Lesbian Lust and Scooby Doo


Daphne is a vision in purple.

It’s been plague time at our house—we’ve been attacked by killer cold germs and fallen one by one. Our 5-year-old was hit first, coming down with it during a weekend trip to a cabin, where we spent hours in the hot tub with him (he would live aquatically if he could), but we don’t blame the constant clash of 100-degree water with 50-degree air, we know that it was fraternizing with other preschoolers, not chill, that invited the germs in for a party, though it’s too bad the hot tub didn’t just cook the sickness right out of him.

Instead, he took it home and shared. With me. And when the mom-in-charge falls ill, the household falls apart. I did what I could to keep the troops on time, the kitchen near health code standards (though I left the floor up to the Labrador), and clean laundry tumbling out of the dryer, but needless to say, the amount of screen-time skyrocketed.
It was all Scooby Doo, all the time. Casey Kasem could be heard from dawn to dark crying, “Scooby Doo, where are you?” while a variety of voice actors replied for Scooby, “Rover rere!” To save ourselves from repetition madness, we have an extensive Scooby Doo collection: 25 videos and DVDs at last count, in addition to the 30 or so books about the Mystery Inc. gang I read to our youngest in bed each night, except when he’s on a Curious George jag.

Admittedly, I considered it a bonus when the Great Dane with an appetite was resurrected from ’70s hell into the 21st century just as our third child was old enough to appreciate him. Our older two were less impressed with the Scooby Doo straight-to-video movies that came out during their early years, but from his first, “Will you do it for a Scooby Snack?” no. 3 was hooked.

He comes by it naturally—I’m an original Scooby Doo fan, loving the show not only because a talking dog seemed normal to me (I liked dogs far better than people), but because the characters were cast into crazy scenarios with bad guys and ghosts innately intriguing to the girl who would later go on a mystery reading spree unchecked since 1984. The painterly backdrops to the character animation seemed cool and the other-worldly themes apropos in an era when the hit soap opera, Dark Shadows, focused on a family with vampires.

My son and I like the human characters, too: leader Fred Jones with his Malibu Ken hairstyle, swinging ascot and sole captainship of the Mystery Machine, “smart one” Velma Dinkley, representing Nerdsville circa 1969, mellow Norville “Shaggy” Rogers in flares and a goatee, “Danger Prone” Daphne Blake striking a pose in purple, and Scooby Doo, the canine bundle of nerves. It was only recently that I confessed I’d always wanted to be Daphne, not Velma (a feminist faux pas if ever there was one) because I liked her red hair, her bitchin’ bod, her ability to accessorize, and I couldn’t imagine spending 37 years in orange by choice.

The version of Scooby Doo our son consumes non-stop (when he isn’t watching anthologized episodes from the original show) has character updates that alleviate my feminist guilt. Velma continues to be “the smart one,” but on science geek steroids (a Bill Gates-Robert Oppenheimer clone in turtleneck and mini skirt), while Fred’s IQ has dropped significantly. No longer a natural leader, he’s become the tongue in cheek master of Mystery Machine reconfiguration (it’s a minivan, an amphibious assault vehicle, no, a roving restaurant!), and his elaborate traps, which were always disastrous in earlier evolutions, ironically work this time around. Shaggy remains true to type, eating his way through every episode and scared stiff as the inevitable live bait with Scooby by his side (no sign of that irritating Scrappy Doo or the country bumpkin-baiting Scooby Dum). But Daphne got the real redesign.

I’m not surprised that the writers gave her an upgrade—even my 5-year-old son would smell a rat if every episode continued to focus on her cluelessness, her inability to outrun a possum, her unwillingness to muss her hair, and her propensity to be kidnapped by the villain when the first trap fails. There is a reference to this phenomenon in "Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster," when Daphne’s cousin explains how the Blake family died out from falling victim to “overly elaborate booby traps of their own design.” Bitch magazine would have a field day and Mother Jones would promote a boycott if Daphne continued to trip headfirst into trouble before every commercial break, especially since Velma sealed up her own Achilles’ heel by giving Shaggy her extra glasses in case she loses hers during a “let’s split up and search for clues” session.

The 21st century Daphne has morphed into MacGyver with a purse, capable of squealing over a hair-ruining downpour, slinging a culturally savvy comeback and making a cold-fusion generator out of a battery, a hairpin, a bottle of water and hair gel, all in the same episode. She gets her fellow Mystery Inc. characters out of jams with simple grooming tools, or solves the mystery by recognizing that suede shoes would show if the suspect left the building during the aforementioned downpour. When it comes to Daphne, I’m not even sure anymore if I want to be her or do her—a status previously held only by Angelina Jolie (though she’s become way too much of a mother goddess for that confusion; it’s definitely “be” these days).

OK, Daphne’s a cartoon character, so dating is out—even if I wasn’t married—but I still say she’s a role model for femmes for sure, as well as open-minded girls everywhere who want to wear purple (that’s code for “Girl Scout-nuclear physicist-handywoman skills in a go-go dancer body”). That whole “Fred and Daphne” hookup has never come to fruition and I know why.

Of course, I’ve had more time than most to psychoanalyze this animated posse during the days spent slinging liquids at recumbent offspring gathered round the TV, and nights spent filling in the gap years between Scooby Dum and the rebirth of the Mystery Inc. gang via books in which the gang goes to a video shoot, watches a checker’s tournament, opens an amusement park or volunteers at a hotel during Halloween. Chaos, costumes and unlikely booby traps ensue. At least, I tell myself, as my youngest soaks up every word (I swear everything he knows, he learned from Scooby Doo), they make time for community service between classes and mystery solving. For high school students, they sure get around.

Beren deMotier is a freelance writer who would like a purse like Daphne’s, one that can hold a hair dryer, an electric drill, an extra set of shoes and a box of Scooby Snacks without showing a bulge. She makes do with a small cadre of purses in Portland, Ore., with her wife, three kids and a minivan with flowers on the side like the Mystery Machine. She’s previously written about lesbian weddings, Portland, Ore. and coming out with her autistic son for Curve.

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