So Disney is turning Harriet the Spy into a TV movie. (There was a big-screen version in 1996, produced by Nickelodeon, starring the ever-sullen Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet.) In this new go-round, Harriet will be a teenager instead of an 11-year-old. And instead of writing in her spy notebook, she’s going to BLOG. Honest to blog. I’m OK with updating this fine property for the youth of today, but I’m a little worried. So much of its power rests on Harriet being not quite a little kid and not quite a teenager. She acts out when she’s grieving for her newly departed nanny, Ole Golly, who is a huge force in the book; her parents are inept and checked-out, and Harriet relies on Ole Golly to teach her to navigate the world, socially and morally. And suddenly she’s gone, and Harriet’s world implodes. How’s that gonna play out with a teen Harriet? Surely they’ll nuke Ole Golly entirely, or turn her into Harriet’s 30something confidante, a hip vintage shop owner on the Lower East Side in the old-school Pretty in Pink mode. I’m worried the whole thing will be too Gossip Girl (to name-check a current Trachtenberg property!) … but who knows. As long as Harriet doesn’t break into song and dance or look like Vanessa Hudgens, I’m willing to give it a shot.
But I do hope they’ll let her look genuinely geeky, as opposed to “Why Miss Johnson, without your glasses…you’re BEAUTIFUL!” geeky. Bet not, though.
Incidentally, I just re-read the book with Josie and found it terrifying. So different to experience it as a parent — as a kid, I was all, “yup, kids are mean and Harriet was tactless and careless, you betcha. Moving on.” But as a grown-up, I found it heart-wrenching and hyperventilation-inducing. The Lord-of-the-Flies-y cruelty of this child-world the adults are totally clueless about! When you’re a kid, that’s just a day at the office.