Scooby Doo and the mystery of Scooby Doo (1)

250px-Scooby-gang-1969
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Part 1:

Scooby Doo is the long running/recurring cartoon series, originally produced by Hanna Barbera when they dominated children’s television in the late ’60s, early ’70s, and lately revived, and revised, by Warner Bros. Animation and the Cartoon Network. Along the way there were also four live action films, comic books, and video games. etc….. But the main body of work presenting Scooby Doo has been in animated cartoons, so that’s what we’ll talk about here.

Before presenting my own thoughts about the Scooby Doo phenomenon, I thought it might be interesting to first present a series of quotes (some quite extensive, but none complete) from reviews posted at the Internet Movie Database.

First, these reviewers, it should be noted, are not professionals; they are common consumers of the entertainment product at hand; they speak from the perspective of ‘the audience’ that professional critics and reviewers frequently claim to speak for, but no longer belong to.

Secondly, these reviewers often discuss the characters, plots, dialogue, in a manner more accessible than professional critics and reviewers. (And doing so, they alleviate me of the necessity of supplying much background information.)

Third, as members of the intended audience for the entertainment product at hand, they bring to the table the cultural assumptions that possibly informed the producers who generated the product. (This becomes most noticeable in the more controversial audience readings of the product – in this case the interpretations of drug use and sexual behavior on the part of the fictional characters.)

Finally, it should be noted that presenting such disparate readings of the original material highlights the inevitable disagreement in the aesthetics of such differing readings, and yet also the empirical nature of the ground of such readings. We can disagree whether the show is good or not; we can disagree as to the sexual leanings of one or other charcter; but we can’t disagree that there is a talking dog named Scooby Doo who is the central character of this fiction.

(And again, it pleases me to find that Kant, in the Critique of Judgment, is once again justified by common experience. Aesthetics is a matter of convention, ‘decided,’ insofar as it ever can be, through conversation.)

The reviews presented here are drawn from comments on three differing series of Scooby Do cartoons – the original series (Scooby Doo, Where are you?); an attempted update from the early years of the 21st century (What’s New, Scooby Doo); and a recent ‘reboot’ of the characters in what amounts to a 52 chapter ‘miniseries’ (Mystery Incorporated). The reader should hopefully bear in mind the question, how does a formulaic cartoon series survive some 46 years (essentially across 3 generations)? And of course this raises another question worth inquiry, how do differing generations view the material – either the original material, the new revisionist material, or both? (The continuities are actually obvious, the differences not so much.)

The reviewers’ ‘names’ (site handles) are appended to the end of the reviews. (In fairness to the original reviewers, I here present their posts ‘flaws and all,’ i.e., without editing, beyond the elision of material unnecessary to the point being argued.)

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“Scooby Doo,Where Are You” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063950/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_8)

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“Scooby Doo,Where Are You”? made its Saturday Morning premiere on September 13, 1969 and from the first episode it was a runaway hit. The show itself was among the network’s top rated Saturday Morning lineup of shows which included (…) a host of other shows that preceed it. Here you had something that was very new but will also be copied off of this same format for several other shows which came from Hanna-Barbera during the 1970’s,but here it worked and it was the same pattern for every episode.
(1) You have a bunch of teenage kids who for some reason or another love to solve mysteries and deal with the supernatural. You had them ride around in a psychedelic van called The Mystery Machine. As for the kids,you had the ringleader Freddie,the brains of the outfit Velma,the accident-prone/stumbles into trouble and knockout gorgeous Daphne,and a slacker who loves to do the job,but is a stone coward, Shaggy,and their mystery solving cowardly Great Dane, Scooby Doo.
(2) Here this was simple,they stumble upon a mystery,Velma and rest of the gang goes after the clues,and from there the group goes after the phantom or ghost who is trying to scared them away and so forth. Then they run into their mysterious encounter with the phantom,monster or ghost or alien from another world who would chase them away,but must set a trap for the villain,and from there they always lead Shaggy and Scooby to lure him in,but with one exception,in every episode they were always hungry and sometimes would do anything for a Scooby snack.
(3) Once they lure the villain into the trap,the trap is sprung and from there once the villain is captured they remove their masks to reveal the identity of the sinister person who once the kids called the local authoritites, the evil one would always say this line towards the end of the show………..
“I could have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you meddling kids”. – raysond

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Naturally what interested me was the fact that Scooby Doo was a dog that talked and he made me laugh when I was real little. And the four teen sleuths, they along with Scooby helped make that series a hit. I like how there were four stereotypes. Shaggy was by far the second most popular character on the show. Some say he was a beatnik, others say, hippie. I say, an unusual oddball, but hey! He and Scooby together were always quite the comical pair. Velma was the brains of the group (…). Daphne was the beauty of the group. The only stand out trait to her personality was when she picked a wrong door or pressed a wrong button and everyone replied, “Danger Prone Daphne ” did it again and she always seemed to be the most popular member for getting kidnapped.
I may be different from most Scooby Doo fans in that aside from Scooby, my favorite of the teens was Freddy (or sometimes Fred), the hunk or I guess he was something of a jock and leader figure not to mention the designated driver of the Mystery Machine, the gang’s hippie van. – voicemaster71

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“Scooby Doo” was one weird little cartoon in its day, but a great cartoon all the same. Part of what made it so good was the genuinely surreal feeling of every episode. We have 4 hippie kids and their dog, totally into the 60’s culture, and yet none of their surroundings resemble anything like planet Earth. Instead, they drive their groovy van into creepy landscapes consisting of green fog and dark, menacing forests. On the rare occasion when they would leave the Valley of Death and go to an actual city, they would be surrounded by abandoned warehouses and empty construction sites. Take all of this and add that spooky xylophone music, and you have one hell of an atmosphere. – Chromium_5

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The same devices come back all the time: if you see a painting, its eyes move; a scary event is met with a delayed reaction; the characters run on the spot or hang in the air for an ungodly amount of time (a Hanna-Barbera favorite) before taking off; incredulous characters are oblivious to obvious goings-on; moving backdrops are repeated ad nauseam and the animation is extremely limited. It’s all new for the canned laughter machine (for cartoons? lord we train them early to be knee-jerk followers): it laughs every time. – jrbleau

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How does Scooby & the gang do it? Given their predictable formula, the Mystery Inc gang thwarting “nut jobs in Halloween costumes” every episode, could have gone horribly stale and would have killed countless weaker shows, but somehow, Scooby & the gang endured. Also the characters are not incredibly diverse: Fred the stalwart leader who looks like a blond Captain Kirk with a knack for building traps due to usually ignored past history as a boy scout(as movie Velma put it, “He was so handsome… and he really knew how to accessorize.”), Daphne the red head who keeps getting captured (but she would stumble upon clues and showed in the episode “Hassle In The Castle” that she had the potential to defend herself, as shown when she accidentally hit Shaggy with the vase), Velma the straight arrow brains of the outfit, and Shaggy the gangly goof-ball chicken with a passion for eating. So how do they do it? Well, for one thing, there are tons of repetitive shows out there (…) who’s characters may grow but remain the same at the core. 2, Scooby is hard not to like because he’s very inoffensive as a protagonist, as are his human companions, and he’s probably the only hero to openly admit that he’s scared on a regular basis. – DarthBill

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Fred is gay. That is why he wears the ascot and his hair is ALWAYS perfect. He even looks like he belongs on Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, right? But he won’t ADMIT he is gay, so he is drawn to Velma, whose strong, straight-forward (ok, Manish) ways make him feel secure. And where does Velma get all this strength? Well, it is due to Velma being, of course, a lesbian, which explains both her “alternative” dress and her constant need to hang around who Daphnie. And speaking of Daphnie, ever notice how she is always speaking to Fred? Obviously, she is in love with the Hunky-Hunk, not knowing that he is, of course, gay. See how the circle come around? But What About Shaggy and Scooby, you ask. Well, we know from the early shows that Shaggy is Daphnie’s cousin and that Scooby-Doo is Shaggy’s dog. But why would anyone keep two cowardly losers like Shaggy and Scooby around in such perilous situations? Because they were the Meal Tickets. See, you know how Shaggy always looked really stoned and was, for the most part, the only one who could hear Scooby talking? Can you say Scooby-Snacks? That’s right, boys and girls; Scooby-Snax were actually Pot Brownies!!! THAT’s why Shaggy always looked wasted (and sounded like it, too), THAT’s why only Shaggy could (again, for the most part) understand what Scooby was saying (drug-induced hallucinations), THAT’s where they got the money to travell around without jobs or responsibilities (selling pot on the road is a good source of income), and THAT’s the cause of Shaggy and Scooby’s cowardice…Pot-Inspired Paranoya!!!! – DK Bengel

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You have the leader, Fred, the danger prone Daphne, the brains of the group Velma, and the two scary cats Scooby and Shaggy. Most of the shows humor comes from Shaggy and Scooby escaping the ghost, zombie, etc. that’s chasing them.
However, once you grow up this is an entirely different show. What the show is really about is four hippies and there talking dog (?) solving mysteries. We have Fred and Daphne the lovers of the group (or Free Love as hippies call it.) When Fred tells the group to split up he usually goes off with Daphne and we never see what they’re up to (The S-E-X!) Then you have Velma, the lesbian. Sometimes she goes with Fred and Daphne (maybe to observe?) but she usually ends up with Shaggy and Scooby and serves as the straight person in there comic duo. Finally, there’s Shaggy and Scooby. Shaggy is obviously the biggest stoner in the group and the only one who has “real” in-depth conversations with Scooby. – TheTVConnoisseur
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“What’s New, Scooby Doo?” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0306274/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2)

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In the beginning, there is always some monster that is terrorizing some place and Scooby and the gang just happen to show up to help solve the case. It’s usually always one of the first three sub characters introduced that is the culprit, usually the opposite of what the monster itself is like. If the monster is super strong, then the culprit is in fact really weak. If it is tall, then the culprit is short. You get the idea. Anyway, Scooby and Shaggy always split up from the gang and get the c**p scared out of them when the monster shows up. Meanwhile the gang manages to find clues because the culprit actually helps give them some. The monster then shows up for a chase scene. More clues are then found, Velma then says: ” I have a pretty good idea who’s behind this”. They then capture the monster and unmask it to reveal his or her’s true identity. And of course the villains always deliver the classic line: ” And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”. – bigben5

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They find a ghost, it chases Scooby and Shaggy, they find some clues, they set up a trap, it goes wrong, and Scooby ends up accidentally saving the day, then they find out it’s not actually a ghost, and that Velma knew it all along. Yawn. Even though they make a joke out of this format in nearly every episode, it’s still the same, and boring. I think it’s well and truly time that Scooby Doo retired, and the gang are sent to an old people’s home. – Jenna Altringham

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Main Characters: Scooby Doo, the great dane namesake of the show. Who is also the biggest cowardly dog there is. Even bordering on more cowardly than Courage the cowardly dog. Shaggy Rogers, the best friend of Scooby Doo who looks like he was designed to be a stoner. Just as scared and cowardly as Scooby, but much more hungry. Velma Dinkley, the brains of the operation. Still gets as scared as everyone else regardless. Danger-prone Daphne Blake, the ‘typical female’ of the group who is just there to look pretty and get rescued from danger. Fred Jones, the self appointed leader of the group who thinks the best course of action is to “Split up gang” even when it is the worst course of action. Do they change over the season?: Not in the slightest, not over the decade. Not even over the lifespan of the franchise, which is around 44 years old, but that is why they are so loved. But they are all able to bring their own little things to the show.
The show and all of its predecessors share the one thing which makes Scooby Doo enjoyable as a cartoon, they are all able to not take themselves too seriously. Along with that, they have all successfully made their own changes while keeping to what made the original so great. This is how the franchise is still going strong. But the narrative is solving mysteries and unmasking the bad guys – DesertDogReviews
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“Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1660055/?ref_=fn_al_tt_9)

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Now I finally actually like Fred. He is a man of very specific interests… that is, a geek. He always had this jock build so it was weird he and Daphne seemed to be put in the same category of the gang as weirdos, but now this is justified. He likes mysteries, tactics and, above all, traps. He really, really likes traps. And those interests just overflow so well to everything he does as a character, it finally is an actual character trait instead of just a generic leader archetype. His obliviousness also makes a very endearing flaw.
Velma is not the magic clue-solving machine that has no other purpose or much of a personality trait over “she does’t like to lose her glasses”. She is this sarcastic and vulnerable teen, who is not only intelligent but clever as well. She still solves the mystery most of the time, but now it finally looks like the rest of the gang is helping in the process of mystery-solving instead of just being glorified clue-finders (or rather clue-stumblers).
Daphne is probably the most shallow, being this doe-eyed girl who is mostly following the gang so she can be with Fred, who she shares a somewhat Platonic Love for thanks to his utter obliviousness (Shaggy is more perceptive to Velma’s much more subtle advances). Still, she manages to actually put some effort into it instead of just being the damsel in distress every other episode. She grows on the gang and on the spectator.
Shaggy and Scooby, while only being the comic relief, were the most developed of the original cast. What in this case only means they actually had stablished personalities, even if just of hopelessly but easily coerced (or bribed) cowards with a penchant for food and a bit short of straws in the head-box. But now they actually interact with the gang and we they react to their goofness. Pretty much everything I’ve ever asked the show to do. – SandroTheMaster

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It’s a lot better, too, though still not as good as the classic “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” This show is much darker, realistic and scarier, not to mention VIOLENT. (…)  For once, the villains have often become much more scarier and menacing, even if most of the time they are not even real (like always!)
Additionally, the plots are still in most cases the usual “just a guy in disguise” format, with some lampooning (or none at all!) I do get a bit annoyed by how they still must always have to parody the meddling kids thing to death (“And I would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling *insert random noun here*!”) But, unlike “What’s new Scooby-Doo?”, this show also shows more about the characters. We get to see them with their families, at home, on a date, even at school! (…) The whole “Mr. E” thing was also a nice touch, and kept me hooked to the show (even if a mention isn’t done until the end.)
Fred was initially dumbed-down here, practically to “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” levels! (They gave him that obsession with traps, he doesn’t know how to work a record player, etc.) but he’s improved with the second season. Daphne is still pretty much the same, and I enjoyed seeing her with her family or romance involving Fred. Velma has changed quite a bit, though. If you thought Velma’s attitude was different in “What’s New Scooby-Doo,” here you will get quite a surprise. She had a crush on Shaggy (which he does not seem to return,) and is sometimes felt left out of the gang, and tends to have more of a devil-may-care attitude. (…) Shaggy and Scooby are pretty much the same, though. This series usually gives everyone a moment in the spotlight (unlike “What’s New,” which usually focused on Fred, Daphne and Velma, and the “Get a Clue” which just starred Shaggy and Scooby.) Sometimes the episodes will vary the focus on one character, sometimes the episode may be mostly about Fred, sometimes about Velma, sometimes about Daphne and her family, and we even got some pretty decent episodes about Scooby-Doo himself! Three of the best episodes so far for me was the one involving a dream sequence where Scooby-Doo teams up with the Funky Phantom, Captain Caveman, Speed Buggy and Jabberjaw to save the humans for their respective mystery-solving teams, as well as one episode featuring a return appearance by the Hex Girls (unlike their appearance in the disastrous What’s New episode “The Vampire Strikes Back,” this one is more faithful to their “Witch’s Ghost” appearance), as well as one where Scooby-Doo and Shaggy are invited to dinner at the home of Vincent Van Ghoul (from “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo!”) – wile_E2005

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Almost every episode is strongly tied to the plot and every recurring character has purpose.The gang lives in a town, go to high school and have parents.Every character has a unique personality and a different lifestyle.The interactions between the characters are great and there actually are romantic relationship between some of them.All of those things makes the members of the gang feel like real people and is increasing our interest for them and for the story.
All the mystery’s are different from one another and the villains are scary and dangerous.This is what the creators of the the first show originally intended to do but nobody would let them because back in the ’60-’70 you couldn’t do any animated show that was too complex or too scary for kids.
This show has a lot of interesting thing going on while it still looks and feels like Scooby Doo.The modernized the world of Scooby Doo and still keep the retro look and feel about this show. – yronmartyr

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This series is quite OK, but there are a few things I do not understand. Such as the age of the gang…How old are they right now? And how old were they in the classic Scooby Doo series? So i have problems with the time line basically. I mean if they are high school students right now, how is it even possible that they had caught those monsters in the classic Scooby shows? ‘Cause in the 1st episode, we can meet old villains, and there is an episode based on the story of the Creeper. – j_marvel

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Fred is now a bumbling idiot. If you belong to the people who think that he was already in “What’s New” too dumb, “Mystery Incorporated” could make your head explode! We are talking “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” stupidity here! He not just has a way too creepy obsession with traps of all kind, that makes him blind for everything that goes on around him, in one episode he even tries to play an 8-track tape on a turntable! Daphne made a few steps backwards in terms of emancipation and is now doing nothing else than adoring Fred, like a 10 year old girl adores a boygroup star. 99% of her dialogue in this show is about nothing else than how much she loves Fred. And he is of course too dumb to get it. And don’t get me started with Velma. They took the smart and lovable girl we all know and turned her into an angry, mean-spirited, shallow sitcom nag, who is now Shaggy’s girlfriend (Yay!), but is criticizing everything about him.  – LonghairedGerman

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Despite the fact that Fred and Daphne are back in their old late 60’s outfits, new life has been breathed into Scooby’s supporting cast. Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and his pet Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, have always been the most developed of the five characters and display their usual hijinks and slapstick, with one exception…Shaggy has a secret involving one of the members of the gang. Freddy Jones, (…) no longer has the Mr. Perfect persona, but is a precocious and eager yet likable teen who loves the thrill of mystery solving to the point that he gets carried away. Daphne Blake’s personality is very sweet and endearing. Her character is more reminiscent of the original Daphne from the sixties only this Daphne is a cheerful optimist when it comes to her friends but is easily dishearten when it comes to Fred’s cluelessness of her affections. The real surprise is Velma Dinkley! Her appearance seems to be modeled after the live-action version as her features looks more feminine. Although she’s still extremely short in stature, Velma has more of a slender build making her noticeably busty. And though Velma still wears the usual outfit, her turtle neck sweater plunges slightly lower, revealing her neck. She now sports a fluffier hairstyle with small hair ribbons. As for her personality, she is sarcastic, opinionated, slightly quick-tempered, and (surprisingly) flirtatious. This new change in her character is well suited for the flow of the show and rounds out the cast quite nicely. – brittonwa
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Is Velma gay? Should Fred be portrayed as more or less intelligent? Should Fred and Daphne ‘get it on,’ or are they hopelessly trapped in a ‘Platonic’ relationship (by those who never read Plato closely)?

And what about Shaggy and Scooby? Have they any other purpose beyond ‘Zoinks!’ – ‘a rhost!’? An what does that mean, the ‘rhost’ who is not a ghost, yet still solution to the mystery?

We’ll consider some of these questions (not all! – it’s important to leave some mystery to a mystery show) in what follows.

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