Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Scooby-doo is a morality tale for secular humanists. Unfortunately, it is shit.

A post here makes some good points. As Tim Minchin points out in the excellent Storm:

That show was so cool

Because every time there’s a church with a ghoul

Or a ghost in a school

They looked beneath the mask and what was inside?

The fucking janitor or the dude who runs the water slide.

Throughout history

Every mystery

Ever solved has turned out to be

Not Magic.

This article goes further:

Because that's the thing about Scooby-Doo: The bad guys in every episode aren't monsters, they're liars.

More than that, they’re liars who prey on superstitious people so they can fleece them.  Sound familiar? 

The article goes on to point out that the episodes are about children searching for truth in a world where adults are either liars or believe the liars because they’ve been fooled by stories of the supernatural. 

Some other good points are made.  For example: “curiosity and thinking always triumph over fear” and 

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, Scooby Doo has value not because it shows us that there are monsters, but because it shows us that those monsters are just the products of evil people who want to make us too afraid to see through their lies, and goes a step further by giving us a blueprint that shows exactly how to defeat them.

The article is a little over-enthusiastic and the show heavily romanticised.  I’ve always been dismayed that the main  heroes of the show are the two cowardly idiots. No matter how often they pull off the monster's mask and find it was old Mr Johnson all along, Shaggy and Scooby never learn. Well of course, all those other monsters turned out to be not monsters, but let’s automatically assume this one is legit, despite our vast experience.  They never acquire any critical faculties and this is not an admirable trait.

Velma should have been the hero, but the show’s makers seemed to do everything they possibly could to make sure she wasn’t. She’s portrayed as a frumpy nerd who can easily be defeated by simply taking her glasses away. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only reason for Daphne existing at all (other than being Fred’s beard) was to demonstrate how frumpy, nerdy and undesirable smart girls are supposed to be.  The show didn’t do a thing to make kids want to be more like Velma.

The principle of the show was great and something I’d like to see a lot more of in both children’s and adult TV. Shows like the awful X Files could have been great as an adult Scooby-Doo.  It could have explored the nature of evidence.  The friction between Mulder and Scully could have been been about what counts as proper evidence rather than ‘spooky shit does/doesn’t exist’.  I think it might even work if they never got to the bottom of the mystery in some episodes and had to leave it unexplained.  Mulder would take that as proof that the supernatural is real and Scully would roll her eyes at him and try to explain why it’s not.  Scully wouldn’t have to be right all the time.  She could even be closed-mided rather than appropriately skeptical sometimes.  And hopefully she’d learn her lesson, just so long as there’s never any real evidence of the supernatural.  That could have been a great show.  But it’s easier to pander to superstition, so we got drivel instead.

While I find some of the principles of Scooby-doo laudable, I could never stand the show.  Even pre-Scrappy.

Hemant has a good comment about all this here:

There’s a lot of truth to that. After all, what scares you more? Frankenstein or a Christian pastor who thinks the Bible ought to be the playbook for your life? The former might send a temporary chill up your spine, but the latter permanently ruins lives by convincing so many people that he’s right, hurting their ability to think rationally, manipulating them into giving up their money (even when they don’t have any give), convincing them that people who don’t fall in line with the faith are eternally condemned, and persuading them to put their lives in control of an imaginary being instead of taking full control of it themselves.

Yep.

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