Think Tank Express: Keep your hands off my Saturday morning cartoons

Now we’re politicizing classic Saturday morning cartoon characters. Enough already.

(This story has been updated. See below.)

Last week, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced a new live-action Scooby-Doo made-for-TV movie.

The only problem is – there’s no Scooby-Doo. Instead, the movie features two teenage female characters from the TV show – Daphne Blake and Velma Dinkley and how they met – featuring another complete rewrite of the series’ backstory. The movies is being produced by Ashley Tisdale (a former Disney Channel star) and her sister through the Blue Ribbon project, a digital initiative the studio created.

The reaction was met with some indifference, except for one thing – many on social media suggested Daphne and Velma should be recast as lesbians.

Say what?

Scooby-Doo premiered in 1969 – an idea suggested by then-CBS daytime president Fred Silverman as the original Hanna-Barbera series helped put Saturday morning TV on the map. The series shifted to ABC in 1976 and added the much-relived Scrappy-Doo in 1979 to save itself from cancellation in a well-documented piece by Mark Evanier, who wrote for the show. There have been numerous spinoffs, two live-action theatricals, and more than twenty direct-to-home video movies. After a successful broadcast syndication run in the 1980s, reruns of the series began running on Cartoon Network in 1994 and became a hit with a new generation of fans.

But somewhere along the way, more and more adult themes started defining the show – Shaggy was a pot head, and Velma was a lesbian, and so forth. Actually kind of funny.

But now, some fans of the show want – or demand Daphne and Velma to be recast as lesbians in the movie – which is very unlikely.

A fan-crated photo depicting…oh, draw your own fucking conclusion.

First of all, recasting two cartoon characters as someone who they are not – isn’t a good idea. It’s nice for fan fiction – and as a fan, yours truly has written a great deal of it in the past (but you won’t see it – Fred having “relations” with Daphne isn’t something you’d want to put on a writer’s resume) – but to actually produce a script with adult themes for a well-known family-friendly children’s show for wide distribution – would be disastrous. Recently, YouTube cracked down on channels targeting children with violent and adult-like material disguised as “family-friendly content”, using popular characters kids recognize.

Second, there are many television shows who already provide strong portrayals of gay and lesbian characters – written and created by members of the LGBT community. They are more real than recasting two straight Saturday morning cartoon characters (sorry, Velma is NOT a LGBT icon.)

Third, the idea of fans calling the shots is kind of prosperous – social media and the Internet in general have made fans into some kind of script supervisors. Leave the script doctoring to the experts. As a writer myself, I find this “fan entitlement” total nonsense – you aren’t entitled to anything. Fans actually got to see Fred and Daphne hook up in Mystery Incorporated, which was better executed in fan fiction.

Finally, enough with this “re-imaging” and these asinine “remakes”. As yours truly pointed out before, the TV movie is dead thanks to crap like last spring’s Dirty Dancing fiasco. Without the beloved Great Dane, this project is not interesting. In response to a snarky article posted by a pop-culture website, if it weren’t for this “stupid dog”, there would be no Daphne or Velma – for one thing, the “stupid dog’s” name is in the TV show’s title! Dropping the main element of the show – and changing the backstory so Daphne and Velma would meet online – is rewriting horror at its worst (ask me how well that went for The Simpsons.) As an old Cartoon Network bumper put it, no one tunes in for Daphne, Where Are You?

These young “fans” turning beloved cartoon characters into political symbols or making them part of “some kind of movement” is insane. What’s next? Turning Fred Flintstone into a white supremacist? Papa Smurf into a pimp? Barney Rubble into a GOP Alabama senatorial candidate and having him chase teenage girls around in shopping malls? When does it end? If they want classic Saturday morning cartoon characters to be more adult-like, keep it within the pages of fan fiction sites and off my TV.

Editor’s Note: On November 30, the voice of Daphne – Heather North – passed away after a long illness at the age of 71. She was also known for the role of Sandy Horton in NBC soap opera “Days Of Our Lives”. North also appeared in “The Monkees”, “Gidget”, “Love, American Style”, and “Ironside”. Here’s what I wrote on Twitter:

Updated on December 30, 2017.


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