Ladies We'd Like To Bring to Life: Nancy Drew

Posted at 8:20 AM Jun 10, 2009

By Geoff George

Name: Nancy Drew
Thumbnail image for DeadlyDoubles.jpg
Age: Either 16 or 18, depending on which series you read.
Height: Unknown
Hair: Sometimes blond, sometimes red, but always perfect
Intelligence: High
Moxie: Higher
Make-Up: Of course

Yes indeed, amongst female flatfoots, Nancy Drew reigns supreme. The young rogue has been hounding the criminals of River Heights (and more exotic locales; how does she pay for such trips?) since 1930. It was then that Edward Stratemeyer decided he needed a female counterpart to his Hardy Boys characters, created a few years earlier.

I myself know the character mostly through the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Super Mystery series, an offshoot of The Nancy Drew Files, a YA collection begun in the '80s and featuring a more mature Ms. Drew. Need proof it's more mature? Case #1, Secrets Can Kill, involves a car bomb. No joke. Still, Nancy and her team, the "curvy" Bess Marvin and "practical" George Fayne, plus her on-again-off-again, star-of-multiple-sports-teams boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, all of them exist in a nostalgically innocent world in which henchmen will knock you out before they'll kill you and the harshest expletive uttered is "shoot!"

Wanting to relive a bit of that nostalgia, I checked out from the public library Deadly Doubles, case #7 of The Files. It's an international tennis mystery set in Washington, D.C. Nancy is kidnapped inside of the first chapter, mistaken for someone else, and when the kidnappers realize their error, they drive her back and just drop her off at the very same spot! What does Nancy first do upon release? She takes a shower and fixes her makeup. Priorities.

That's the '80s for you, I suppose, but one hopes the character's creators have since wisened up just a bit.

I concede there are maybe more deserving (certainly more empowering) lady gumshoes I could wish to write into reality: Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Murder, She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher, Law & Order: SVU's Olivia Benson, or even the more recent Veronica Mars. But Nancy Drew's outlasted 'em all, and she's drawn her fair share of discussion within gender studies at the same time. Plus, I kinda feel she's the one who most needs the reality check. Is there any other fictional private eye with a good chance of double-checking her eyeshadow after a near-death experience?


Jessica said:

Nancy Drew has indeed spanned many generations and continues to do so. Part of Nancy's 'priorities' probably stemmed from the decade she was written in, but we still have to give her props for keeping the world in it's perfect order at the end of the day.

In 1998, we brought the Nancy Drew books to life with the Nancy Drew PC games. We made her a little less perfect and slightly more relatable to today's audience, although she still retains the same wholesomeness ('shoot' and 'dang' being her choice words) and politeness. Still, girls of all ages are challenged to step into the shoes of the supersleuth by interrogating suspects, searching for clues, and solving puzzles. For those looking for a hardcore case, try Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice from the Nancy Drew Adventure series and go undercover to infiltrate a crime ring for the Italian police. If you're into hidden object games, try Nancy Drew Dossier: Lights, Camera, Curses - where you'll have to find all the hidden clues and then use them together to solve the mystery. For more information, check out

Geoff said:

"Part of Nancy's 'priorities' probably stemmed from the decade she was written in, but we still have to give her props for keeping the world in it's perfect order at the end of the day."

Hell yeah. Maybe I had it wrong about Nancy needing a reality check. Maybe she'd just be that much more put together than I ever am WHILE still being smarter than me.

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