Scooby-Doo Is Dumb
The big pop cultural announcement this morning (via Entertainment Weekly) is that DC Comics is turning a bunch of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons into a new line of comics. DC plans to update these properties for 2016; not to simply continue their adventures as if no time has passed since their 1970s heyday, but to “revitalize the characters in a new day and age.”
Wacky Races is now Wacky Race Land, with a design aesthetic straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. Jonny Quest and Space Ghost will meet for an “epic adventure” in Future Quest. And the gang from Scooby-Doo will get a high-tech reboot as Scooby Apocalypse. The new Fred has tribal tats, Velma pilots a drone, and Shaggy is flannel-wearing hipster beardo.
Here’s DC Comics’ Jim Lee (who illustrated the image above) on Scooby’s eternal appeal:
All my kids know of Scooby Doo from the various cartoons and live action movies, and we’re in a period where you have people my age that are spending their days thinking about cartoon and sci-fi action movies. It’s a multigenerational obsession at this point, and we just thought it would just be really interesting to take the cartoon version of these characters and see where they would be if we took what existed in the very first iteration of the cartoon and moved it into this day and age.
In his interview with EW, Lee jokingly predicts the reaction to this news would be “Outrage!” He was pretty much correct; most of what I’m seeing online, particularly about Scooby Apocalypse, is that it looks dumb, dumb, dumb. I don’t necessarily disagree. (Is Scooby wearing a high-tech monocle? Why would a dog need a high-tech monocle? Is there a reason he doesn’t just wear high-tech glasses?) But let’s get real here. Jim Lee didn’t make Scooby-Doo dumb. Scooby-Doo was always dumb.
I repeat: Scooby-Doo is dumb.
This is a show about dumb kids with their dumb dog solving dumb mysteries. (SPOILER ALERT: There’s no real ghost and the old white guy did it.) The only part that’s not dumb is the Mystery Machine van. The Mystery Machine is awesome. The rest of it is stupid. This is an animated cartoon with a laugh track.
Why would an animated cartoon have a laugh track? Was it drawn, really really quickly, in front of a live studio audience? Even the show’s title is stupid: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! There should be a question mark, not an exclamation point.
As if the basic premise of this godforsaken children’s television show wasn’t idiotic enough to begin with, each subsequent sequel got even dumber. The New Scooby-Doo Movies added a rotating cast of guest stars to the mix, including real-life celebrities (Phyllis Diller, Mama Cass), fictional characters (The Three Stooges, Batman and Robin), and even the Harlem Globetrotters. Here, Davey Jones saves the day by singing a pop song to a giant frog.
Astonishingly, The New Scooby-Doo Movies lost the 1972 Peabody Award to The Waltons.
Davy Jones serenading a giant toad is actually pretty intelligent by Scooby-Doo standards. The Scooby-Doo Show added another dog to the cast, Scooby-Dum. Guys, his name is Scooby-Dum. And hey, is Scooby-Dum Scooby-Doo’s brother or his cousin?
Tell me again how Jim Lee made this series dumb?
Next came Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, in which the handful of mildly intelligent characters were pushed to the side to make room for Scooby’s obnoxious nephew, who runs around screaming “Puppy power!” and generally sucks so much that the first live-action Scooby-Doo movie (which is also dumb, although not as dumb as its sequel) made Scrappy the surprise villain, out for revenge against Mystery Inc.
Also, what’s going on with Shaggy’s arms in that scene?
These Scrappy-Doo episodes are brutal. The only way my daughter will ever watch them is as a part of some kind of Scared Straight program if she becomes a juvenile delinquent.
After I made my Scooby-Doobiousness public, a few people went to bat for the recent Cartoon Network series Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, saying it’s a lot smarter than all the previous iterations. Having not watched this version of the Scooby Televisual Universe, I’ll concede that’s possible. It wouldn’t be hard; being the smartest Scooby-Doo TV show is like being Luke Wilson in the future of Idiocracy. When you’re surrounded by morons, you begin to look like a genius.
My boss here at ScreenCrush, Mike Sampson, is a reasonably smart guy. And he claims that Scooby-Doo is cool, or at least the very first series is fun; that would be the late ’60s and early ’70s’ Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! But when I asked him to name a single thing about Scooby-Doo that wasn’t dumb, he had to sit and think about it for like three minutes. Finally, he came up with this: A scene where Scooby and the gang get chased around to the sounds of a knockoff pop song called “Seven Days a Week”
This scene, where Scooby and Shaggy hide under giant turtle shells and seals bounce a giant caveman around like a beach ball, is apparently the artistic pinnacle of this storied, 40-year-franchise.
The prosecution rests. Bring on the doggie monocles.