Why I Won’t Be Watching Nancy Drew on CBS

I got into an internet argument this week. Well, it wasn’t much of an argument, really. I made three comments and annoyed one opinionated little man before moderators stepped in and shut the argument down by deleting the entire thread.

Rather anti-climactic, to be perfectly honest.

I am not proud of that moment. I am, however, mystified by the reaction, especially since it wasn’t really on a subject that could be considered life-altering or earth-shattering.

It was about Nancy Drew.

I admit it: I am still a nerd about some of the books I read as a kid. Nancy Drew wasn’t my favorite, but she was near the top of my list, coming in a close fourth behind The Three Investigators, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. And even though she wasn’t my favorite, there was still something special about Nancy and her friends George and Bess. My mom read those books. My niece read them. Even my daughter has read them.

So when I learned that CBS is planning to make a new Nancy Drew TV series, I was thrilled. I figured they would probably take some “liberties” with the franchise to modernize it, but that’s okay, right? I mean, every book has to undergo changes in the process of being adapted to TV or movies. How much could they really change such a well-known and established character?

Quite a bit, apparently. According to CBS president Glen Geller, the character will be “diverse.” He has been quoted as saying that she will not be Caucasian, and that he would be “open to any ethnicity.”  

Okay, a bit surprising, but fair enough. The world has changed a lot since the character was created, so I understand the reasoning behind changing her ethnicity. I’m cool with that.

But then Geller goes on to say that there will be other changes as well.

“Now in her 30s, Nancy is a detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world.”

Hang on.

The books are about a teenager in a small town, solving mysteries with her friends while still in high school. The TV series is about an adult woman who solves crimes as a police detective in New York city.

Um, what?

Basically, that was the nature of my comment in the discussion in a Facebook group for those of us who  still have fond memories of the books we read and collected as kids.

So they are turning a white teenaged detective from a small town into a black 30 year-old police detective in New York City? Really?!

Big mistake on my part. I was slammed for being a racist. Another member of the group — one with whom I have never had any previous conversations — demanded that the thread be deleted and requested a moratorium on all future discussions of Nancy Drew, CBS, or anything that might possibly spark conversation that had anything to do with race in any way, shape or form.

I made two further comments defending myself before the thread was deleted, but now I wish I would have just said one very simple thing:

Seriously, Dude?

Look, if CBS wants to make a series about a 30 year-old female detective working for the NYPD, more power to them. I’d probably watch it if it’s well-written and well-acted. I don’t care about the ethnicity of the main character. But I think it is ridiculous to market it as something it clearly is not.  

A teenager who solves crimes in a small town while still in high school is not the same thing as a 30 year-old woman working for the NYPD. Pretty simple. As someone who grew up reading the books, I would tune in to a Nancy Drew TV series expecting to see a show about a high school student solving crimes in a small town with her best friends, not a show about a 30 year-old police detective in New York.  

It’s not about race. Granted, my comment should not have included any reference to color, and for that I apologize. I threw that in that as part of the list of things that are being changed for the new show, and I shouldn’t have included it since I really don’t see it as a problem. But I do see it as a problem that they want to change everything except the character’s name and expect fans to accept it without argument.

When the series fails — and it will fail, spectacularly — how many people are going to line up and claim that it failed because white America just wasn’t ready to accept a Nancy Drew who is not white?

I stand by my original opinion that it is not an issue of race. It’s an issue of respect for the original material upon which the show is based. If CBS wants to make a show about Nancy Drew, why not make a show that in some way resembles the books?

What’s next? Maybe they can make a series about crime-fighting wizards at a reform school in New York and call it Harry Potter: The Series.  Or remake Twilight as a musical about two rival gangs known as The Vamps and The Wolves.

Personally, I’m waiting to see the The Hardy Boys: All Grown Up in which Frank and Joe are a young married couple instead of brothers. Instead of being about teen detectives, it’s going to be a raunchy comedy about undercover superheroes who own a bar in Chicago.

No, thanks.

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9 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Be Watching Nancy Drew on CBS

  1. Uhm, actually I agree with you on this one. I don’t care if Nancy is of another race or queer or anything, but her being a cop or NYPD detective is not Nancy Drew. They can make her a black detective in the city if they want to and I’d watch the Hell out of that, but it wouldn’t be Nancy Drew. This is just another excuse to put yet another damn cop show on TV. We got enough of those, which aren’t nearly as diverse as they’d like us to think.

    I’m all for diversity but why not just create an original black character. PoC need original characters too, not just to ride on the coattails of white characters.

    Normally, as a black woman, I wouldn’t object to racebending the character but making her a 30 yr. old detective in the big city, of any race, makes it NOT Nancy Drew.

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    • Thank you. And for the record, I think you said it a whole lot better than I did. I especially like where you said “why not just create an original black character. PoC need original characters too, not just to ride on the coattails of white characters”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. No worries, AJ. We get what you are saying, for real. Nancy Drew was not my top favourite when I was a kid (The Famous Five was my favourite), but if you are going to update ND for contemporary times, don’t make so many changes to the point where the show is just called “Nancy Drew” in name only. I’m with you. It is an issue of respect for the original material.

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  3. Grew up as a French kid in Canada so Nancy Drew wasn’t part of my childhood but I would totally be annoyed if the network was trying to modernize tue book series by essentially turning it into not Nancy Drew. PS: I would have loved to have read that thread on Facebook. Your comment alone had me giggling.

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  4. I wonder if the “Nancy Drew at 30” thing is similar to what they are doing with the Muppets TV show. Perhaps because the audience is older they take our childhood characters and “age them up” to match us.

    I loved Nancy Drew as a kid and will probably give the new show a shot. But I’d much rather see a teenage Nancy Drew doing her thing. Or even college age.

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