Most everyone knows that Scooby-Doo is an entertainment franchise that started as an animated television series back in 1969. In a nutshell, it consisted of a group of four teenage mystery investigators and their dog, a lovable Great Dane named Scooby-Doo.
The series had, and mostly still retains, a very rigid storyline structure. The kids arrive in their Mystery Van to investigate a report of strange occurrences. After disregarding dire warnings from creepy eye-witnesses who attempt to warn them away, the teens eventually encounter the actual vampire, ghost, alien, or fill-in-the-blank monster.
Hijinks ensue as the team alternately chases, and is chased by, the monster through the usual hallway doors or warehouse barrel gags. Eventually, often with the inadvertent assistance of Scooby-Doo, the team eventually corners the monster.
Here is the important part. Every episode, without exception, ends with the big reveal. The fake mask comes off and the teens gasp, “It’s groundskeeper Ed!” It invariably turns out that some trusted guy was faking the entire thing, typically in some scheme to profit from peoples’ superstition and fear. What seemed like such a compelling and terrifying monster suddenly gets exposed as just some greedy old guy in a cheap homemade mask.
The show should be required viewing as an essential part of every sound educational curriculum. It taught kids that even if something is seemingly inexplicable and scary, even if trusted adults tell you that you should be frightened, you can be assured that the answer is knowable and that it will turn out to be something quite simple and mundane once you discover it.
Scooby-Doo teaches kids the critically important lesson that if something seems inexplicable, they can be confident that “there is always a trick.” This is especially true in the case of any purportedly paranormal or supernatural mystery. The reality behind every supernatural account is always, and can only be, something quite unremarkable. Most likely, it is merely some greedy scammer trying to trick you out of your money.
And those greedy scammers are often television producers.
It is deplorable that ostensibly educational television networks like “The Science Channel,” “The Discovery Channel”, and “The History Channel” are not as educational and socially-responsible as are the Scooby-Doo Adventures. All of these supposedly educational channels not only fail to educate, but indeed they feature supernatural “investigations” without ever getting to the big reveal. They show us the scary stories and the tense chase but never the unmasking. Instead they convince many that these stories might be real and leave them with the tantalizing promise of further revelations in the next episode.
This is not harmless entertainment. This is the socially irresponsible perpetuation of nonsensical thinking that does great damage to our capacity to reason effectively, both individually and collectively.
It is a truly sad that these supposedly educational networks are no better than those dastardly Scooby-Doo villains. It is even more sad that a cartoon Great Dane named Scooby-Doo is a far greater force for reason and sanity in the world than all of those involved in manufacturing this entertainment and representing these paranormal “investigations” as educational reality-based television.
It is even sadder to realize that these networks do not need to broadcast these irresponsible ghost-hunter type shows to make a buck. Scooby-Doo proves, as do highly successful shows like Mythbusters, that you can be socially responsible and create a beloved and very profitable entertainment franchise at the same time. Like Scooby-Doo, they could unmask the real source of each supposed “mystery” — but they choose not to.
Like Scooby-Doo, they could end with a dramatic reveal which exposes how these stories get started, how we get fooled, and how they perpetuate — but they choose not to. Instead, unlike Scooby-Doo, the producers of these shows, the people who make them, and the networks that promote them choose to be socially irresponsible.
Scooby-Doo… where are you?