a bit on the harrowing side.

-- tom