Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nancy v. Britney

This morning on the eliptical I caught a really great segment on Good Morning America about women leaders who used to read and were inspired by Nancy Drew books when they were girls. Dianne Sawyer talks to and about several very powerful women who cite themselves as childhood fans, including herself, Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton, and Sonya Sotomayor. The segment goes on to outline the series, and talk about some of the qualities that make Nancy such a positive influence on girls - she is smart, brave, funny, modest, dresses smartly, cherishes her girlfriends, and always stands up for what is right.

You know - kind of like Paris Hilton.

The segment goes on to further talk about how when the series started almost eighty years ago, it provided one of the first independent, strong role models for adolescent girls to look up to. For decades, young women poured over the books, myself included in the late '80s. Even though around the age of ten I recognized the stories as being pretty formulaic, I devoured almost all of the hundred or so books in the original series. (I was never a fan of the slightly racier, more modern ones that came later.) I loved Nancy because she represented everything that I would have liked to be as a young woman. She was poised and loved by everyone, and constantly having different adventures. She drove an awesome blue convertible, and her two best friends and cute boyfriend completely rounded out the picture. Who wouldn't want to live Nancy's life?

It really depresses me now to see young girls idolize people like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Don't get me wrong - I frequently indulge in a good Britney song. Hell, I even like the Miley Cyrus singles that I hear on the radio. But the thing is, I'm old and smart enough to know that the persona that these people present to the world is not realistic. I'm sure Miley is a nice enough kid, but we shouldn't fantasize about living her life. Britney releases good tracks, but good Lord, there is certainly nothing glamorous about her life. The thing that scares me is that most teenage girls aren't really able to make the distinction between enjoying a good pop song every once in a while and actually attempting to follow in their footsteps. The latter would most certainly lead to disaster. If a random young girl attempted to emulate Britney, she would very quickly end up mentally deranged, exposed to the world, bald, and more than likely sans Brit's substantial fortune. Not a pretty picture.

Whereas on the other hand, if anyone tried to be like Nancy Drew, they couldn't go wrong. They might not literally end up as an eighteen year old detective, but they'd be classy, smart, hard-working, cherished by friends, full of great stories to tell, and would have a handsome, loyal boyfriend. That all sounds pretty great, huh?

Now, admittedly I do not know a lot of tween girls, but I'm guessing that more of them are familiar with Miley, Britney and Paris than Nancy, Bess and George. (Who, by the way, I'm thinking was one of the first lesbian characters in teen lit. Oh, come on! George was totally les. And fabulous.) So where does that leave us? Are these currently coming-of-age girls doomed to never aspire to anything besides Brazillian waxes and big sunglasses? Or are there enough positive influences out there to shine light onto those who are smart enough to bask in it?

I don't know the answer. Like I said, I am actually pretty far removed from that demographic. But I hope that there are, because one thing I can say definitively is that it was an awful lot of fun to sit around as a little girl and picture myself in some on Nancy's adventures, and to know that one day I would have my own.


Anonymous Hungry Dog said...

Good post. I loved Nancy Drew too and devoured those books. I don't have kids but if I did I would be pretty worried about the icons they're looking up to. It does not bode well for the future...

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Erin said...

I know! EEK. The thought of procreating in today's world is scary. Well, scary in general, but ESPECIALLY in today's world. :)

1:02 PM  
Anonymous cynthia newberry martin said...

I loved The Bobbsey Twins series when I was young. I was so excited to receive a new one for Christmas or my birthday. And my parents or grandparents would write on the front page. I still have those books now. It's true that the formula aspect of the stories mattered not at all. Your post makes me want to go reread one right now.

11:30 AM  

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