The other day Aidan was watching Scooby-Doo on Cartoon Network.
And watching it with him I got nostalgic and then slipped into a theological reverie.
When it comes to Scooby-Doo I'm kind of a 1969-1971 purist. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! premiered on CBS on September 13, 1969 with the episode "What a Night for a Knight."
Here are what the opening credits looked like for that very first episode of Scooby-Doo:
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was eventually picked up for a second--1970-1971--season. And added to the opening credits was Austin Roberts' now iconic theme song:
My all-time favorite Scooby-Doo episodes are the seven second season episodes that featured a song by Roberts during the case scenes. Most episodes of Scooby-Doo feature a scene with the monster chasing Scooby, Shaggy and the gang. And during these seven second season episodes one of Austin Roberts' pop songs created the score for the chase. If you've never seen one of these episodes here is the chase scene with Roberts' song, of all songs, "Love the World":
In 1972, after 25 episodes, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was reworked to become The New Scooby-Doo Movies which expanded the episodes from 30 to 60 minutes and featured Scooby-Doo and the gang solving cases with famous guest hosts like the Harlem Globetrotters, Batman and Robin and the Three Stooges. It's at this point where the franchise jumped the shark. In my opinion, the Golden Years of Scooby-Doo were the first two seasons--the Scooby Doo, Where Are You! episodes.
If you've never watched Scooby-Doo, particularly the early episodes, the plot follows a standard pattern. From the Wikipedia entry:
Each episode featured Scooby and the four teenaged members of the Mystery, Inc. gang: Fred, Shaggy, Daphne, and Velma, arriving to a location in the "Mystery Machine" and encountering a ghost, monster, or other supernatural creature, whom they learned was terrorizing the local populace. After looking for clues and suspects and being chased by the monster, the kids come to realize the ghost is anything but, and - often with the help of a Rube Goldberg-like trap designed by Fred - they capture the villain and unmask him. Revealed as a flesh and blood crook trying to cover up crimes by using the ghost story and costume, the criminal is arrested and taken to jail, often saying something to the effect of "...and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!"As I sat watching Scooby-Doo with Aidan the other day it struck me how Scooby-Doo is a perfect parable of disenchantment. In his book A Secular Age, Charles Taylor talks about how, over the last 500 years, the world moved from enchantment to disenchantment. Five hundred years ago the world was full of supernatural forces, witchcraft, and ghosts. A world full of thin places, where the border between this world and the Other world was porous and leaky. Five hundred years ago people could be demon possessed or afflicted by witches. The night was full of occult menace and magic. Black cats were bad luck.
Things are much different today. We live in the aftermath of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. We are moderns, where science, technology, and skepticism now rule. With electric lighting the dark forces of the night have been banished. There's no room for monsters. Medicine and psychiatry have pushed witchcraft and demon possession offstage. Worrying about black cats is just superstitious and irrational. And ghost stories are just that--fictional tales to scare the kids around the campfire.
Watching Scooby-Doo I realized how closely the show traces, in a single episode, this movement from enchantment to disenchantment. The episodes begin with enchantment, with a supernatural monster, specter, ghoul or ghost. But as the kids investigate they get suspicious, reason asserts itself and the monster--the agent of the occult--is eventually revealed to be Mr. Jenkins the greedy banker. The story ends with disenchantment. The supernatural was simply a "cover" for workaday greed, theft and corruption.
But then I starting thinking about how money and gain are repeatedly revealed to be the true motives behind the villains in Scooby-Doo. Money is the Power behind the occult force.
And this made me wonder if Scooby-Doo is as disenchanted as I took it to be. Given the close association between the demonic and the economic in the bible it struck me that there really was a spiritual Power at work in Scooby-Doo, perhaps the most demonic power of all. The final temptation of Jesus:
The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”Soon after, Jesus preaches in the Sermon the Mount:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."As Paul wrote to Timothy, "the love of money is the root of all evil."
So as I sat there watching Scooby-Doo I began to wonder. Perhaps this isn't a tale of disenchantment after all. Perhaps Scooby-Doo really is a story about the occult and the demonic. We've just lost the ability to see it.
We moderns think the world has been rid of the dark forces--the ghouls, ghosts, demons and monsters. But these occult forces of evil haven't been expelled, expunged or exorcised. They still haunt and torment.
As we see in Scooby-Doo, the demons still possess us.