e199. Nancy Drew & the Hidden Staircase to Pop Culture Immortality

Episode Artwork featuring various film and TV versions of Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew may be one of the most enduring figures in American Popular culture. First premiering in 1930, she predates Superman, Donald Duck, the Lone Ranger, two US states, FM radio, and the ball point pen. And yet — outside of her devoted fanbase — does not seem to garner the same respect of many other pop culture figures of her time. That said, she is nigh ubiquitous, in the history of American pop culture, even more so than her sister (brother?) series, the Hardy Boys. Over the course of 92 years she has been featured in hundreds of novels, as well as half a dozen films and four TV series as well as several video games, comics and other media. Nancy Drew books have been referenced by Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the formative and inspirational literature of their youth. The books are frequent mainstays of the New York Times bestseller list even today. And yet, for some reason there appears to remain some resistance to acknowledging its pop culture cache. Is there a reason for this or is it just sexism? (spoiler alert… it’s mostly sexism)

At the same time, the current CW television reboot of the Nancy Drew show has seen frequent think pieces on the internet written that criticize its reinterpretation of the character and her mythos. Like many CW shows, much of this criticism seems focused on the implied sexuality of the character and questions of the appropriateness of adapting a traditionally wholesome character in a more adult and illicit manner. Is this criticism warranted or is it based in a sexist vision of the appropriateness for female focused literature. (spoiler alert… If you are a fan of our show, you can likely already guess).

On today’s episode Mav and Monica are joined by returning guests Nicole Freim and Corinne Matthews as well as new guest Sandy Eckard to examine the complex history of Nancy Drew and her cultural appeal across the ages. We dive into the current show to investigate its appeal and the ways in which it is an innovative and important take on the character for both longtime fans and the uninitiated as well, as comparing her current incarnation to those of the past to discover if she was always as innocent as we seem to remember her (spoiler alert… yeah, of course not… but there’s also bonus racism and violence… there’s SOOO much to unpack here).

Whether you’ve seen the show, read the books, seen the movies, or none of the above, join us as we delve into all things Nancy Drew and try to convince you that there’s a lot more to her than you’ve probably guessed. And then, once you’ve listened, leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts.

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