Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book #52: The Secret of the Forgotten City

Nancy vs. racially stereotyped villains...and herself

Our tale starts with Nancy helping a woman, Mrs. Wabash, who was assaulted and robbed on her way to see Nancy.  Apparently, she had some mysterious and age-old stone tablets that would lead to a treasure she wanted a world-famous girl detective to help her find.  However, an early entrance by our main villain, aptly named Fleetfoot Joe (because he's fast, doiii) stymies the young detective off the bat.  Just as Mrs. Wabash is explaining the case, Nancy's friends waltz in and announce a surprise dig in Nevada where the gold is rumored to be.

Coincidence much?!!!  Mrs. Wabash attempts to explain that she heard the detective was going on the dig, but I'm just not buying it this time, guys.  After years of completely unbelievable serendipity, this is where I'm drawing the line.  Either Mrs. Wabash is secretly evil, or I call SHENANIGANS.

Anyhow, Fleetfoot was only able to make off with one of the less important tablets, but is on Nancy right away when he discovers her involvement, trying to snatch the other tablets.  At one point he grabs Togo (not TOGO!) and says he's going to shoot the dog if he doesn't get his tablets.  For several harrowing hours, Nancy and her friends think Togo is laying out there shot, when he returns home good as new.  Hooray!  Then, because Fleetfoot Joe clearly doesn't know how to hold a captive for ransom, he sends a note after Togo's return that contains vague threats about how he could have shot Togo and something worse might happen if Nancy doesn't get him the stone tablet given to her by Mrs. Wabash.  Uhhhh, you already didn't shoot Togo, guy.  It's a little too late to ask for something in return.

Nancy, being a frikkin' level A genius, hand chips away a fake stone tablet with similar but slightly off clues.  She then proceeds to age the tablet with chimney soot, and totally trick FJ into buying her charade of a tablet.  However, when the boys (Ned, Burt and Dave) head to the dropoff location, they are surrounded and a spectacular kicking of asses ensues.  Nancy (being an off the charts level MASTERMIND) blows a police whistle to make the thugs think the cops are rushing in, and the boys are saved.  This was the best part of the book by the way, as the rest of the story pretty much blows.

The gang heads to Nevada and a rather diffuse and boring tale ensues.  The only thing that brought me out of my bored haze was the rampant racial stereotyping of Native Americans.  The fact that they are referred to as "Indians" for the whole book made me cringe a little, but I can accept that given the time and setting of the book.  What I couldn't get past was the insinuations that people of mixed race are not to be trusted (Fleetfoot Joe is half "Indian" and, again. a villain is described in terms relative to his "darkness" of skin, eyes and expressions) and the general mockery of Native American culture. Their guide is made fun of for thinking that a white woman would be cursed for wearing a Native American artifact, and Burt does a not-so-hilarious skeleton dance in which he says "I'm from a different civilization!" in an overtly spooky voice. (Have I referenced that scene in Fututrama yet?  Well, I'll do it again: "I'm not from here!  I have my own customs!  Look at my CRAZY PASSPORT!"). There is also an actual scene where Nancy and her friends are listening to names called over a loudspeaker in the hotel lobby and giggling at surnames like "Rainbow" and "Antler."  When they meet Miss Antler, she seems apologetic for her own name and uncomfortably takes part in her own mocking.  It's the first scene of any Nancy Drew book where I really feel like Nancy and her friends are children.

Of course, Nancy and her pals find the gold--or was it jewels?  I don't remember, with all the boredom and cultural guilt washing over me.  But I need to talk about something really important.  It's time for a mini episode of...


Too Fat to Ride an Alpaca: 
The Mysterious Fat Shaming of Bess Marvin

     Bess Marvin had finally thrown caution to the wind, and was preparing a grilled cob of corn with cheese in her ever-empty house, when George strode in.  

"Hey, fatty," George said with her trademark sensitivity, "Pack up your clothes.  We're going on a dig with Nancy and the boys, which will probably include a dangerous mystery and a lot of physical exertion."

"But, I was just..." Bess began, sighing.

"Take your cheese corn with you," George sniped.  "Time to go!"

As always,, Bess complied.  Even though she really didn't have the stomach for these mysteries anymore and was starting to wonder if she'd ever find any interests of her own, she loved Nancy like a sister and George was family.  Tactless, bitchy family.  And at least she would get to see Dave.  He teased her from time to time, but seemed to enjoy her curves and femininity.

Bess had barely arrived in Nevada when George laughingly zings her again after her cousin brings up the dangers of scorpions in the desert.  "You're worried about scorpions?  Well, if you get bit, I'm not carrying your chunky butt back to camp so you best be careful."  

She tried to ignore the remark but tears sting in her eyes.  It seems like she's in a no-win situation.  Whenever she eats rich food, her friends exchange glances and make snarky comments.  When she's dieting, they make fun of her too.  She had already schlepped her admittedly more curvaceous ass to Nevada when a 102-degree desert filled with scorpions was pretty much LAST on her list of places to visit.  What more did they want?

Would she ever bee good enough for them?  With only a 100-lb load would she EVER be light enough to ride an alpaca?


Yep, that's right, more fat shaming.  Even the narration in the book points out the hopelessness of her situation this time--the catch 22 of her being mocked for eating and dieting.  At one point, Bess goes MISSING, and George suggests they all check the kitchen.  Really, George?  Is no one worried about Bess?  Omigod, is Bess BARB?  

Okay, fortunately not.  She doesn't meet with the horrible foul play of the beloved Barb (#barbslifematters).  But my point should still be well taken.

The story ends with a sort of "meh" climax.  Fleetfoot Joe is caught, and the gang finds the treasure.  There might have been a good story in there, but it was way too watered down with fat shaming and racial stereotypes for me to enjoy it.  This one gets 2/5 mags.

File:Looking glass Hexagonal Icon.svgFile:Looking glass Hexagonal Icon.svg