Culture News

Nancy Drew Isn't Really Dead

They just want you to think she is.

Every week of 2020 will likely end with the same resounding chorus: "What a weird week."

The week of January 19th was no exception. In the past few days we saw the deaths of two cultural icons who helped to shape American culture for the past 90+ years. First, we saw the demise of Mr. Peanut, a gay cannibal who ultimately succumbed to the pressures of capitalism. Now, still reeling from that shock, we're forced to deal with the passing of Detective Nancy Drew.

A new monthly comic from Dynamite, meant to celebrate the young sleuth's 90th year in print, will reportedly be called Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew fans all over the world are outraged at this news and not just because the story of one of their favorite characters is finally coming to a close. Many feel that the decision to kill Drew and then put the spotlight on male detectives' efforts to solve her murder completely undermines the Nancy Drew franchise's legacy of empowering young girls. Indeed, iconic women like Sandra Day O'Connor and Hillary Rodham Clinton have specifically cited Nancy Drew as a source of feminist inspiration. Many angry fans took to Twitter to lament this decision:

But many fans are refusing to accept the news of Nancy's imminent demise and are instead sharing their theories about a clever twist that will reveal Nancy is alive after all.

While it's a good thing that we have collectively become aware of the patriarchal tendencies in the art we love, it's also worth noting that it is simply too soon to say what will really become of Nancy Drew in this new comic series. As many people pointed out on Twitter, Nancy Drew books have always outpaced The Hardy Boys in popularity since they came out, which—from a purely capitalist perspective—makes it seem unlikely that Nancy will be completely eliminated while The Hardy Boys are allowed to live on. Not only that, but if the big drama of this new series is going to be Nancy's death, then why would they choose to announce it in the title? Its much more likely that she will prove one and for all her ability to outsmart the boys whose toxic masculinity make them believe they have the chops to solve crimes (when in reality they just end up in tricky situations they have to find their way out of, which is not the same as being a detective). Or perhaps she will finally inspire them to harness the interrogative powers of the male gaze so they act on the rates of violence against women in this country. Or maybe we'll finally learn that Nancy Drew is actually canonically gay and she simply faked her death in order to run off with a female lover.

Its more than likely that our favorite sleuth has more tricks up her sleeve, and we'll see her solving mysteries for many more years to come.

But, if Nancy Drew really has solved her last mystery, then Dynamite comics better prepare for a storm of vitriol from a generation of young women inspired by the cunning and courage of a young, female sleuth.

Music Lists

Happy Birthday, Elliott Smith: The Indie Rock Legend's 10 Best Songs

The singer-songwriter would have been 51 today.

JJ Gonson

Today, August 6, 2020, Elliott Smith would have turned 51 years old.

Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, raised in north Texas, and spent a good portion of his life in Portland, Oregon before settling in Los Angeles. Before his sudden and mysterious death in 2003, the prolific singer-songwriter released five studio albums of poignant, rootsy indie rock, with his sixth studio album and a compilation of rarities being released posthumously. He became known for his dismal lyrics—often referencing his mental health and substance abuse habits—and his distinctively whispery vocals, which he often double-tracked to create an eerie, textured ambiance.

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Marvel To Feature Its First Transgender Superhero

Fans think the character will be an angel.

Here's some good news to start your new year off right: A trans superhero is coming to Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Kevin Feige confirmed the news in a Q&A at New York Film Academy. When asked if the studio would ever have a transgender character, the Marvel Studios president said, "Yes, absolutely. Yes," adding that a trans character is appearing "very soon, in a movie that we're shooting right now" and clarifying that more trans and LGBTQ+ characters would be making an appearance.

It seems that Feige and Marvel are finally understanding that representation matters—and pays. "You look at the success of 'Captain Marvel' and 'Black Panther.' We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen," he said.

While it's unfortunate (although expected) that Marvel's decision to increase diversity in its casting is connected to whether or not these choices will make a profit, the decision to create a trans superhero is an important step in normalizing the trans identity.

Most likely, Marvel's trans character will appear in Thor: Love and Thunder, as last summer the film's cast list included a trans woman. Fans believe that the character will be the angel Sera, who "descends from a group of all-male angels but who has transitioned to a female identity," according to MSN.

Marvel's History of Transgender Representation

Regardless, Marvel's new trans characters won't technically be the franchise's first trans superhero. That honor belongs to Rebekah, a child transgender activist who was the subject of a recent Marvel documentary, which aired on Disney Plus as part of their Hero Project series. They turned Rebekah, a Christian and a transgender girl, into a hero named "Mightly Rebekah."

Marvel's Hero Project Clip: Mighty Rebekah

Whoever plays Marvel's first big-screen trans character also won't be their first trans actor. In 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home, trans actor Zach Barack played one of Peter Parker's friends, though his gender identity didn't feature into the plot.

In an interview, Barack emphasized the importance of trans representation onscreen. He explained that superhero movies, in particular, always "felt like [trans stories] because [they're] talking about identity." Superhero films, he explained, are "about separating what people know about you and what they don't. And I think that's something I kind of live with every day. And on top of that, I don't see a lot of trans-masculine people on television or trans men specifically, and getting to be part of that is beyond unreal."

What Is Your Origin Story? | Zach Barack | TEDxBoulder

Ramping Up Representation: The Eternals and Representation Firsts

The MCU's first trans character is just the latest in a series of firsts for the company in terms of LGBTQ+ representation. The franchise will also feature its first gay character in the film The Eternals, which will star Richard Madden as Ikaris, "a levitating immortal with teleporting and vaporising powers and abundance of cosmic energy," who also happens to be in a committed and loving gay marriage.

Marvel's Eternals (2020) Teaser

Among other upcoming firsts: The Eternals will also feature the MCU's first deaf character, and Marvel's first Asian-American star will feature in the film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, set to debut in 2021.

The MCU character Valkyrie is apparently bisexual, according to actress Tessa Thompson, who stated, "In the canon, [Valkyrie] is bisexual. You see her with women and men, so that was my intention in playing her," she told Variety. "Obviously, at the forefront of most of these stories is not typically their romantic life. They have big stakes, like saving the world, so that tends to sort of trump." Even so, the film Thor: Ragnarok received some criticism for erasing Valkyrie's bisexuality.

In most superhero movies, in order to save the world, heroes have to learn to embrace their inner strength and the powers that make them special and exceptional. Maybe the parallels between trans narratives and superhero stories aren't exact—but they're certainly not mutually exclusive, and combining the two will likely only strengthen them both.

Let's hope that they continue this tradition and hire more diverse representation across all their teams, including their writing staff and managerial board. Marvel is incredibly influential in shaping ideas about masculinity, heroism, and cultural norms at large, and therefore their decision to question and challenge archetypal gender roles will likely ripple across culture in the way that no number of tweets or academic papers about transgender identities could.