More Options

Scooby-Doo, How Could You?

Tim Madigan

Volume 8.4, December 1998

Way back when, in the June 1994 issue of this newsletter, I wrote an article titled “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” in which I argued that the long-popular Hanna Barbara talking dog should be the official mascot of Skeptical Briefs. Scooby and his friends, the members of Mystery, Inc.,travel around the country investigating paranormal claims. Invariably, they manage to show that these claims are perpetrated by scoundrels who are deliberately using spooky tactics in order to gain money or goods. The gang puts things right, usually by pulling off a monster mask from the face of a minor character introduced earlier in the episode. In the article I discussed the book Scooby-Doo in the Haunted House, wherein the gang discovers that the ghost of a long-dead pirate causing the haunting in question is actually the homeowner’s sister, who is trying to frighten him away so that she can take over and then sell his beloved abode.

My article was written before the recent revival of interest in all things Scooby. Ever since the Cartoon Network began showing old episodes several times a day, a whole new generation of Scooby fans have emerged, and he and his cronies Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma have become modern-day icons. Everywhere one goes, merchandise related to the show - from coffee mugs to underwear - can be found, usually with Scooby’s befuddled face emblazoned thereon.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

Not surprisingly, this renewed focus on the show has led to an all-new Scooby-Doo adventure cartoon being produced. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island was recently broadcast on the Cartoon Network. In light of this, I decided it was time to do a follow-up piece. Assisted by Skeptical Briefs co-editor Benjamin Radford, I sat down and-in eager anticipation-watched the latest adventures of the Mystery, Inc. gang.

Alas, Ben and I were stunned, shocked and appalled to find out that the entire thrust of the show has been changed. No longer do the intrepid investigators prove that the paranormal is all a ruse. In their latest incarnation, Daphne is now a TV reporter for an Entertainment Tonight-type show. She goes to New Orleans to look into reported hauntings, bringing her old friends along. She and the other members are once again beset by a ghost of a pirate, as well as assorted zombies, werewolves and vampires. But this time, when Fred and Velma present possible rational explanations for the weird events, they are pooh-poohed by Daphne, who goes so far as to tell Fred “you’re not a skeptic, you’re in denial.” When Velma suggests that these horrifying apparitions are really humans behind masks, she is ridiculed. Obviously the new storywriters are parodying the show’s past, but at what expense? At the end, we see that there really are ghosts, zombies, werewolves and vampires running amok. It’s all such a sad betrayal of the original show’s glorious skeptical tradition.

After shedding a few bitter tears, Ben and I agreed that at least Scooby and Shaggy remain true to character-cowardly gluttons reliving the old “feet-do-your-stuff” tradition of 1930s comedies. Perhaps with this bedrock of tradition remaining there is still hope for the Scooby-Doo cartoon series to redeem itself and go back to its skeptical roots. But then, I guess I'm in denial. Scooby-Doo, how could you?

Tim Madigan

Tim Madigan is president of the Western New York Skeptics, and a legend in his own mind.