Halloween Thoughts on Scooby-Doo
This morning as I was brushing my teeth, I was considering “Scooby-Doo.” I haven’t kept up with “Scooby-Doo” over the years as it has passed from cartoon to live action and back again, but as far as I know the central conceit of “Scooby-Doo” has remained the same. Someone tries to commit a crime and in doing so pretends that something supernatural is going on. Scooby and the gang are terrified, despite proving over and over again that there are no ghosts, and eventually the criminal is revealed to be just a guy (or gal) who utters some variation on the theme, “I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.”
As I spit out the toothpaste I thought to myself, why is it less scary that a man in a costume is chasing them around with an axe than if it were a mummy or a floating revolutionary war soldier? The viewer is asked at the end to breathe a sigh of relief that it was just a real estate developer or bankrupt factory owner that was doing the evil deeds.
Think about that for a second.
Is it really reassuring that a grown man having financial problems thinks that threatening teenagers with a guillotine is a way to solve his problems? These are severely mentally ill people in a desperate situation doing desperate things. They regularly put Shaggy and Scooby in situations where they will die if they don’t take some immediate action.
Whether it is falling off a cliff or being killed by some falling object, these criminals make no secret that they don’t just want to scare off our investigators, they want to kill or injure them. Trap doors open up in the floor and Daphne falls multiple stories. Stairs that seem solid suddenly become slides and Velma falls forward onto her face and slides down.
What if, I thought, the kids had gone off to investigate missing people that some are hinting have been eaten by a werewolf, but the real culprit ended up being Jeffrey Dahmer in a wolf outfit? That certainly doesn’t make the crime less horrifying, it makes it more horrifying. It’s not a wolf eating people, just some guy.
Maybe in its constant drumbeat of teaching us that there are no ghosts, witch doctors or tar monsters, “Scooby-Doo” has been teaching us the more horrible lesson of all: Human beings are the most terrifying creatures on the planet. No supernatural creature we can imagine is worse than what other human beings will actually do to one another.
Perhaps “Scooby-Doo” is about us taking responsibility for all the horrifying things the human race has done over the years and then tried to blame on an abstract concept or has been done in the name of some imaginary being.
You can almost imagine Fred pulling a rubber mask off a swamp creature and revealing Kim Jong Il underneath and Kim saying, “I was going to blame the food shortage in North Korea on the swamp creature scaring off supply ships … and I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those darn kids.”
Isn’t that the true horror of Halloween — not the way the costume looks, but the fact that you aren’t sure who’s underneath it?
Then, as I rinsed with mouthwash I looked into the mirror and thought to myself, humans are capable of making up something more horrible than other humans. The image of that horrible creature rose up in my head blotting out all other thought. After all, someone came up with the concept of Scrappy-Doo.