Teenage sleuth Nancy Drew will be coming to the small screen courtesy of CBS Productions, and I for one couldn’t be happier. As a child, there was nothing more I wanted to do than to grow up and be a detective like Drew. I had read all of the books by the time I was in third grade, and I envisioned that my teenage and college years would be full of crime, secrets, hidden fortunes and amazing adventures. These books led me to realize that it was important to be smart, confident and to follow your dreams. While I was unaware of it at the time, this series was formative to how I conduct myself now. I’m not a detective and I don’t run around with my best friends solving mysteries, but I refuse to let myself be put down simply because I am a young woman in a society that is male-dominated. Drew understood and dealt with this constantly. Drew was an important literary role model for me and, with the news that Drew will be a non-Caucasian character, she has the opportunity to influence and be a positive role model for a new generation of young girls across different ethnicities and a proper reflection of the diversity of our country in an era with limited ethnic stars on television.
The lack of representation for minorities, especially females, on mainstream television is problematic; it leaves a gap in terms of respectable role models that hopefully Drew can fill. It is vital to the mental health of young people to have someone to look up to. Drew is a strong character, who is not defined by her looks, but rather her intelligence and skill; there shouldn’t be any problem with her being of Hispanic, Asian or African American descent. It sends a powerful message to young girls of any race that they can — and should — be successful and respected.
Which is why, on the heels of a very white Oscars, the news that CBS is planning on having a television show with a non-white Drew deserves more attention. It is a chance for a person of color to step into the shoes of an iconic figure and step out of the stereotype or side character that minority actors are often reduced too. I applaud CBS, who made the decision to “cast color-conscious,” and add a show that is a small, but important step nonetheless, toward bridging the gap in terms of equal representation in film and television.
Over the past few years, there have been some attempts to bring diversity to well-known figures. Some television shows, like “Hawaii 5-0” and “Elementary” have changed the gender of a supporting character; however, the main character is still a heterosexual white male. Sure, a checkmark was made on a little sheet, but I don’t think one female character makes up for the large gender imbalance seen on screen — and the number of women that are relegated to love interests only.
There is always a mixed reaction to taking “beloved” characters and changing an aspect of them. There was a very poor reception to Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Johnny Storm in the reboot of the Fantastic Four movies. However, there have also been extremely positive responses to having a non-Caucasian take over a previously held Caucasian role like Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel and the first Muslim superhero to headline her own comic book.
What I see as the difference between these two is the mediums that they are from — one is on the big screen and the other is still trapped in the pages of her comic book. We are so accustomed to seeing people like Chris Hemsworth as the hero that our brains reject seeing someone like Lupita Nyong’o as someone who could save the day.
I think that people who are up-in-arms about these changes need to reevaluate themselves. Much of the sources that these are based on are outdated and, in some cases, created before Civil Rights was even enacted. We live in a modern and diverse society — and that should be reflected in popular media. Our television and movies should have characters that mirror the composition of our society, not yet another series focusing on a heterosexual white male with a token minority character simply to claim “diversity.”
People are blinded by their own bigotry when it comes to recognizing the lack of diversity in television and film media. We need to have more of a balance in the types of characters, not only the leads, but the supporting characters as well, in order to fix this large racial and gender imbalance. Right now, it is recognized and applauded when an entertainment industry makes a show that features a main character that is non-Caucasian. But this should not be news. There should be a healthy mix of various racial and gendered leads for television shows so that one day it is not news that a previously conceived character, such as Drew, will not be white. We as a society need to recondition ourselves to expect to see many diverse roles on television and in movies; it is a reflection of our culture and our country.
There is no need for yet another white, heterosexual male main character; that is not a recipe for a show to be successful. The lead of “Quantico,” which premiered earlier this year, is Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who won a People’s Choice award. If that mentality holds true, then there should be no reason why Drew should have negative reception. There is so much more at stake here than checking off a diversity tick mark for an entertainment company; this is an opportunity for those who are generally not represented to have someone to look up to. While there is no release date set yet, I look forward to watching a modern take on Drew’s character.