Monday, November 25, 2019

The Transformation of Nancy Drew into CW Nancy Drew

The Stratemeyer Syndicate switched from Grosset and Dunlap to Simon and Schuster for publication of new Nancy Drew books beginning in 1979.  The Stratemeyer Syndicate still fully controlled the series at that time.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was sold to Simon and Schuster in 1984.  This is where Nancy Drew began to evolve into a character very different from what she was under the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  1984 was 35 years ago.  It has been so many years since the evolution began that it is astonishing how shocked people are about Nancy Drew's portrayal in CW Nancy Drew.

People who were exposed only to the original Grosset and Dunlap books must be, for the most part, near 50 years of age or older.  I was exposed to some of the Wanderer books when young, and I am 47.  I expected for fans younger than me to be more aware of how Nancy Drew has changed since the Grosset and Dunlap books, but it seems that many of them were just as shocked about the series.

The people who say that the new show is nothing like the books have not followed the evolution of Nancy Drew since 1984.  They cannot have followed it, or they would not be so surprised by how Nancy Drew is depicted in the show.  The character has been changing for 35 years and is now but a tiny piece of a corporate conglomerate.

Nancy Drew is owned by Simon and Schuster, but Simon and Schuster is owned by CBS Corporation.  CBS Corporation and Warner Brothers own The CW.  This means that, for all practical purposes, the current rights holder to Nancy Drew is responsible for the current television series on The CW.  Wrap your mind around what that means.  CBS Corporation can do anything it wants with Nancy Drew.  And so here we are.

Even though CW Nancy Drew uses the names of the classic Grosset and Dunlap books as Easter eggs sprinkled generously through each episode, the show is not at all based on the Grosset and Dunlap books.  The show is only based on versions of Nancy Drew that have been created since 1984.

Let's go over how Nancy Drew has evolved since 1984.  The versions pertinent to this discussion will be the only ones mentioned.  All media are considered.  Some fans feel that only the original books count, but that is not true.  The modern books are just as important, and so are all forms of media.  The importance of the Nancy Drew games fandom cannot be overstated.  Those fans are Nancy Drew fans, whether they have read the books or not.  Fans of other media, such as the comic books, movies, and television series, are also Nancy Drew fans.

In particular, note when Nancy has committed breaking and entering and when she has been arrested.  Many fans, particularly of the Grosset and Dunlap editions, have the mistaken belief that Nancy has never broken the law or been arrested in any of the books.

Simon and Schuster 1984 - present

The Nancy Drew Digest series ran from 1979 to 2003.  Simon and Schuster controlled the content of the series beginning in 1984.  Burt and Dave were dropped from the series.  It was a bit silly for Nancy Drew to have five friends (Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave) who could travel around the world with her to solve mysteries.  By getting rid of the extra baggage, Bess and George could bring in mysteries involving various temporary boyfriends.  Ned sticks around.

Nancy does break into offices, hotel rooms, and other places in this series.  She uses either a lock pick or a credit card to open doors.  In one book, Nancy steals a master key to open a hotel room.

Simon and Schuster launched the Nancy Drew Files series in 1986.  This series ran until 1997.  In the Files, Nancy Drew investigates murder, which she never does in the original series.  Nancy and Ned do not get along, and Ned whines about Nancy's mysteries.  Nancy is arrested several times, and she quite often picks locks to break into various places.

The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mystery series ran from 1988 to 1998.  Nancy also picks locks and commits breaking and entering.  Both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys often break the law in this series.

The Nancy Drew On Campus series ran from 1995 to 1998.  This series was the first version to feature a gay character, and having a gay character in Nancy Drew adaptions becomes common by 2015.  George Fayne has sex and faces pregnancy fears.  The series deals with issues concerning drugs, date rape, and other modern teen issues.

The Nancy Drew Digest series ended in 2003, and the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series was launched.  Girl Detective ran from 2004 until 2012.  In Girl Detective, Nancy is thoroughly modernized.  She is imperfect, forgetful, and impulsive.  In #20 Getting Burned, Nancy breaks into a business to look for clues and is arrested.

CW Nancy Drew is sourced from all of these modern book series.

1995 Nancy Drew Television Series with Tracy Ryan

This version is based on the Nancy Drew Files series.  Ned is whiny and doesn't like Nancy's fixation on solving mysteries.

Nancy picks a lock to break into an office.  She also picks a lock to break into a house and then disables the alarm.  These are additional examples of breaking and entering.

Her Interactive 1997-present 

Nancy maintains her fearless personality quite well in the Nancy Drew games.  Furthermore, since the player is Nancy Drew, no one complains that she doesn't look right.  Nancy has quite a habit of breaking into buildings and taking things that don't belong to her.  The games wouldn't be much fun if Nancy were to avoid burglary and theft.  Nancy's behavior in the second episode of CW Nancy Drew is strongly inspired by her behavior in the Nancy Drew games.

A bulletin board featured in CW Nancy Drew in the police station is designed exactly like the bulletin boards seen in the Nancy Drew games.  One show features a scene in a pantry where there is a wine rack in front of a hidden safe.  The wine bottles are placed in the wine rack in a fashion that strongly resembles similar displays from the Nancy Drew games.

CW Nancy Drew has gone full-on supernatural, which is a distinct departure from the books.  However, the Her Interactive games have often had supernatural content.  In one game, Nancy goes around capturing ghosts.  The spirit seen in CW Nancy Drew looks very similar to the spirit seen in one of the Nancy Drew games.

A gay primary character is featured in Her Interactive's 2015 game, Sea of Darkness.

CW Nancy Drew is without doubt strongly based on the Nancy Drew games.  And interestingly, Her Interactive recently redesigned its Nancy Drew silhouette to match the silhouette seen in the title credits of CW Nancy Drew.

2002 Nancy Drew Pilot with Maggie Lawson

I remember the fan uproar over this version.  The movie opens with Nancy driving a car with her hands not on the wheel.  She also dodges in and out of traffic in a reckless fashion.  Nancy breaks into the athletic director's office and is arrested.

Nancy's behavior is much like the Nancy Drew of Nancy Drew Girl Detective, yet this movie came first.  Perhaps this movie inspired Nancy's characterization in the Girl Detective series.  In any case, the Nancy of this movie seems just like Nancy Drew Girl Detective.

Dynamite Comic Books 2017-2018

The Dynamite comic books relocate Nancy Drew to Bayport, where the Hardy Boys live.  The original draft of the pilot script for CW Nancy Drew also places Nancy Drew in Bayport.  By the time the show was filmed, the producers changed the location to Horseshoe Bay in Maine.  They likely did not wish to use River Heights because that name could be confused with Riverdale.

The Dynamite comic books feature George as Asian and lesbian.  George is Asian in CW Nancy Drew.  This development is logical, since George easily passes as an Asian girl, Chi Che Soong, in the 1961 book, The Mystery of the Fire Dragon.  Why not make George be Asian?

George is not lesbian in the television show, but another primary character is.

Since CW Nancy Drew uses several aspects of the comic books, it is definitely sourced from them.

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase 2019

Nancy also breaks and enters in this movie and is arrested for it.

Some fans don't like Nancy's portrayal in this movie, but she's not that different than Nancy Drew Girl Detective.  She's just younger.

George is African American in the 2019 movie.

George may no longer be Caucasian in future filmed versions.  Filmed versions will likely feature gay characters from this point on.

Simon and Schuster has so far avoided having any of the primary characters be gay or racially diverse in the Nancy Drew book series.  At some point in the future, that could change.

As the years pass and different people become involved with a franchise, the franchise takes on additional qualities that it never had before.  Some qualities may not stay with the franchise, but others will.

Are you exactly the same person you were earlier in life with no changes?  Nobody remains exactly the same.  Like all of us, Nancy Drew has changed over her lifespan, which in a few months will reach 90 years.  Nancy Drew will continue to change, regardless of what we think.  While new versions may not be based on the original 56 Nancy Drew books, those books will always be there for us.

1 comment:

A said...

The first Nancy I came into contact with was Nancy Drew Files, which were very updated for the time. Always seemed like they were trying to be a cross between Sweet Valley High and a Mystery of the Week tv show. As an adult, I personally prefer the 1930's version of the originals. They are so much more vivid. Yet at the same time, Nancy has always been for the young. Each generation tries to update her to appeal to the current generation. When I hear of new Nancy things being released, I try to think of things through that lens. They aren't for grownups, they are for the young. It's Nancy, but not my Nancy. And that's ok.