Friday, July 6, 2018

Declining Interest in Nancy Drew and Collector Negativity

Our series book collecting hobby is in a decline, and unfortunately, Nancy Drew is leading the way.  Within five to 10 years, the hobby will be in deep decline unless a rejuvenation of interest occurs.

Significant drop in traffic to Nancy Drew website page

I am more aware of the decline than others because I sell series books.  Series books have become harder and harder to sell.  In my current inventory, the only series that are not hard to sell are Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, the Three Investigators, and possibly Trixie Belden.  Of those five series, the Three Investigators series is the only one where values have held fairly steady.  The other four have decreased in value and continue to decrease.  Almost all series outside of these five have decreased sharply in value, and some series are now impossible to sell.

The popularity of the major series is what guides people into collecting the minor series.  The reason that minor series no longer sell is because fewer people are collecting the major series.  I did not realize how interest in Nancy Drew has declined until I viewed the website traffic.  Since interest in Nancy Drew has decreased, interest in all other series will also decrease.

This concerns and saddens me.  We need something to revitalize interest in series books, something that will bring new collectors into our hobby.  We need something like... a movie.

And amazingly, unbelievably, a Nancy Drew movie is currently being filmed.

The movie came out of nowhere.  When I first heard about it, I didn't give it much thought because most projects don't come to fruition.  Then confirmation came that the movie was in production and being filmed.  Say what?!  So you would think that fans would be thrilled, right?  After all, this is what we need.  

But no, fans are criticizing the movie based solely on the actress' physical traits and manner of dress.  This bothers me.  We have what we need in the works, because a new Nancy Drew movie will advertise our hobby for us.  However, fans do not appreciate what the movie will do for Nancy Drew.  Instead, they complain that this Nancy Drew is not their Nancy Drew, but nobody has read the script!  For all we know, this might end up being an accurate portrayal of Nancy Drew with an excellent story.

Collectors got riled up over Sophia Lillis' publicity photo, which appears in the news releases about the movie.  Her hair isn't blonde, and her hair is short.  First off, the photo is the actress herself, so fans criticize the actress for how she looks in real life.  That has nothing to do with the movie and is also a bit rude.  It has been confirmed that Nancy Drew's hair will be short in the movie, but even so, we should not judge an entire movie that we have not yet seen on such a superficial feature.

A photo was seen of Nancy Drew skateboarding in the movie.  This was also declared inappropriate by fans.  I'm not sure how it would be wrong for a movie set in the present day to depict Nancy Drew on a skateboard.  Nancy Drew has been pictured in similar activities on the covers of some books, like The Door-to-Door Deception, which was way back in 1997.

The movie is based on The Hidden Staircase, which is one of the excellent early Nancy Drew books.  Sophia Lillis is sixteen, the exact age that Nancy was in 1930 in that same book.  This is a win right here and much better than the bizarre idea that CBS had for a Nancy Drew television series.  In that series, Nancy would have been in her thirties and struggling because Bess was either murdered or committed suicide.

Nancy Drew must have only the following traits.
  • She must be young.
  • She must be strong and determined.
  • She must be interested in solving mysteries.
  • She must be good at solving mysteries.
Nothing else matters.  I did not like the idea of the CBS series because Nancy was not going to be young.  That was the deal-breaker for me.  I don't want an older Nancy Drew who has problems.  So long as Nancy is young, strong, and good at solving mysteries, I'll take her.  I do not care what race she or her friends are, what color her hair is, how she dresses, or what kind of activities she enjoys.

In one of the threads where the movie was being criticized, a couple of us began defending it.  I wrote the following statement.
No matter how Nancy is portrayed, she won't match anyone's mental picture of her.  This is because we are Nancy when we read the books.  A movie cannot do that.  The Nancy Drew games do, which is why they have been so successful.

I see this production as positive.  It will get Nancy Drew's name out in front of people again. It will keep Nancy Drew from being forgotten for just a little longer.  Nancy Drew is in danger of being forgotten, in case you haven't realized that.  In order for Nancy Drew to remain viable, the franchise needs publicity.  This movie will do just that.  We might even get some cool collectibles.  Wouldn't that be grand?

Let's not pick this apart.  We haven't seen it yet!  This movie will remind people of how much they loved Nancy Drew as a child.  People will join this group.  We will make new friends!  This is going to be good.  I'm kind of excited.
I noted that of the 13 people who reacted positively to my comment, none of them were the complainers.  It disappoints me that many Nancy Drew fans would rather have nothing than have a project that will breathe new life into the franchise.

Of course, the problem is that fans want a movie set in 1930 where Nancy Drew looks exactly like Russell Tandy's cover art and acts exactly like the Nancy Drew written by Mildred Wirt Benson.  Anything other than that is never going to be good enough.  The problem is that a modern movie will be aimed at current children and teenagers, since the movie studios will not make enough money on a movie aimed at older Nancy Drew collectors.

Here is a statement I wrote on another thread that was full of negativity about the movie.
Nancy Drew has always been a contemporary series, and for that reason, any movie will be contemporary.  It is only the collectors, like us, who don't see Nancy Drew as contemporary.  Today's girls, even if reading the Grosset and Dunlap books, probably picture Nancy as modern.  Even when I read books from 100 years ago, I don't picture the characters in the way the author intended.  My mental picture has modern characteristics, because that's my point of reference.
That comment was ignored.

Let's fast-forward to next year and consider what will happen after the movie is released.  The Nancy Drew fans will be busy in the Facebook groups complaining endlessly about how horrible everything about the movie is.  Meanwhile, some (hopefully many!) young people will love the movie and will decide to join the Nancy Drew Book Fans group on Facebook.  What will they think when they join the group and read endless negative comments about the movie?  I wouldn't be surprised if they leave the group.

We could be driving away future Nancy Drew collectors with the negativity, and we desperately need young people to join the hobby.

In light of how important the upcoming Nancy Drew movie is to Nancy Drew's continuing longevity, I hope that collectors will consider making fewer negative comments about the project in the Facebook groups.  Certainly, many collectors will not be interested in the movie or will not like it, which is fine.  However, consider softening some of those comments, or perhaps not make the complaints in the groups.  A person's own Facebook profile page is the perfect place to air complaints about a project.

Members of Facebook groups exhibit crowd behavior.  When one member makes a strong statement, especially a strong negative statement, other members immediately agree with the statement and take it even further.  The negativity then builds, becoming worse and worse.  I fear that this will happen when the movie is released next summer, and the result will be disastrous.  We will cause the movie not to bring in the new fans that are sorely needed in our hobby.

We have exactly what we need in the works to keep our hobby going just a little longer.  Nancy Drew is contemporary, and that will never change.  The year is 2018, and Nancy Drew is 16 years old.  She's hip and modern, and she's not going to be driving an old roadster.

When young people watch Nancy Drew in theaters, they'll think about how much they enjoyed reading the books when they were young.  Some of them will start collecting the books.  Those books might be the modern softcover books or might be the Grosset and Dunlap editions.  Regardless, we will make new friends, so long as we don't let negativity take control.  Let's not blow this great opportunity.


Barb Latham said...

Excellent points!! I completely agree with your argument!! We have to revitalize interest in our beloved Nancy. And of course those of us who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, reading as many Nancy Drew books as we could find, will always see the sleuth as the figure on the cover or in the wonderful illustrations. I remember when the television series came out, and it was disappointing to many of us. Perhaps our negativity was a form of pride, our believing we knew better how the real Nancy would have behaved. Good grief, it’s hard for me to read modernized versions of the series because I love the “old” terminology and quaint cultural references. But my greatest fear is that our Nancy Drew will become as obsolete as the Sears Catalogue. We need younger readers/collectors to join us.

Amanda said...

I guess my issue with the modernized versions isn't so much that they are modern (I liked the 70's tv show and Case Files series for example), but the way the modernization is manifested. To me, Nancy was cool - but also elegant, smart but not hokey, independent but still held to enough societal norms that she didn't seem like she bucked society in a threatening way. Many modern incarnations do not hold these values. Nancy is portrayed as what executives thing modern kids want. She isn't portrayed as timeless, but stuck in so many fads. If it's got to be modern, I'd hope they'd take inspiration from Veronica Mars and not the hot Nick show of the moment. Don't pander, but make a good movie. Don't insult our intelligence, be approachable to modern kids yet be able to be viewed in 5 years and not cringe. The characters and premise just often seem so far off in modern incarnations that it might as well be another property.

As to slow sales, book collection in general has gone down. Many don't want books or anything in physical format. Collecting, unless is those Funko things, seems to be in sharp decline. People want sterile, no fuss, no stuff housing. Yes, there is monetary value, but I'm not sure people see series books as an investment as with other books. And those who use book covers as decorations really don't care about particular books-especially when the current desired book decoration is just blocks of a particular book color.

Amanda said...

IMDB has a summary of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019):
A bit of an outsider struggling to fit into her new surroundings, Nancy and her pals set out to solve the mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community.

She's never been an outsider to me. I always assumed she was a pillar of the community, but I can see why they did that. The outsider who becomes beloved after solving a mystery and everyone gets a chance to know them. It's a much easier script to write.

HoundsGood said...

Actually, your assessment could not be farther from the truth. Book collecting is growing by Leaps and Bounds. What people are collecting me be evolving. This blog only let me comment under a very very old Blogspot ID and didn't let me comment under my normal identity, but I sell books, and the ISO list from people who are not buying books merely for decorative purposes is a mile long. I cannot feel them all. Maybe you are just looking at teenagers you know or individuals in your family, but I assure you that it's alive and well for vintage and antique books.

Jennifer White said...

You missed the point of this post. The post begins with "series book collecting hobby." The post does not refer to book collecting in general, which indeed is doing fine. "Series books" is a specific collecting genre that refers to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton, and other very similar books from the 20th century. Collecting those books is on the decline, as reduced prices and interest from the last 10 years have shown.