Scooby Doo, Why Are You:
A Freudian Analysis
With the success of such television programs as the X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Millennium, much interest has resurged in entertainments involving explorations into the mysteries of the paranormal. These shows borrow the well worn format of the traditional crime drama, however where once we found crooks, thugs and bank robbers, we now find ghosts, demons and aliens. To place this trend in its proper perspective we must look back to the trail blazing original entry in this genre, the grand-daddy of supernatural suspense television, the Scooby-Doo Show.
Each episode of this classic mystery series followed the same format: A friendly gang of kids and their great dane ride into a village in their psychedelic van, the Mystery Machine. They are soon met by a kindly Old Man who warns them about strange goings on in the town - there is a raging spook or faceless phantom or a humanoid shark with glow-in-the-dark eyes or some other type of specter. The kids are curious and investigate. They split up. Shaggy, a gangly beatnik and Scooby Doo, the dog, are the first to happen upon the Spook. They flee and it pursues them to the sound of funky music. Fred, the group's Arian leader, constructs a complicated Rube Goldberg device to ensnare the phantom. The trap fails and more chasing ensues. Velma, the brains of the gang, discovers an important clue. There is more chasing and more funky music. Finally, the Spook is caught by Fred and Velma. It is revealed to be the Old Man in a rubber mask. He is the leader of either a counterfeit ring, or a real estate swindle and he has disguised himself as a paranormal figure in order to scare away those who would thwart his criminal ploy. The police take the Old Man away and he shouts, "I would have got away with it too, if it wasn't for you pesky kids!" Thus ends another episode.
We are left with many questions. Who are these kids? Why do they exhibit the same compulsive behaviour week after week? Why are they obsessed with solving mysteries? Can they not perceive that the alleged ghosts float on strings and are powered by simple flash light batteries? After seeing the same methods of duplicity again and again, should they not immediately suspect the Old Man of being the Spook?
The Scooby Doo Show, like the films of Alfred Hitchcock, was heavily influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, and the answers to all our queries can be found in the writings of this great psychologist. Freud writes in his "General Introduction to Psychology" that "the symptom itself has meaning and is connected with experiences in the life of the patient." We don't know enough about the personal biographies of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby to conduct a full-fledged psycho-analysis of each character, but we are exposed to enough of their behaviour to make reasonable deductions as to the psychic motives behind their actions.
First we must examine the social structure of the Gang. In absence of any traditional family, the Gang has become a familial surrogate. The family role that each of the pesky kids performs is visible in every facet of their behaviour. It is clearly evident in the inflexible seating arrangements inside their vehicle, the Mystery Machine; Fred always drives, with Daphne and Velma in the front seat beside him. Shaggy and Scooby inevitably sit in the back. From this we learn that Shaggy and the dog are the children. Fred takes the father role. Daphne and Velma are rivals for the position of matriarch.
Most likely, this latter conflict is only semi-conscious for both Daphne and Velma. However, the rivalry is apparent in the personality traits that each woman cultivates. Velma, to compensate for her comparative plainness, makes the most of her considerable intellectual capabilities. She has learned to speak Latin, and Hebrew, and Greek, and Ancient Egyptian. She understands physics and astronomy and all areas of science. She has acquired these skills in order to appeal to Fred's intelligence and win him as a lover, thereby securing her matronly status.
Daphne, although stunningly beautiful is no match for Velma's brain, so she accents her comely physique by wearing short skirts, and feminine pink stockings. She is helpless and frequently kidnapped by the various Spooks, so Fred must come to her rescue. Many will argue that her clumsiness and frequent captures are accidental. However, Freud assert that an error always reveals an unconscious desire on behalf of the subject. Therefore, Daphne's victimization is a result of her desire to posses the role of lover and mother.
Because Fred, like all men, wishes to keep his position of power secure, he favours Daphne; Her unconscious pose of maiden in distress, while doing nothing to threaten his leadership, does much to enforce his feelings of masculine superiority; Daphne NEEDS his aid, after all. Because of this preference, when Fred splits the gang up to go and search for clues, he always takes Daphne as his companion. Sometimes he invites Velma along with them as well, but this only illustrates Fred's hidden desire to keep the struggle over him alive by fuelling Velma's hope.
As mentioned, Daphne and Velma are, at least for the most part, consciously unaware of their rivalry. Therefore Velma's adverse reaction to Daphne's slight edge is subtle. For example, she chides Daphne for the very attributes that suscitate Fred's attraction. Velma calls her "Danger Prone Daphne" and belittles her for her clumsiness. An even more telling symptom can be found in the occasions when Fred sends Velma of with Shaggy and Scooby. In these instances, when she most feels Fred's preference for Daphne, Velma inevitably loses her glasses, without which she is blind. This slip reveals her intention; she is making herself helpless in order to better appeal to Fred.
Fred is happy with the status quo. His complicated booby traps never succeed, because as long as the Spooks run free he will be the leader, the father, and have his choice of women. After a given mystery is solved, Fred is both literally and figuratively the driving force to the next mystery.
Fred, Daphne and Velma display fairly common symptoms of social/sexual anxiety. However, their companions, Shaggy and Scooby exhibit multiple characteristics of full blown neurosis. In order to examine these properly, some explanation of Freud's theory of Psychosexual Development must be given.
Freud observed that many patients' problems were rooted in childhood. He concluded that children pass through five stage of psychosexual development before reaching maturity. These stages are: the Oral, the Anal, the Phallic, a latency period, and finally, the Genital Stage. During each stage the main erogenous zone is found in the area for which that stage is named. A traumatic experience during development could result in the child becoming fixated in the stage at which the conflict occurred. This leads to psychological problems later in life.
Shaggy and Scooby both display strong evidence that they suffered from fixation during the Oral Period, which occurs in infants up until the eighteenth month of growth. When faced with anxiety an Orally Fixated subject will often psychologically regress back to that stage of childhood. This explains much of the duos aberrant behaviour: their childish whimpering in the face of danger or their need for immediate gratification, for example. Their insatiable appetites are brought about by a desire to recreate the oral pleasures of their infancy. Having received this comfort they can function for a short time. This is why the promise of Scooby-Snacks inspire them to great acts of daring. The calming effect, however, is sadly temporary.
Due to their Oral Fixation, Shaggy and Scooby passed improperly through the Phallic Stage of their development, during which sexual feeling for the opposite gender are established. As a result of this troubled transition they suffer from an Unresolved Oedipus Complex. As the Gang has replaced the Family, Shaggy and Scooby harbour an unconscious desire to murder Fred and sexually posses Daphne and Velma.
Often, both dog and beatnik dress in women's clothing while fleeing a perusing Spook. This transvestitism results from their Oedipal longings. They dress like women because they wish to have sex with their mothers (Daphne and Velma). Further more, escaping the Spook in women's garb is a psychological attempt to rest Velma/Daphne from the arms of Fred. This is similar to American-Indians dancing in hunter and buffalo costumes to promote a bounteous hunt.
Because their hostility to Fred is socially unacceptable, they repress it. Repressed feelings never dissipate, they inevitably resurface. Their unacknowledged hostility is projected onto the Old Man disguised as a Spook. This is why they actually fear, and trust in the veracity of the monster, when the others do not. It seems dangerous and ferocious to them, because they imbue it with the very murderous, Oedipal feelings that they have repressed. They believe it wishes to destroy and castrate them, just as they wish to destroy and castrate Fred the Father.
No matter how many times the ghoul is proved to be a cheap decoy, camouflaging criminal wrong doing, Shaggy and Scooby will continue to be duped, because their feelings are not grounded in rationality, but in deep neurosis caused by an Unresolved Oedipus Complex compounded with Infantile Regression due to Oral Fixation.
As long as the Pesky Kids continue to live in their psychologically destructive pseudo-family situation, rife with unresolved and unconscious hostilities, their situation can only continue to deteriorate. Under these dangerous conditions, Daphne, Velma and Fred run serious risk of developing latent neuroses, while poor Shaggy and Scooby, already in such psychological peril are in danger of succumbing to full fledged sociopathy. Perhaps this is what is meant by the theme song's refrain "Scooby, Scooby Doo, where are you?" It would appear that poor Scooby is very lost indeed.