Friday, November 6, 2009

Nancy Drew and the Tree Nut Allergy Mystery

My daughter LOVES everything Nancy Drew. She is a fan of the books, from the vintage hardcovers that belonged to my Mom, to modern Nancy series available at bookstores today.

She is also a huge fan of the games from Her Interactive. These award-winning games are a blast even for adults like me who love mysteries and still think Nancy is pretty cool. They always involve educational elements like history, science or social science and they've won a ton of awards.

My daughter is such a fan of these games that I am usually suckered into being among the first to buy new ones when they emerge, every 3-4 months or so. The latest is called Warnings at Waverly Academy and it's all about "mean girls" and a not-so-nice prankster at a girls' boarding school.

When she began the game recently, my daughter ran to tell me about about a character with a tree nut allergy who was put out of commission right off the bat by the school's mystery prankster known as "The Black Cat." The tree nut-allergic character speaks to Nancy's game character via cell phone (I know! It's so fun) and tells Nancy what happened with her accidental ingestion.

According to my daughter, Her Interactive did a pretty good job of explaining that this allergic character needed to use an Epi Pen and that she needed to go to the hospital. My daughter was excited to find validation for her own situation via this tree nut-allergic character in one of her favorite games, even though (ugh) this person was basically poisoned.

A couple of things bothered me, though. The allergic character told "Nancy" that she didn't use the Epi Pen till she got to the hospital (no, you'd use it immediately) and that she winds up in the hospital all the time because she's "not careful." Actually, the latter is actually not a bad reminder to be careful with allergies.

The biggest worry I had was that, as nut allergies become more prominent, they are being used as a way to "off" people in both fiction and film--or at least the attempt is made to do so.

"The DaVinci Code" (book, not movie) used a peanut allergy reaction to kill of a character; likewise the novelist Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame) devised a character who purposely poisoned a peanut-allergic student in her fairly recent novel "Gentleman and Players." The character survived, BTW. (Incidentally, this a great novel overall.)

I love Her Interactive and their wonderful series of games and I commend them for including a tree nut-allergic character in their latest venture. It does raise awareness, and the fact that the character is hospitalized underscores the seriousness of the allergy and the need to be cautious.

I just wish that nut-allergic characters in literature, film or any form of fiction (like games) weren't always portrayed as victims or used as pawns by malicious characters. As a writer, maybe I'll meet that challenge myself.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen the new nancy drew movie ( i think it came out last year)? I was going to take my daughter to see it until I heard of a very distasteful scene where nancy comes to the rescue and saves her PA friend with a ridiculous stunt. I never checked it out further, but chose NOT to see it. I have also stayed away from Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. Although, I was glad at first that it included a PA character, again, I was not happy with the fictional and somewhat scary consequence to the accidental exposure. I guess I am not ready to let me daughter be influenced by others' perceptions of PA.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across this piece of news: IFAEA President letter to editor of Daily Southtown regarding Nancy Drew movie and food allergies. Nancy Drew and a do-it-yourself tracheotomy for a peanut allergy reaction in the new Nancy Drew movie. Jerry Weintraub is the producer.

Anonymous said...

I just left above comment, here is the link to full article:

Jenny said...

Hi everyone,

My post refers to the Nancy Drew series of CD-Rom games available from Her Interactive. (

These games have nothing to do with the Nancy Drew Hollywood movie starring Emma Roberts and containing a very questionable scene of a peanut allergy reaction and an emergency tracheotmy performed by Nancy herself.

I also am against the Nancy Drew movie for this reason and in fact took my then 7-year-old daughter to this film, not knowing about the scene. We both found it disturbing and very innapropriate.

I have mixed feelings about Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; I know details of the scene but have not seen it yet.

I posted about the nut allergy mention in the ND computer game because it shows how much nut allergies have been incorporated into the popular culture. Viewing films and encountering nut allergies in popular media is a good opportunity for discussion with older allergic kids; younger ones should probably be kept away.

Unfortunately, all of us are affected by others' perceptions of nut allergies--it's something we can't avoid. That's why I like for all of us to at least be aware of what's out there in various media.