Nancy Drew just turned 90 and — surprise! — she was murdered. That’s right: in honor of the comic book sleuth’s 90th birthday, the writer of the the monthly series Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys, Anthony Del Col, decided that the best move for the titular, feminist icon for young girls everywhere, was to murder her and let two boys investigate her murder instead of her being the star of her own story.
That the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are working together is no big deal. Crossover editions of both amateur sleuths have been published for decades and they often work together to solve mysteries and catch criminals. But Nancy Drew has never been murdered in service of the Hardy Boys — and to do it on her 90th birthday, no less, is a… strange choice.
It reads a lot like Del Col decided to fridge one of the most beloved feminist icons ever written into being. Fridging, for the unfamiliar, is a trope in comic books, television shows, movies, books — pretty much every single piece of pop culture ever written — when a woman character is murdered, raped, injured, or otherwise disempowered in service of a man’s motivation to go on some great adventure or avenge the death of the woman who died.
Green Lantern, in 1994, literally had the main character’s girlfriend killed and stuffed her in a refrigerator. It happens a lot — last year’s The Boys, a cult-popular, super nuanced take on superheroes and the military-industrial complex — fridged a main character’s girlfriend, which spurned the entire arc of his character. Watchmen arguably has a lot of problems with the way it handles female characters (even when they are superheroes.) Deadpool 2, the popular sequel to a satirical take on the superhero, fridged a woman that Ryan Reynolds titular character saved in the sequel almost immediately. Books have been written on it. It’s, uh, a very overused trope and it’s not good.
But it’s even worse when it happens to the main character of her own story. For the vast majority of fridging, the tortured women aren’t the main characters — they’re sidenotes. But to do it to Nancy Drew — Nancy Drew! — who has had stories and books in syndication since 1930, almost 100 years — in her own story! — is pretty embarrassing. And, of course, it could be a twist — Drew might be alive and the plot point could be a fake-out. Maybe? But does that actually make it any better? No. No, it doesn’t.
So, anyway. Happy birthday, Nancy Drew. The writers of your story got you a present: the gift of being sidelined and murdered for two boys you sometimes work with who aren’t as interesting or popular as you.