Scooby Doo was a cartoon which ran through the 1970s and was reproduced in various mediums, based on the adventures of a group of four young adults and a large talking dog who travel across the continental U.S. in a hippie- style minivan, trying to solve crimes and decipher horror stories. The plotlines were observed to be somewhat dull and, for lack of a better word, lame, but it was deemed as one of the most influential cartoons ever created. Despite all this hysteria about its plotlines, historic reconciliations, and humor, Scooby Doo was ripe in stereotypes about gender roles and body image and social hierarchy. The identification and contrast between two of the main female characters, Daphne and Velma, provides a substantial argument regarding how women characters in animation programs are portrayed as either beautiful, passive, and irrelevant, or smart, but less attractive.
Daphne is, first and foremost, the damsel in distress of the gang in Scooby Doo, but she is also consistently portrayed as self- centered, vain, and weak. In writing Daphne as the character most likely to get kidnapped, we are lead to believe that this notion is due to the fact that her figure is petite and vulnerable (Gender in the Media, 2010). It is also implied that Daphne is more likely to get raped by the various “monsters” they encounter, which feeds into the notion of a rape culture; you are meant to be beautiful, but if you are attractive, you are in danger of falling prey to sexual predators. Moreover, Daphne is extremely conceited, as she is the model female figure of the group, but this is not ridiculed (What Are Cartoons Really Teaching Kids?, 2011). Rather, the concept of her self involvement is geared more towards forming a relation with Fred, the dominant male character who saves the day in nearly every episode. It is repeatedly proposed that Daphne and Fred are an item, and their interactions reflect this notion in that she is helpless until Fred comes to her rescue, reinforcing Daphne’s passivity to male dominance. Daphne’s physical appearance is yet another negative aspect through which to view her, as her waist is unnaturally tiny, her hair is never frazzled or distorted, and her clothes are always ironed, even though she participates in dangerous and perilous undertakings, which in reality would, at the very least, wrinkle a blouse or remove a purple headband.
On the other hand, Velma, who is the brains behind many of the operations and mysteries, conveys a sense of intelligence that is absent in Daphne. Velma uses scientific and empirical evidence to solve the majority of the mysteries, but she, ironically, is considerably less attractive than Daphne. This idea serves as a means through which to assess the relevance of education as opposed to physical beauty; Velma’s wardrobe is brown and red, a dull color combination that does little to stimulate the appeal, and her hair is short and boyish. Her glasses also formulate the stereotype that all intelligent people wear glasses and have an inherent Erkel quality. Velma’s primary role is to provide children with a “smart girl” rather than just another pretty face, but why can’t she be both? According to an article published in the Asian Social Science Journal (Ahmad & Wahab, 2014), “as an important agent of social identity like the other agents such as friends, parents and social groups, the animated cartoons and television could also mould the minds of children towards their real identification in society.” Children who view Scooby Doo tend to strive towards the ideal image of beauty and disregard Velma as just another nerd. The term nerd is used to put a negative spin on female intelligence, and the writers of Scooby Doo did this so accurately with Velma’s character that it is quite difficult to argue over who would prevail in a beauty contest with Daphne.
Bourne, L., Dagenais, T. (1969, September 13th). Scooby Doo, Where Are You? U.S.A.: Hanna- Barbera Productions.
Ahmad, S., Wahab, J.A. (2014, January 27th). Animation and Socialization Process: Gender Role Portrayal on Cartoon Network. Asian Social Science, 10 (3), pp. 44-52. Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education.
What Are Cartoons Really Teaching Kids? (2011, February 23rd). Is There Stereotyping of Women in Scooby Doo? Retrieved from
http://theatre597project.blogspot.com/2011/02/is-there-stereotyping-of-woman-in.htmlGender in the Media. (2010, May 21st). Scooby Dooby Doo. Retrieved from http://genderinthemedia.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/scooby-dooby-doo/