The neverending Nancy Drew mysteries

I read every single one I could get my hands on when I was in my early teens. She was so independent, and she always knew the right thing to do and say while solving mysteries – the only time she suffered small social embarrassments was when a villain made her look temporarily wrongheaded but within a few chapters she was always proven right and everyone apologised. No wonder the self-conscious teenage me thought she was wonderful.

But then I got a bit bored with the sameness of the stories, and then I discovered science fiction and it was bye Nancy!

Lots of other women have a similiar Nancy story. It may not have been science fiction that tempted them away, but eventually they found Nancy’s exploits hollow. Her resourcefulness and independence seemed too manufactured as we grew older, not real at all. The Globe and Mail has a review of the oeuvre in light of a new film – Nancy Drew: Feminist or Daddy’s Girl?. It’s a thorough overview, and I think Kate Taylor may be my evil twin.

Categories: Culture


2 replies

  1. When I was a young girl, my mom found a huge set of old Nancy Drew books at a garage sale. I loved those books and I wanted to be Nancy. Like the article in the Globe and Mail points out, a big part of the appeal was that Nancy could do all her detecting without having to really answer to anyone. I eventually outgrew them, and, like you, discovered science fiction.

  2. My experience with Nancy was reading the very early editions of the books – the ones in hard cover, and I think written in the 1960s and inherited from older relatives – while living in the mid 1980s as a seven year old. Unlike your fine selves, I remember Nancy as being a bit of a wuss. I also didn’t like her plump friend Bess who was always watching her diet. George was ok.
    I remember asking my mother about one particular scene in one of the books, where Nancy is trapped in a cupboard in a strange house (after entering illegally to snoop and then hearing someone coming). The man she had heard coming realised that someone was in the cupboard, and made threats through the door to call the police. In response, Nancy screamed at the top of her lungs, after which the man set her free because he realised that “nobody but a girl could scream like that!” I didn’t understand the nuance, a combination result of my age and the anachronism.
    Mind you, I note that the recently revised and re-released paperbacks seem to have gotten rid of much of the ‘girl detective’ sexism.

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