Zoinks! The enduring appeal of Scooby Doo

❉ All aboard the Mystery Machine! Writer Liz Dickinson takes a nostalgic look back at the long-running cartoon franchise. Jinkies!

“The coolest thing about Scooby Doo is that it’s essentially the cartoon version of The Breakfast Club, an unlikely friendship combination that probably wouldn’t naturally surface in or survive High School scrutiny. And yet outside the parameters of High School, the group flourishes and amazingly they learn to love and annoy each other in equal proportions.”

This universally-loved cartoon, with an intrepid High School gang and talking Great Dane sidekick, possessed with genius sleuthing skills, has been followed by generations of loyal viewers since it first aired in 1969. I have fond memories of lying in front of the telly in the ‘70s and ‘80s, giggling and marvelling simultaneously at this funny, smart mystery-solving group of teenagers. Who didn’t want to be in their gang? I loved Daphne’s sophisticated purple wardrobe, set off by her immaculate glossy red hair. I respected Velma’s superior intellect; the physics equations that lived comfortably inside her head. Fred was handsome and a natural leader. Shaggy and Scooby Doo added comedy scenes of preposterous proportions, nearly always involving them devouring any food in the vicinity.

My daughters (aged five and ten respectively), are equally hooked on the series, though only watch the most recent chronicles: Be Cool, Scooby Doo!; What’s new, Scooby Doo; and Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated. When the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? accidentally graces their screen, the remote is grabbed at lightning speed and the offending series removed. They baulk at the canned laughter of the now – in their eyes – inferior first series, where the characters oddly run at tilted forty-five-degree angles.

There is something seemingly reassuring about the formulaic synopsis: ghosts/monsters appear, the gang do some top-notch snooping/sleuthing/breaking-and-entering to find “clues,” the gang are frequently scared/chased by said ghost, theories are postulated by smarty-pants Velma and then dashingly handsome Fred will set traps to ensnare said ghost in question. The ghost is revealed to be of course, shock! Horror! A human being in disguise. Invariably the villain is a disgruntled intern/employee/rival wanting recognition/pay rise/revenge… And they’d have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!

The coolest thing about Scooby Doo is that it’s essentially the cartoon version of the film, The Breakfast Club, an unlikely friendship combination that probably wouldn’t naturally surface in or survive High School scrutiny. And yet outside the parameters of High School, the group flourishes and amazingly they learn to love and annoy each other in equal proportions.

Fred is your archetypal Jock; confident, handsome, athletic and appealing to the ladies. He does lean towards OCD, with an unhealthy obsession with setting traps, has control issues when his gang don’t follow orders and some parental abandonment issues, that have sidestepped into intimacy issues with Daphne. The purple priestess struggles with his lack of romantic gestures in their “Will they? Won’t they?” style courtship.

Daphne could be Prom Queen quite easily but would probably mess up her acceptance speech. She is groomed to perfection, not a purple fibre out of place, and would be equally at home pimping up geeky classmates, helping them finding their stylised inner diva. Daphne appears at first glance to be shallow and lacking brainpower, but occasionally shows great insight and genuine kindness to underdogs. She could turn out to be like Cher, as she ages and her looks fades; she might finally decide it’s safe to reveal her hidden brainer side. Mind you, in cartoon-land, nobody seems to age, so she’ll be beautiful and dim forever. But she does look fabulous in purple, darling!

Velma is the Queen of Geeks; she could win a chess tournament, ace a physics test, use algebra to work out the velocity of the villain’s ghoulish wingspan, and then head off and memorise a page of French philosophy, just in case she needs to enter a French philosophy word-slam! Psychologists would possibly diagnose her as a “genius” somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Nonetheless, we wouldn’t want our orange, bespectacled nerd any other way.

Shaggy eats his bodyweight in food, several times over each day but never seems to put any weight on. Voiced by Casey Kasem of America’s Top 10 fame, Shaggy must have threadworms or an eating disorder, as he barfs up those tonnes of Scooby Snacks when everyone else is sleeping. He has an endearing, sort-of-lost quality, where he frequently questions his role in the mystery-solving gang, only to (quite often) accidentally-and-thankfully save the day by being chased by the ghost relentlessly and mercilessly, which predictably leads to one of Fred’s traps. His low self-esteem is compounded by his attachment to a talking dog (Scooby) and his reluctance to swap canine friendship for a romantic liaison with Velma.

Lastly, Scooby Doo: the talking Great Dane, with a strange speech impediment, prefixing /r/ sounds with a rhotacism: “Raggy” (Shaggy) and “Roasts,” (ghosts.) Perhaps a canine speech therapist could help him with that? Most episodes see Scooby, like his comedy buddy Shaggy, running scared from a ghost; in fact, for most of the episodes, he is running or eating (considerable amounts of anything available.) He is easily manipulated (with Shaggy) by Scooby Snacks, proving that you certainly cannot teach an old dog new tricks unless it involves a sizeable bag of Scooby Snacks. He is the comedy glue that holds this team of oddballs together, proving again that a dog is not just man’s, but also a rather dysfunctional High School group’s best friend.

There is hope, as enshrined through decades of Scooby Doo episodes, that there is a place for all of us; the geeks, socially awkward, plastic and popular. Come as you are, everyone’s welcome aboard the mystery machine!

❉ Produced by Hanna-Barbera for CBS, ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!’ premiered as part of the network’s Saturday morning schedule on September 13, 1969, and aired for two seasons until October 31, 1970. ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!’ was the first incarnation of what would eventually become a long-running media franchise, which primarily consists of subsequent animated series, several films, and related merchandise.

❉ Liz’s favourite character is Scooby Doo; his natural comedy timing combined with an irrepressible urge to eat all edible food, would make him an ideal dinner guest! When Liz isn’t working in Secondary education or tending to her two small children; she can be found near her typewriter, laptop or writing pad furiously writing articles or poems. Her poetry blog can be found here: https://dandelionmusings942967929.blog

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