Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #16

Re: Scooby-Doo (2002)

I enjoy hearing you on Catholic Answers and don’t know where else to ask this. My young children are big Scooby Doo fans, and I recently watched the Scooby Doo movie with them on DVD. It dawned on me that there is so much reference to ghosts, monsters, and witches and spells in all of the Scooby Doo movies and shows. Should I be keeping my kids away from Scooby. I grew up myself in the 80’s watching the cartoon and it never really dawned on me until recently that I might be doing harm to my kids. Any insight would be appreciated.

My Scooby Doo review in verse, to the tune of the “Scooby Doo” theme song, is one of my favorites. As the review points out, in the original cartoon the ghosts, monsters and witches always turned out to be fakes. It was always some schemer in a costume trying to scare people away while he searched for the treasure, or whatever (and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids).

I don’t have a problem with any of this. The old “Scooby Doo” TV shows are fine in my book, although they don’t set the highest possible standard for kids’ entertainment, and it wouldn’t be my choice for my kids to watch it every day for months on end or anything, just because there’s better stuff out there.

The 2002 live-action movie, with its “real voodoo, monsters and gross-out jokes,” is a different story. It’s not the first first time the monsters turned out to be real — later iterations of Scooby’s cartoon world did the same — but the movie ignores these and acts as if this is the first time the Scooby gang has encountered actual paranormal phenomena. The animated movie Scooby Doo on Zombie Island did the same.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with real magic, witches or monsters in a story. In the case of magic of a certain kind, such as voodoo or the kind of witchcraft that involves divination or seances and such, I don’t have a problem if the magic is clearly presented as bad and dangerous. The fantasy magic of Gandalf, Glinda the Good Witch and Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother is not a problem to my mind (see my essay “Harry Potter vs. Gandalf” for more).

The cartoon movie Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, according to my friend and guest critic Jimmy Akin, did depict voodoo magic as clearly bad and dangerous. So did the live-action Scooby-Doo movie — up to a point. The main magical force in the movie is an evil cult that is stealing people’s souls. However, according to my review (I no longer remember this in detail), there was also a voodoo practitioner who seemed to be trying to use voodoo techniques to protect himself from the cult. That’s problematic (for a similar partially problematic depiction of voodoo, see Disney’s recent The Princess and the Frog).

Honestly, though, I have a bigger problem with Scooby Doo’s crudity as explicated in lines 13-18 of my review (and the corresponding commentary). I’m also not fond of snarky remakes that deconstruct without affection, as the 2002 film does by making Fred a jerk (the 1995 Brady Bunch Movie did the same sort of thing).

Finally, if you’re looking for suggestions for family viewing, try these links.

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