Search Term Friday: Is Scooby Doo Demonic?

Recently these search terms brought someone to the blog:

is scooby doo demonic?

Strange question, right? But why would this blog have an answer?

In 2011 I wrote a blog post entitled "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: On Disenchantment and the Demonic."

In that post I suggested that on the surface Scooby-Doo appears to be a parable of disenchantment, as the snooping kids find that behind the ghosts and ghouls there is just human trickery.

But inspired by the work of thinkers like Walter Wink and William Stringfellow at the end of the post I flip that conclusion on it's head.

In short, yes, Scooby-Doo is demonic. If we have the eyes to see it.


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 chase 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. In my estimation those are the very best Scooby-Doo episodes, the classics.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Search Term Friday: Is Scooby Doo Demonic?”

  1. I wonder why we are so confident at ascribing a 'naive realism' to the ancients, at least to the intellectual elite of those times. That is, I wonder if the 'disenchantment' is actually from an already decadent understanding of the demonic, which reduces it precisely to 'flesh and blood' (cf Ephesians 6.12), and which is therefore part of the intellectual turn towards prioritising the empirical. Simply put: biblical understanding of the demonic and the powers decays to an empirical, objective, materialist understanding - and then it is the latter understanding which is, in turn, 'disenchanted'. Either way, I'm definitely a realist about the demonic.

  2. I'm generally a skeptic but I was listening to the Yale lectures given by Dale Martin. He sort of jokingly says that according to Roman sources one of the keys that led to the growth of Christianity was that Christians were better healers and exorsists than their Roman counterparts. Were they just better group actors than the Roman Pentecost counterparts?

  3. First of all, my grandson loves Scooby-Doo. Whenever I visit I must sit through every movie....and stay awake. I can assure you, that's not easy when you've just come off a long flight.

    Now to your post. Very interesting. What I see is that it is very easy for people to accept the banker, the land developer, the corporate point man as the demon when he has just been unmasked in an animated cartoon. But in reality, it is the reverse. The conservative middle class has let itself become so angry toward people who are the users of food stamps and those on the community Medicaid roles, that the rich and the corporate giants have almost taken on an angelic image. I have never before seen such a lopsided affection toward the rich from middle class Christians like I witness today.

    There seems to be the unquestioned acceptance that capitalism is inherently good; that no conditions, whatsoever, determine its worth. It is shocking for me when I make the statement, to those who see themselves as born again and strong believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that capitalism's right to exist reaches only as far as its willingness to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, and I immediately hear the screech, "Socialism!!" And who are the demons in their eyes? The young lady who gets her nails done and her children who have nice clothes for school.

    No, it is not wrong to sometimes wonder about and to question a person's use of their resources. However, the convenient belief that the poor today are not like the poor of Jesus's day and concern, or when the writer James in the New Testament reprimanded the assemblies for their preferential treatment of the rich, has Christianity in certain areas and cultures standing on its head. Oh, they see demons, alright. But the ones they see are clawless, while they are too impressed with any old Beelzebub who declares war on the little ones on their behalf.

  4. Really enjoy your systematic and thorough tour the room. Dialing back from the Linda Blair levitation / multiple 360 degree head rotations conversation, "we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but ...". Would Jesus rebuke Peter TODAY in the identical manner - "Get behind me Satan"? I'd guess yes - (context, context) the entirety of existence was at stake on His road to the cross back then. Today, it's nearly as creepy to observe sociopathic/psychopathic malice, selfishness, greed in real human-people as it is to be awoken by my wife crying out while being attacked by a demon in the middle of the night. Memories of the facial expressions and obsessive behavior of the Scooby Doo villain (understanding what I know now about the destructive capabilities of humans), I agree to where you're going here. It would be interesting to see Jesus walk around in today's post-modern world using the nomenclature available in neuropsychiatry (don't think He would condemn nor embrace it) and see where He might draw that proverbial line - where flesh and blood ends and principalities and powers begin on a case by case basis - IF there is such a line in His view. (Really - Jesus and neuropsychiatry? I know ... please chill) - thanks again Dr. Beck!

  5. Enchantment in 'ye ole days'? Oh, yes, by the way 'she floats! she's a witch, burn her at the stake!' Yep, let's have some witch trials. Oh, also let's roll out you are possessed by a demon and we'll have to drill a hole in your head to let it out. Some enchanted evening...and today we have "healing by crystals", "colon cleansing", "soft-porn" torture/murder movies (that is the new horror genre). The superstitions of our ancestors are still with us, we just call them something else. Don't worry, Richard, we are still "enchanted".

    (Here's another example: In an African country, one tribe was winning the latest civil war. A magic man told the troops that bullets would turn to water and they wouldn't get hurt. The local opposing tribe believed the same thing and basically would run away when attacked so tribe 1 was winning the war. Until the French showed up. Those troops were trained and didn't run away. Hard lesson to learn. Bullets don't turn to water. Magic didn't protect them.)

  6. I don't know if you or Richard would be interested in the research of Dr Joe Webster whose "doctoral research focused upon the folk-theologies of salvation and eschatology among Scottish Brethren fishermen in Gamrie, a small Aberdeenshire fishing village of 700 people and six Protestant churches. Ethnographically, he examined how life as a deep sea fisherman and life as a millenarian Christian came together to produce a world that was both modern and enchanted. A monograph based on this research was published as The Anthropology of Protestantism: Faith and Crisis among Scottish Fishermen (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013). The book develops a new reading of Max Weber's theory of disenchantment by rethinking the relationship between immanence and transcendence." I heard a very interesting account of this research on the radio the other day.

  7. Andrew, first, thank you for working with my question which was a question in the works. I am interested in your citations; I would also like a link to the radio show you cited.

    A further stab at the question. Maybe I'm conflating 'enchantment' with astonishment. Here I want to bring in the episode of 'manna'.

    And then there's brain. Brain somehow, in this context is manna. Pinker loves 'brain' more than 'soul'. Yet I love 'soul': I think Pinker wants 'reductionism' more than soul. Without brains, Souls couldn't exist I would argue, and here's why: What is, by way of repetition, can be put into a machine so that what can't be repetitious- or is truly creative- has freed up energy to do what it's called to do in a way that such doing has yet to exist. Soul is more creativity than history?

    What is it to be in essence, more creative than historical, while at the same time be born of contingency?

    Was Jesus merely innovative?

    Or, was he answering a 'calling'?

    So who's calling, and who's answering?

    Brains are so much more than bacteria-which themselves are so much more than anything within planetary physics- yet on this planet, by the ones who name things, both brains and souls are unremarkable- simply because they originate in the human experience of this all...Here, all things are molecules and molecular; or, they're misplaced and against God until they exist in heaven. Both sides stake their claims from a perch- which in the scale of the infinite space of the universe, is a mere spec.

    For me, I vie for Soul as something needing brain, yet can't be equated to it. A brain has its own satisfaction: What makes for the satisfaction of the soul? Piety? Maybe for a religious soul, yes. But what of a soul that can't be had by piety? Like the soul of Jesus for instance?

    I'm mystified by brain--as I am by any shape of any thing that holds itself over time-- including the simplest of molecules-- even prior to agency.

    Without making any sense I'm gonna stop here; I put forth a question which was one in work rather than one accomplished. You took it up well and in a way that helps me further this question. Andrew, I look forward to your response if you are compelled; at least I want the links I requested at the beginning of this response. M.

  8. Hi Mike

    I always enjoy reading and pondering your comments, and this one was a doozy! It raises so many questions I have framed myself in different words, and have no answer to. I suspect we are in something of a limbo between a Cartesian and a post-Cartesian world where the emphasis for the last decades has been on iconoclasm rather than innovation (coming up with new models).

    Enchantment, for Webster, speaks to a world heavily invested with meaning. This is not about metaphor ("this current event represents a spiritual reality") so much as duality and what Webster terms consubstantiality ("this current event is evidence of God/Satan at work"). In this, there is perhaps a fascinating parallel (in the unlikeliest of places) with your questions about the brain/soul, and possibly ones about creativity/historicity. Perhaps we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater in a way that Richard seems to be nodding to in our move away from a mystical/experiential faith.

    The radio link is to the BBC iPlayer, and unfortunately not accessible from the States. The book can be found on Kindle at: A good review can be read at:

    Sorry to gloss over such big questions: I may continue to ponder and resume my reply after church!

    Blessings as always


  9. Hi again Mike

    I just want to thank you and Richard for triggering a really helpful experience of church this morning. Going to church with my head full of this discussion helped me to realise how disenchanted I've become in recent years - how I've stopped listening and experiencing church with the expectation and sense of a parallel world that Richard has alluded to in recent posts. Allowing myself to re-open this channel, I found I was able to maintain a critical distance and wider philosophical perspective AT THE SAME TIME AS allowing myself to be enchanted by the worship and the sermon on the work and person of the Holy Spirit. This made me reflect anew on your question of mind, body and spirit. Was it a different part of my mind that was experiencing church as enchantment, or was there a qualitatively different dimension of spirit in operation?

    I also found myself realising that I already experience work as enchantment. This came as something of a surprise to me and made me realise how judgemental I'd become of the church to which I still belong. I think it was this judgemental backlash against what I once subscribed to (conservative evangelicalism) that had stopped up the experience of enchantment at church.

    An example of experiencing my work as a psychologist as enchantment: I understand and believe in the reality of the action of oxytocin and cortisol on areas of the brain. These hormones counteract one another and are associated with the experiences of relatedness and high levels of stress respectively. Some of my work involves advising adults on ways to promote higher levels of oxytocin in children in order to counteract the predisposition of their brains - based on environmental experience and epigenetics - to produce cortisol.

    The thing is, I don't just think about this advice as a quasi-medical intervention. Rather, I see a parallel paradigm - perhaps what might be called a spiritual world - in which fear and love are pretty much (but not wholly) mutually exclusive and in which the human will operates. The best example of this I've come across in the psychological literature is from Dan Hughes who defines love as the ability to stay in an open related state when environmental cues are acting on your brain in such a way as to promote a closed, withdrawn state.

    Hope these thoughts are of some interest.


  10. Andrew, I'm reading through your thoughts again this morning and I'm appreciating how much oomph they have in pushing us forward. I like your distinction between metaphor and something "ontological"; your handling of a brain's experience in children is quite deft: It's one thing to speak to that part of a child that traffics in words, it's another to be a bit more intentional and create exchanges that will more likely let the brain secrete more oxytocin. I'm enchanted by your move in this--such a move never occurred to me.

    As I've been thinking through this, I'm wondering if the "difficulty" I'm drawn to, begins with enchantment being coupled with demons and angels and the like-- a pre-enlightenment iconography of reality. What if we were free to model anew?

    I'm assuming that 'enchantment' is a coherent state of experience between a human person and reality. The variable then, is the environment of enchantment. Or, what for a person constitutes- no, inspires enchantment. Maybe I'm wondering if there's an "adult" brand of enchantment to be had. Maybe I'm reacting to some kind of naivete' (forced?) that seems to me to be implicit in the Evangelical world-view.

    Here's the funny thing; when we shift our word used to designate the totality of this all from "universe" to "reality", the earth shifts from being a mere spec to being the stage where reality shows up most. Leave the earth, and all one needs is planetary physics. Exist on the earth, and one needs vastly more to see and understand reality. And as long as Science is in the business of understanding Causality, we'll need other frameworks to see the reality in which we find ourselves, as causality is only part of this picture-- especially when you lump human life into our consideration as it itself is not totally bound by nature.

    So we have an Evangelical culture that is mesmerized by the thought of Heaven- and lacks it for the here and now, and we have Science culture that can see how all this works- and concludes that reality is merely in the molecule making business. Neither culture sees the "human experience of being alive" as being truly coherent here and now.

    What I'm trying to get at by the word 'coherent' is about something of "participation" rather than "interaction"- "things" in their places mutually shape each other through something like "porous membranes". So for instance, when the human person encounters Beauty, they encounter something of Reality even though Science won't see it through their frame works of seeing.

    In other words, the Reality of which any human level organism has the capacity for, is larger than the Reality of which both Evangelical and Science culture is willing to see. Yet, Jesus leads me into this larger capacity for Reality; Science though, has led me into Reality in ways that Jesus couldn't.

    Thanks for working with me on this Andrew, your help has been immense. Maybe some skypping would be in order- If you lack the time for it, I certainly understand.


  11. Thanks for the kind words of encouragement and your further response, Mike. Being a bear of very little brain, I've jotted down a few headings to try and keep myself on track:

    The enchantedness of impermanence

    It struck me in your earlier post that there was something enchanted (=expectant of the emergence of parallel truths) in your own view of the physical/atomic world on two levels:

    1. The wonder you express in the fact that any material object can continue to exist requires me to regress to a highly infantile state of imagination, to enter an imaginative state less developed/constrained than the point at which object permanence kicks in at as little as 3 months in the human infant.

    2. I find myself wondering whether, say, the integration of strong and weak electromagnetic forces would lessen this state of wonder, or whether some revelation of divine love concerning the way in which 'God holds all things together by his powerful word' would affect your scientific view of the world. In other words, are these two worlds of science and spiritual wonder in...

    Dialogical relationship

    Since childhood, I have loved the Da Vinci quotation: 'Study the science of art and the art of science.' Unlike your scenario, in which science and beauty are mutually incomprehensible (if I've understood you correctly), I like to think that the science at its best enhances my sense of enchantment, and spiritual apotheoses, at their purest, inculcate a greater trust in such science. I have shared here before the closest experience I've ever had of 'hearing God' in a psychology seminar that was profoundly challenging my Christian beliefs. I was suddenly intensely conscious that I had a choice to batten down the hatches and defend my patch, or to throw off the moorings and let the river take me. It was then that words formed unbidden in my mind: "The truth can stand up for itself." That moment has made all the difference.

    Wicked problems

    I think you are right to distinguish between the empirical science of the material world and the messy business of understanding humanity. For me, the only way to square this circle is to adopt an ontological view that views truth as both absolute AND relative. That is why I describe myself as a Personal Construct psychologist (one of the few epistemologies based on such an ontology).

    Metaphors of learning

    Finally, your ideas of coherence as participation reminded me of Anna Sfard's seminal paper "On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one" - the metaphors in question being acquisition and participation. I think you would find this interesting if you're not already familiar with it.

    As far as Skype goes, the idea fills me with terror - you expect me to think this stuff up in real time?! You'll have to continue to persuade me of the merits of this medium! Loving the dialogue, my still-virtual friend.


  12. Andrew, a quick note before a fuller response in the morning.

    One is before Caesar. One is enchanted. Both fall to their knees. What's the difference?

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