Not Your Childhood Classics: ‘Nancy Drew’ Focuses on Race and Homosexuality

Another week, another liberal racial episode of the CW’s Nancy Drew. This is obviously not the beloved character you may remember from the classic childhood series by Carolyn Keene. And, now, it looks like the show is going to help promote a spinoff with yet another liberalized version of a beloved childhood character from another book series – Victor Appleton’s Tom Swift.

Wednesday’s episode, “The Celestial Visitor,” introduced Tom (Tian Richards) at the start as he helps Nancy (Kennedy McMann) and the “Drew Crew” solve a mystery. Only, because it’s 2021, this version of Tom Swift is black and gay.

Nancy’s ex-boyfriend Nick (Tunji Kasim) is happy to no longer be the only black man in town and he and Tom bond over their shared frustrations with white people. When Tom asks Nick how he became part of the Drew Crew, before Nick can answer, Tom quips, “You met some white people? Got into their nonsense? Tiger Woods syndrome.”

Nick’s current girlfriend George (Leah Lewis), who is Asian, worries that Nick is showing a side of himself to Tom that he doesn’t show to her. Nick admits he doesn’t always share his frustrations with her. As an example, he tells her about a white man who frequently comes into the restaurant they work at, The Claw, “who loves to sing along with rap lyrics, and he says the ‘N’ word a lot,” Nick explains.

George asks why he doesn’t tell the man to stop saying that word. Nick says it’s because he’ll just ask why Nick gets to say it, but he doesn’t. “And then I have to argue with them about how that word is offensive,” Nick elaborates, “knowing full well that they are not gonna hear me. Explaining yourself all the time is just exhausting. It’s easier just to keep quiet than be the angry black guy.”

He then asks why George never mentions him on her social media and guesses it’s because of her family. “Maybe you don’t want them to see you with a black man,” he says. George later admits he was right, and they end up bonding over racial stereotypes:

George: What you said before, about not posting pictures of us… I was hiding you. My grandfather is on social media, and sometimes older Chinese people can be prejudiced towards black people. And I didn’t want any of his toxic crap to get in the way of us.

Nick: Well… I can’t promise my friends back in Miami Gardens won’t say something… reckless about me dating an Asian girl, either.

George: Oh. Would they expect me to be harmless, submissive and well-behaved? Why do you think I’m so prickly sometimes? ‘Cause the world expects me to be polite and super high-achieving and… Awesome at math.

Nick: That sounds frustrating.

George: Maybe not as frustrating as having white guys argue with you about why they can use racial slurs.

Nick: Tell you what. I’ll watch Friends with you if you watch Coming to America with me. Next time that jackass comes in, I’ll just tell him he can’t do racist karaoke in our restaurant.

George: And I’ll be right there next to you with a skillet to enforce it.

Tom shares in the victimhood, too, telling Nancy he can’t come out to his father because he doesn’t want to be seen as “his gay disappointment.” In the end, though, Tom decides to send a strong message to his father by getting Nick, who is straight, to kiss him for a picture he ends up posting on his social media for his father to see.

In an interview with Yahoo! News, Richards was quoted about his feelings on Tom Swift being a gay, black man in the upcoming, new spinoff:

“When I read the books, I wasn’t able to relate to the source material for several reasons. Because in the early 1910s and ’20s, the all-American boy was represented by this blond-haired, blue-eyed white kid that was of the times. But now to see me, this 20-something black queer man step into that and to be just as cool and to see the world represented and reflected how it is now? If I were just watching it as a viewer, for my younger self to see that, I mean, come on, I get goosebumps just thinking about that! You think about how different life would be if that existed in my childhood.”

When asked what bringing Tom Swift to series means to him, he explained:

“Fingers crossed, prayers up, God willing, if everything goes, Tom would be the first black, gay, male lead on network TV. That’s not lost on me because we’re still making so much progress in the black community, in the LGBTQIA community, and a lot of doors still need to be broken down.”

Fingers crossed, prayers up, God willing, I would just like to watch television without a liberal lecture and not have anymore classic childhood characters politicized.

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