The Mystery Machine keeps rolling
The enduring popularity of Scooby Doo
By Patricia Baer
When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were spent plopped in front of the television watching a stream of cartoon characters. Each week I was reunited with the Super Friends at the Hall of Justice, followed the antics of Captain Caveman, and giggled along with the “studio” audience watching Yogi put his latest scheme to steal a pic-a-nic basket into action.
I vaguely recall the morning winding down with Scooby Doo and the Mystery Inc. crew. This might have been the actual last cartoon of the morning, or maybe it was just the time when my mother decided I needed to be shooed out of the house for some fresh air. I do not remember.
It was probably this “last call” for cartoons more than my love for the show that made me a fan of the lovable Great Dane and those meddling kids, so I was a little surprised when my oldest nephew — at the time only 4 years old — became a Scooby Doo fanatic. Since then my younger nephew and niece have also discovered the crime-solving canine and his crew. With new episodes being rolled out this year on cable network Boomerang, Scooby has to be one of the most enduring cartoon characters.
I know they say all popular fads and fashions will reappear at some point in your life. I never would have suspected it would be this. After all, having premiered in 1969 would make Scooby 322 in dog years at this point. Now thanks to my nephew, I have an extensive DVD collection of both the newer and older versions of the Mystery Inc. escapades. Some are, embarrassingly, memorized, as tends to happen when you have kids around with an insatiable appetite for whatever movie or show they are fixated on that year.
What makes Scooby endure, or any character really, is the universality. All children can see themselves in Scooby. He appears cowardly, but when his friends need him, he digs deep to find courage. The monster-of-the-week may frighten him at first, but in the end he faces his fears. Scooby shows children that it is natural, even healthy, to feel scared at times. When revealed, the monster is never the terrifying, supernatural boogeyman originally suspected. It is usually just people being bad guys in pursuit of greedy ends.
While this is great for teaching kids there are no monsters under the bed or lurking in closets, watching as an adult I am not sure I find the same comfort in this revelation. It is more like a harsh truth. It does not diminish my affection for the show, however.
Jinkies! Now that I am thinking about it, maybe watching the Mystery Machine travel across the country, encountering adventures at every stop, was the real inspiration for my love of road trips all along. Time to grab some Scooby snacks and investigate this a little further.