Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Loving Nancy Drew Is a One-way Street

When I was about 9 years old I thought Nancy Drew was the most exciting person I’d ever heard of. She was AWESOME! She was smart and brave and pretty and everyone liked her (except for those pesky bad guys, but they didn’t count). She had lots of talents too, which helped her blend in when she was busy solving cases.

As a grown up I still look back fondly on Nancy. She was spunky. She was a pretty good example of a girl who could think for herself.

[And besides, while reading her book I learned 6 different words to describe being surprised that all started with the letter ‘A’: Astonished! Astounded! Amazed! Appalled! Agape! Alarmed! Life was startling in Nancy’s world – you needed good words to describe it.]

Once I had a good laugh with my friend Bonnie as we reminisced about all the things we’d both loved about Nancy: her two best friends, sporty George and plump Bess. Her powder blue roadster. Her lawyer father Carson Drew and her housekeeper mother-figure, Hannah Gruen. The three girls’ “special friends” Ned Nickerson, Bert and Dave. Nancy’s Titian hair and dancing eyes. It was a funny conversation.

That conversation inspired me to re-visit Nancy and that’s when I made a discovery: loving Nancy Drew is a one-way street. You can’t go back in time. If you loved her at 10, do not try to love her again at 25 or 30. It can’t be done. To a grown-up’s eyes, Nancy is the kind of too-perfect ‘droid you'd want to throw bricks at. She’s 19, brighter than all criminals, smarter than all the law-enforcing adults in her town and 3 neighboring states, she can pick up any skill at all if it’s needed to solve a mystery (fly a plane, dance on pointe, write or break code, paint a portrait, perform a marionette play, carve a statue, use judo on a bad guy, perform a routine on a trapeze, ride a race horse, bake a gourmet cake, swim for miles, defeat a professional tennis player, and on, and on…), and she treats poor Ned *dreadfully*. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone with the unlikely name Ned Nickerson, but believe me, you will. That poor sap has been hanging around for 85 years and he only gets a mention now and then. And if Nancy’s having a good time on a dude ranch with a twinkle-eyed cowpoke named Hank, then poor faithful Ned doesn’t even get a cameo!

A few years ago I was hooked on the television show ‘Alias.’ I wasn’t an uncritical fan, but on the whole I was loyal because the heroine was brilliant, brave, pretty, could outsmart bad guys… there’s definitely a pattern here! But Sydney had inner as well as outer strength, and a human vulnerability that you just can’t find in the Nancy Drew storybooks. As a grown up I find those traits a necessary foil to a heroine's apparent perfection.

There are other childhood favorites that stand up to revisiting. It’s fun to go back and see the heroes of your youth recast through adult eyes – you can pick up on so many things your younger self never noticed. But not Nancy Drew. Nope. You gotta love that girl sleuth from afar, friends. Nancy is one of those aging stars who looks better through the soft-focus lens of memory.


Princess in Galoshes said...

I feel the same way about Encyclopedia Brown.

Just a little too smart, and surrounded by people just a little too dumb.

CrownLaidDown said...

There's a Nancy Drew movie coming out this summer...did you know that? I found your blog through Boomama's. I want to go to Australia some day...when our kids are grown, you know, like in 20 years?
Have a great trip!
Holly Smith
Monument, CO

kalyn said...

There is a Nancy Drew movie coming out this summer some time. :)

Holymama! said...

Agog! The best of all! AGOG!

kittyhox said...

Oh gosh. Nancy Drew. Yes I liked her too. I haven't read her in years, but I did buy a starter set for my future daughter. (I currently have a one year old son).

I reread the Little House series a few years back and they did not disappoint. Also, Anne of Green Gables is still a wonderful read.

But I won't revisit Nancy until I'm reading them with my own daughter some day.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. :) And hello from Seattle!