Posts Tagged ‘bad characterization’

Bad Characterization at Work: Scooby Doo

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Avatar: the Last Airbender and its excellent treatment of its characters. The larger, mobile one is now back on Scooby Doo, which was a favorite of his about two years ago, so much so that he dressed up as Scooby for Halloween.

Steal this image and I will hunt you down.

(Cherish that picture. You will probably never get another.)

(Also, this was actually the third Halloween my husband and I spent as Shaggy and Daphne. Before we had offspring he had a stuffed Scooby that he used to wear on his shoulder like a pirate’s parrot.)

(Crazy things happen when dressed up as Shaggy and Daphne. The stories I could tell.)

(Also, my husband kind of looks like Shaggy in general, so much so that when we went to Universal Studios Hollywood for our first anniversary, the Shaggy and Scooby went right for him when they came out.)


Now, there are a million versions of Scooby Doo, and I realize that some versions treat character better than others, but in general, Scooby Doo is an exercise in stereotypes. And, funnily, the stereotypes vary from version to version, but pretty much all of them are unflattering to all involved.

Let’s go over them all in general terms shall we:

Fred: Fred is often portrayed as a dumb jock or as an airhead.
Daphne: Daphne is a pretty girl concerned mostly with shoes and clothes (and boys, in some versions).
Velma: Often the only one of the group with any brains, but also often portrayed as not attractive. Apparently completely blind without her glasses.
Shaggy: Dumb stoner obsessed with food.
Scooby: Scooby actually suffers from stereotypes less than the others. Is it because he’s the “lead” character? Because he’s a dog? A lot of times he gets stuffed into the same categories as Shaggy, but even then he tends to be more observant and occasionally find clues.

We’re not touching anyone else, because that’s madness.

And yet, the show has hung on for almost fifty years.

Now, of course, some of this is format. Scooby Doo, in most of its iterations, is episodic, and there’s only so much characterization you can stuff into a 20-minute episode. And, with such a large cast for such a short time slot, it makes sense to use stereotypes as people can readily identify them in the cultural norm.

Part of it may be the longevity of the characters at this point. If you did a new series and tried to give the characters arcs, would people accept that? The series that our library has, Mystery Incorporated, which ran from 2010 to 2013, tries to some extent, and, really, it’s all bad. That’s the choices they made, not necessarily an argument against giving the gang some characterization in general. (Like, do we really need to pair Velma and Shaggy up? And also we switch Velma’s normal stereotype for naggy girlfriend which is the worst.)

Would you agree with me that the characterization in the Scooby Doo shows is bad? Any thoughts on why or why not? Who’s your favorite member of the gang? (Mine’s Velma in most cases but Shaggy in some versions.)

Voltron and Problematic Characterization

Since we seem to be on a characterization kick, why stop now?

The small, mobile one likes robots, so while ditzing around seeing what was available in the cartoon robot department on Amazon Prime, we discovered Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, Voltron was a mid-80s port of a Japanese show called GoLion, I believe, about five robot lions that can combine to form a giant “people robot,” as the small one would say, whose purpose is in theory is to defend the galaxy, though he spends most of his time defending Planet Arus, which the bad guy is unfathomably interested in and so spends a lot of his resources on, for whatever reason.

(This is not to be confused with a new TV show called Voltron Force, which I know nothing about except it’s some sort of modern take on Voltron.)

Now, Voltron used to be on Cartoon Network back before CN started to make its own shows, and I used to watch it, because one of my online RPing friends was obsessed, and had a Star Trek/Voltron crossover RP I would occasionally do with him. So, going into watching this with the small one, I had fond memories of the show.

But when we actually started to watch it, I was kind of horrified. Yes, in general it’s a shining example of a lot of the terrible tropes 80s cartoons tended to have. But I was especially upset with the treatment of the single female on the show, Princess Allura.

Original Voltron Force

(Guess which one she is?) From

Beyond being the token female in pink, she’s supposed to be the leader of Planet Arus. But the other characters don’t think much of her at all, despite the fact that she’s continuously trying to learn new things or be responsible, efforts that are constantly shut down by her male companions, either her advisor or the other members of the Voltron Force. There’s a scene early on when her old governess returns to the castle, flips the princess over her knee, and spanks her in front of everyone else. And everyone else laughs.

My husband doesn’t want the small one watching Voltron anymore because he thinks it’s too violent. I don’t want him watching anymore because wow, what a horrid way to treat someone.

I will admit that this is not a new form of characterization, the ruler that they won’t let rule, because it’s too dangerous or they want them to appear incompetent or whatever. But coupled with the constant derision of the other characters, and the humiliation that seems heaped on the character, it’s really unfortunate. And that she’s the only female main character on the show–that’s not going to teach the small one anything about respecting people, especially women.

And it’s too bad, because if you look at Allura without her male companions, she’s pretty great. She’s been isolated in an attempt to protect her, but she wants to learn and protect her people, and is willing to do whatever’s necessary. But when you add in everyone else, she’s just a giant joke, the woman who won’t get in her place and let the men do things.


The lesson here may be not to revisit shows from your childhood. Or it might be that, if you only have one woman on the show, not to treat her like crap.

Have you watched any shows or movies recently, Squiders, that you used to like but couldn’t get over some aspect of now?