Monday, June 25, 2007

The Case of the Missing Sidekicks

I’ve been interested in the new Nancy Drew movie because, like a lot of now-adult women, I was a big fan of the books when I was a kid. They were actually hard to come by, unlike many other books. My grandmothers gave me them for my birthdays, or sometimes I got them from a friend, but they were relatively expensive hardcovers, so they were never acquired casually. And the library, the source of all my other reading material, didn’t have them – couldn’t keep them, they said, when I got up my nerve to ask. They were checked out and never returned so often that they didn’t buy them any more. (As someone who had thought about doing the same thing with a few of her favorite books, I completely understood.) By the time I had an allowance, and could support my own book habit, I had moved on, but I still remembered them with great fondness.

I liked the mysteries, of course. Nancy – and the game of Clue that the Coopers left behind in the basement cabinets when they moved – are probably the source of my life-long fondness for the genre. I liked the fact that Nancy’s father was a lawyer, and was thoroughly annoyed that my father never brought home the kinds of cases that Carson Drew had. I liked the fact that Nancy had her own car –I even had some of the early versions of the books, in which the car was a “roadster.” I didn’t know exactly what a roadster was, but it sounded good. (And now that I do know, I still want one.)

The thing I liked best, though, was that, if you wanted to play Nancy Drew, there were parts for three girls. This was important, because my best friend had a big sister who was just two years older than we were, and the three of us always ended up playing together. This was great when it was board games, like Monopoly or Clue or Life, but harder when it was something imaginary. Take Star Trek, for example. There was only one girl in the cast, Lieutenant Uhura; Spock was an OK part, and I always liked Scotty, but none of us really wanted to be Kirk or McCoy, and you kind of needed Kirk to run things. (This was complicated by the fact that none of us had ever actually seen the show. We were going by a Big Golden Book that I had bought in the supermarket.) Sherlock Holmes was equally problematic: only two good parts – one, really, though our Dr. Watson always had more sense than the original - unless we could persuade the big sister to be Moriarty, which she wisely refused.

But Nancy Drew…. Nancy Drew had three parts, Nancy and her best friends and co-investigators, George and Beth. And they were all girls, so nobody had to pretend to be a boy to play. (Yes, George was a girl.) Admittedly, my best friend usually claimed Nancy for herself, because it was her house, and then her sister and I would argue over who got to be George, but even if you got stuck with Beth, she wasn’t all that bad. She was still part of all the investigations, and she wasn’t really a “fraidy-cat,” just a little squeamish. (Or at least that’s how I remember we tacitly agreed to portray her.) My friends’ house had a semi-finished walk-out basement, and there was an area where you could pretend you were in a mine tunnel. Nancy, George, and Beth investigated a lot of lost Wild West gold, especially after my family went on a western vacation and I read about rustlers and miners and the like.

So you can imagine my shock as I read the reviews of the new movie, and didn’t find a single mention of young actresses playing George and Beth. In fact, all they talk about is that dorky Ned Nickerson, and some kid named Corky. What’s happened to George and Beth? How can you do a Nancy Drew movie without them? And why aren’t any reviewers – even the ones who claim to have liked the books when they were younger – mentioning this omission? Have Beth and George been written out of the books, too?

And that would be a shame, because their presence was important, particularly at a time when there weren’t very many books for girls in which more than one girl was allowed to have an adventure – in which girls were allowed to be friends and have adventures.

It’s even more a shame that none of the reviewers have noticed the Missing Sidekicks.


At 2:49 PM, Blogger enderFP said...

NO GEORGE!!!!????

that's it, i'm not seeing the movie, then. bah.

then again, i somehow managed to con my friends into playing the hardy boys nearly as often as we played nancy drew. tho annette and i often fought over who played george, hardy boys was easy ... i was always joe.

At 6:32 PM, Blogger M-H said...

Did you read the parody books which came out in the early nineties, in which the whole thing was a lesbian farce? Mabel Maney wrote them and they were very funny. I think there were three or four of them.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger edired said...

jidvqlAs a guy who grew up [childhood ] in the fifties I guess I missed out . 1962 I discovered Ace double books [Sci Fi ] and never looked back . My list Scott .... Mac Avoy .... Cherryh .... Spencer .... Shinn and on and on Butcher [ Jim ] .... Burke [James Lee and Alafair ] As far as I can tell the only ones inertesred in gender should be the ones wearing them .

At 10:52 AM, Blogger edired said...

jidvqlAs a guy who grew up [childhood ] in the fifties I guess I missed out . 1962 I discovered Ace double books [Sci Fi ] and never looked back . My list Scott .... Mac Avoy .... Cherryh .... Spencer .... Shinn and on and on Butcher [ Jim ] .... Burke [James Lee and Alafair ] As far as I can tell the only ones interested in gender should be the ones wearing them . A new Scott book .... A new MacAvoy WANT YOU BACK IN PRINT

At 1:22 AM, Blogger greenegret said...

I adore Mable Maney's parodies... There were only three, sadly. I was already doubtful about the movie, because they seem to be making Nancy kind of a dope, but if there's no George and Bess, it's not true enough for me.

I only like book-to-movie movies if they are actually true to the spirit, and Ned was always just a place-holder. George and Bess were actually important, at least in most of the books. They weren't even in the first few, oddly enough - there was somebody called Helen or Harriet or something.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Jude M said...

According to the IMDB listing (, Bess and George exist in the movie. Whether they do more than cameo, of course, is another question.

It's funny: I never got into Nancy Drew. The way they were conveyed to me, they were "girly" books. So I read the Hardy Boys, and eventually moved on to Trixie Belden, who was, at least, a tomboy. (I completely expect Trixie to've grown up to try to have a relationship with Jim, failed, and then come out as a lesbian in college...) But then again, I played boys by choice in pretend games. :}

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Spa News Hound said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Spa News Hound said...

Now I've got to read Nancy Drew again! I had a precious couple of the old fat blue hardcovers from when MY mother was a girl.

But Nancy Drew without Beth and George? Forget it. They should call it something else. And apologize to the legions of fans for the betrayal.

I agree about MacAvoy and a new Scott book DEFINITELY.


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