After last week’s post, I thought I’d see what the scholars had to say about Scooby-Doo. Strangely, I find very little academic work on the topic. (It really is strange. There are reams of books and articles and conference presentations on pop culture phenomena from Bugs Bunny to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but almost nothing on Scooby.)
Richard M. Levinson’s “From Olive Oyl to Sweet Polly Purebread: Sex Role Stereotypes and Televised Cartoons” (Journal of Popular Culture, Volume IX, Issue 3, Winter 1975, pages 561–572) may contain the first appearance of the Scoob in an academic journal. The article is a study of gender in Saturday morning cartoons of the period (the mid-1970s). Levinson makes many find points, but I suspect he didn’t actually watch any cartoons; he refers to a character named “Bella” on Scooby-Doo, describing her as a “Superbrain” (presumably he means Velma). He appreciates that the Scooby gang is “somewhat balanced” in its gender roles.
In scientific papers, I find many references to the Mars Mission of 1997, when scientists gave rocks funny names including Scooby-Doo, Casper, Zaphod, and Marvin the Martian. (See this NASA page for more information and this one for a view of all the named rocks in the Northeast quadrant.)
Megan Arnott’s paper, “Saturday Morning Medieval: Medievalisms and Children’s Television Programming,” presented May 11, 2012 at the International Congress of Medieval Studies, looks at the way Scooby-Doo and other cartoon programs have incorporated castles, knights, and other medieval tropes over the decades. This may be the only academic paper in the known universe to include the phrase “Scoobra Kadoobra,” the title of a 1985 episode involving a warlock.
Liz Laidlaw’s “In Defense of Scooby-Doo” (Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, Vol. 22, Issue 3, Fall 2009, pages 42-43) ruminates on what children learn from cartoons. In her opinion, the more recent series What’s New, Scooby-Doo “makes an effort to be a little more politically correct and switch up the stale stereotypes.” Nevertheless, she says, “no matter what happens in the beginning, I know exactly how it will end. The monster will be revealed as the angry janitor, rival hotel owner, grumpy steam boat captain or adversarial skate-board champion, uttering the words: ‘I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids.’”
This makes me think how awesome it would be if someone on the show – probably Velma – would say, in a new episode, “You know, every other time we’ve investigated a monster, ghost, or other supernatural being, it has turned out not to exist, so, Shaggy and Scooby, how about if you operate on that premise instead of running in place while funny music plays,” which is a good metaphor for this whole series, actually.