Recently the internet has been buzzing with the sudden news that executive producers Joan Rater and Tony Phelan (Grey’s Anatomy) will be bringing literature’s favorite girl sleuth to life on CBS, and this time there’s a twist. No more the innocent, spunky youth we’ve come to love — this incarnation of Nancy Drew exists as a NYPD detective in her 30’s with modern technology to aid her abilities (although hopefully we’ve learned a thing or two from her awkward 2007 film when it comes to anachronisms).
I’m not gonna lie, if you think adapting Wonder Woman for the screen has been tricky it only gets worse trying to refresh a character whose history extends even further. Yet there’s something timeless about Nancy’s tenacity and optimism that has allowed her popularity to endure for generations. I still remember having that library card on lock in elementary school and, while the series lasted, a thick stack of bright yellow Nancy Drew books to cart home weekly during the summers. Was it her fulfillment of Eurocentric beauty standards and conservative middle class upbringing that made her mystery-solving adventures so attractive? Of course not, and if the premise has already demonstrated a departure from the source material there’s absolutely no reason Nancy couldn’t be written for a person of color. After all, CBS already gave us an unheard of re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes mythos with Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson in Elementary, and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow brought the melanin to the literary forefront by starring Nicole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills. There’s a winning formula here just waiting to be reused.
While I’m hoping this isn’t one of those ploys to just write another gritty cop drama (because we’ve already seen that fail a million times and we’re tired of it), I also think the NYPD angle could create some necessary discussion as well. Here’s a short list of episode ideas I think our modern Nancy could tackle:
- Nancy Drew and the Ghost of a Slave Economy
- Nancy Drew and the Mystery of How a Clock Looks Like A Bomb But Nobody Called the Bomb Squad
- Nancy Drew and the Hidden Reason Asian Americans Are Still Being Targeted By the Government
- Nancy Drew and the Quest to Prevent the Murders of Trans and Queer People
- Nancy Drew and the Secret to Dismantling the Kyriarchy
- Black Lives Matter (the entire episode is just Nancy Drew unflinchingly yelling at White police officers that Black lives matter over and over again while the names of Black victims of police brutality appear on the screen).
Okay. So perhaps there’s only so many lines that network television is willing to cross when it comes to their precious viewership. Regardless, it’s been almost a century since the character of Nancy Drew first appeared and it’s high time we stop acting as though her enduring symbolism should be tied to a White cis hetero allo middle class identity. I can’t guarantee that this will be the moment that it happens, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. Your move, CBS.