I’ve always liked Scooby Doo cartoons. Maybe the “spooky” plots appealed to my budding love of horror (as a child), or maybe I just had the same love of the ginormous and dopey Scooby that I imagine was pretty common. And in it’s current incarnation , Mystery Incorporated, I can enjoy a show that has survived, relatively unchanged, with my daughter.
But maybe that’s the problem. It is relatively unchanged. Despite the more modern technology included in the newer episodes, and the added element of
fairly shallow relationship drama between the characters, the same ol’ costumes the characters have always worn are not the only thing that is painfully retro about this show.
Though featuring some pretty decent names in the voice cast– Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Patrick Warburton as the recurring character, Sheriff Stone, Gary Cole, Vivica Fox, Francis Conroy, Tia Carrere, Jeff Bennett (animated voice actor heavy weight!), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs!!!) and Casey Kasem (radio personality and the original Shaggy)– I’m a bit disappointed in Mystery Incorporated.
Hanna- Barbera, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network had an opportunity here to not only revamp this old series, but to reel in a new generation of kids with trickier plots, smarter technology, and better role models…and they failed miserably. I realize it’s just a cartoon, and but doesn’t the inclusion of an element of mystery sort of imply they want kids to be interested while they are entertained, and to think?
Instead. what we got was the same old boring formula. Sure, the some of the monsters may be a little more innovative, and the Scooby and “the gang” have more electronic toys available to them to help them on their way, but that’s pretty much the extent of the changes. I realize the creators and producers likely want to stay sort of loyal to the originals; if they changed too much, the show might lose some of it’s nostalgic appeal for older viewers like me. Playing devil’s advocate though, how many of today’s viewers really have any frame of reference in regards to the older Scooby shows??? Wikipedia is more generous in their assessment of the show, stating:
[...]the series takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the classic Scooby-Doo formula (similar to A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue!), with increasingly outlandish technology, skills and scenarios making up each villain’s story, and a different spin on the famous “meddling kids” quote at the end of every episode. Contrasting sharply with this, however, are two elements that have never been used in a Scooby-Doo series before: a serial format with an ongoing story arc featuring many dark plot elements that are treated with near-total seriousness, and ongoing relationship drama between the characters.
But what rankled me the most about the show is something that was probably present in the earlier shows as well, but was likely something I just didn’t pick up on as much in my younger days, and that is the overall superficiality of the characters and the reinforcement of cliquishness and stereotypes.
Daphne is the “pretty one.” She’s a rich girl from a rich, snobby family, and she simpers over Fred as if being the object of his affection and attention her life’s dream.
And poor Velma. She’s smart and she’s the techie of the group (if you discount Fred’s obsession with ridiculously elaborate traps.) She’s curvy and wears her signature skirt, turtleneck, knee socks, and glasses… And she is still alluded to as being the homely, nerdy, lonely, and even fat girl of the group. Fat??? Since when is having boobs and a butt a bad thing? Oh, right…in this country the “prettiest” women on our magazine covers are as narrow and devoid of curves as a twelve year old boy… And everyone is subject to our scrutiny.
The other day I saw an episode about a villain that was performing some sort of love spell on people, resulting in immediate and random pairings of characters– just whoever they happened to be standing next to at the moment. Granted, it was always a perfectly even ration of male to female characters– no sexually ambiguous pairings on this show!– But that didn’t stop Daphne from pointing out, in a shocked
and appalled voice, the fact that “nerds” and “cool people” were suddenly in love! Eeek! The humanity!
There’s another character on the show named Marcie Fleach. Her nickname is “hot dog water.” It made me giggle at first…until the characters went on to characterize her; she’s smart… but she’s rumpled and messy looking, and she allegedly smells like “recycled water used to cook hot dogs.” In short, she’s the class freak, and she’s portrayed with in the same “ugly betty” way as Velma (basically, if they didn’t tell you she was supposed to be ugly, you probably wouldn’t think it.) I know I’m not the first person to notice the way “smart” people are always categorically considered “ugly.”
Those of you who are regular readers know that I’m not generally in the habit of making mountains out of mole hills, but for some reason, this annoys the piss out of me. If I really think about it, it’s probably because this type of categorization is so adolescent. It’s introducing our young children to “the IN-crowd,” teaching kids that it’s normal and okay to ostracize people based on how they look. It’s reinforcing immature stereotypes that start in elementary school and (more and more frequently lately) result in bullying and violence in high school.
I’m not trying to be all chicken little here. The sky’s not falling, or anything because of this stupid kid’s show. I just basically don’t like snobby people or bullies. That kind of behavior is not something I want my daughter to learn, pigeon-holing people into groups (which are then basically judged as worthy or not worthy of inclusion.)
What do you think, gentle readers?