ISSUE THIRTEEN | FALL 2019
in the style of Carmen María Machado’s “Especially Heinous”
Scooby-Doo and the Black Forest Wizards
The Mystery Machine breaks down in the Black Forest. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, hungry with no pizza or burgers in sight, find an old man selling Black Forest mushrooms on the side of the road. He warns them about the wizards that have been terrorizing the villagers. Shaggy, who moonlights in this movie as a gourmet chef, cooks the mushrooms in a stew for the gang. Not long after eating, they wander into a clearing where they see men in cloaks transform into bears. Convinced these must be the Black Forest Wizards about whom they’d been forewarned, the gang traps them; they’re revealed to be a group of treasure hunters in search of the Holy Grail. Shaggy recognizes one of the wizards as the man who sold them mushrooms. Velma—in this incarnation, an amateur mycologist—uses her fungus analyzer to determine that the mushrooms are actually powerful hallucinogens, which explains why everyone saw the wizards shapeshifting and casting spells. The gang ridicules Velma for being a nerd, which makes her grimace; when the teasing won’t stop, she throws her fungus analyzer in anger, which shatters into a million pieces. “Look what you made me do! I hate you all!” is Velma’s last line in the film.
Scooby-Doo and the Ghost Army
The gang drives to Lake Erie, where War of 1812 reenactors report sightings of actual ghosts. In this film, Velma just got LASIK eye surgery, marking the first and only film in which she doesn’t wear glasses; she also sports a longer hairdo and is drawn with a defined waistline. The running joke is every character mistakes Velma for Daphne’s older, hotter sister, much to Daphne’s dismay, who goes so far as to trip Velma during a clue-gathering montage. The ghosts are revealed to be creations of a sophisticated projection technology hidden in the ground. The gang only solves the mystery when Fred accidentally steps on one of the glass projectors and cracks it, causing the ghost to appear fractured and glitchy. In the film’s denouement, Shaggy asks Velma on a date, which makes her giggle and blush. She accepts, but her teeth are gritted as she says yes—some fans relate to what they perceive as her embarrassment about being “girly”—and when Shaggy leans in for a kiss, she pushes him away. As the gang drives off, Mystery Machine zooming into the distance, the glitchy ghost appears again, cackling darkly into the night, forcing viewers to ask: were the ghosts real after all?
Scooby-Doo’s Tennis Adventure!
Daphne in this iteration is a champion tennis player preparing for the Arizona Tennis Classic. Velma is Daphne’s ball girl; during two scenes where Daphne practices, Fred operates the tennis ball machine, which he paints to look like the Mystery Machine. In the B-plot, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo wage war against a pair of mischievous vultures who keep swooping down during matches to steal their concession stand hotdogs and popcorn. Everyone thinks the villain is Daphne’s rival, Vanessa von Venerate, voiced by an actor whose voice is recognizable but unplaceable, though a search on IMDb makes it apparent she’s just played a ton of bit parts in nine or ten popular movies over the last decade. Velma repeatedly drops Daphne’s clubs all over the golf course and no one helps her pick them up; at one point, she accidentally breaks Daphne’s putter. Shoving the pieces into her bag, she asks “Am I being punished for participating?” to no one in particular. Vanessa von Venerate is, of course, not the one dressing up in the giant laser-shooting scorpion costume—it’s the mayor of the town, who wants to scare everyone off before the town uses up all its water. A fan online complains about political agendas tainting even children’s films.
In this film, the gang visits Rome, where Velma has been hired as curator for a special exhibit on da Vinci’s paintings, including a recently-discovered second painting of the model who posed for Mona Lisa (it’s a fake). Though this role is Velma’s most dignified ever, she is subjected six times to the “My glasses! I can’t see without my glasses!” gag. The film is especially notable for two things: its franchise-record-breaking eighteen-minute chase sequence, where the monster (a chimera that breathes fire, who is actually the man who forged the second Mona Lisa) chases Shaggy and Scooby through the Colosseum, and for having the most strongly-implied queer romance for Velma (between her and the mysterious, beret-wearing docent Emilia) of any entry in the franchise. Amazon reviewers are critical of the romance plotline, which some argue is too subtle to count as representational, while others say forcing Velma to be a queer woman is unfair typecasting building on decades of negative stereotypes about lesbians as nerdy and unstylish.
Scooby-Doo on Dragon Mountain
The gang ventures to China. Because there’s no continuity from movie to movie, Daphne isn’t a golfer, Shaggy isn’t a chef, and Velma isn’t obsessed with mushrooms or a curator of paintings. For the eighteenth time in the franchise’s history, the monster is a Chinese dragon. As they do frequently, Scooby and Shaggy dress in drag to lure the monster out, wearing kimonos this time, which aren’t even Chinese—at one point, it looks like Velma might lecture them for this mistake, but she closes her mouth and shakes her head, perhaps feeling too defeated to argue. The character animations in this film are incredibly racist, down to vibrant yellow skin tones for the Chinese characters, but no fans seem to notice.
Scooby-Doo and the Skinwalkers
This project gets cancelled after protests sparked by the film’s appropriation of a legend from an indigenous culture. Two self-professed “lifelong fans” complain about political correctness ruining everything in a dusty corner of a Scooby-Doo forum, but it’s just the two of them talking back and forth in an otherwise-abandoned fan site.
Scooby-Doo: Leprechaun Luck
After the PR disaster of the cancelled skinwalker project, not to mention lackluster returns on some previous entries in the franchise, Hanna-Barbera hires on a brother-sister duo, the Vestergaard Siblings, to helm the franchise. Leprechaun Luck is the first of three movies they make, notable for its dark color palette, serious treatment of plot and character, and jokes that land. In this film, Velma is a doctoral candidate at Haunted State University on a research trip to Ireland; the gang, for no explainable reason, tags along. Velma is assisting her kooky advisor, Professor Ghostmore, voiced by Maria Bamford, find and capture a banshee for her supernatural creatures lab. The whole trip, it turns out, is a scam, concocted as an excuse for Professor Ghostmore to steal grant money for herself, a plot twist that is roundly criticized by the Academy of Academia Representation in Film (AARF) as a dishonest depiction of scientific research.
Scooby-Doo in The Spy Who Shaggyed Me
This iteration is a fanfiction, the most-read piece on a popular fanfiction archive. A parody of the Austin Powers franchise, this piece is also notable for its extended erotic scenes between Fred and Shaggy, perhaps the least probable pairing of the gang, save anyone and Scooby (though the fanfictions of these exist, too). Someone launches a Kickstarter campaign to fund an independently-animated film version, but it falls fifteen thousand dollars short of its goal. A few readers find the depictions of women distasteful, in particular a scene where Daphne and Velma discuss their love lives and Fred and Shaggy decry them as sluts. Most other readers dismiss these criticisms, arguing that a text with two gay main characters can’t be antifeminist.
You’re Toast, Scooby-Doo!
The second entry by the Vestergaard Siblings, which actually demonstrates a modicum of continuity by maintaining that Velma is a doctoral candidate at HSU, gains cult popularity among college-age stoners for its psychedelic scenes, including a chase sequence with Scooby and burnt, larger-than-life bagels, frozen French toast sticks, and PopTarts (called ToasterCakes for legal reasons). In a particularly odd scene, where Velma and Daphne are trapped in Count von Breadburger’s dungeon, Velma discovers a secret passage behind a bookcase. She insists they should go into the dark, cobwebby tunnel, but Daphne refuses to leave the dungeon, iterating repeatedly that they should wait for Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby to find and rescue them. “But this is our way out,” Velma insists. “We can leave. I’m tired of doing all the work. Aren’t you tired of playing your part, too?” When Daphne refuses a second time, Velma sighs and says, “Of course you’re on their side. They let you be the fun one. You wouldn’t understand.” The conversation, while heartfelt, is never referenced again in the film, and some fans wonder if its inclusion is an accident. It has the longest runtime of any Scooby-Doo movie at one hundred forty-six minutes. On its fifth anniversary, the film is rereleased as a director-approved Criterion Collection Blu-Ray, which increases the runtime to a full three hours. A retrospective review from Variety hails the film as “a pop culture masterpiece.”
Scooby-Doo at the World Series
This entry in the series, a crossover with Major League Baseball, with cameos by actual baseball players Andrew McCutchen, Justin Verlander, and Bryce Harper, was already in the works before the Vestergaards were brought to the franchise. Though they refuse to get involved with the project, the film is one of the better entries in the series, featuring the ghosts of Abner Doubleday and Babe Ruth battling for dominance of Fenway Park. Velma is obsessed with baseball in this film, which some viewers think is funny but out of character for her, while others note it might be lazy lesbian stereotyping rearing its head again. The film’s animators use rotoscoping to accurately capture the movements of baseball players. Scooby and Shaggy once again dress in drag, this time as naughty peanut-sellers that rove the aisles of the empty stadium to lure out the ghosts. A few viewers notice a figure strutting naked in the locker room during one scene, probably a cruel prank by one of the dissatisfied animators at the South Korean studio where all the movies are drawn. All remaining DVDs are recalled and destroyed.
Scooby-Doo and the Peat Bog Mummies
The final Vestergaard Siblings film is the scariest Scooby-Doo movie ever made, featuring long, nightmarish sequences of vividly-animated bodies in decay attempting to strangle and smother the gang. There are only three jokes in the entire film, which is scored to a very Trent-Reznor-esque soundtrack. In this movie, Daphne is also enrolled as a graduate student at Haunted State and, alongside Velma, is researching peat bog mummies rumored to be rising late at night to terrorize local townspeople. While in the field, trying to retrieve a mummy from the peat bog for further study, Daphne falls in. Velma watches her struggle for sixteen whole seconds, listening to Daphne plead for help without responding. Her gaze is blank, which some viewers interpret as her trying to concoct a solution that doesn’t involve both of them dying, but others feel it’s more calculating and cold than that, reading reluctance in her last-second reaching out. It’s also the only Scooby-Doo film to feature a swear word: “What the hell?” Daphne says when Velma finally saves her; Velma replies “There isn't room for two of us.” Most audiences assume this is meant as a commentary on the cutthroat nature of funding in academia. The film carries a Viewer Discretion sticker on the front of the case, and Walmart refuses to sell it. Tensions with Hanna-Barbera means the Vestergaards are fired from the franchise, though a notable horror director cites the film as a major influence on his opus, Catamaran Express, which wins an Academy Award for Best Picture fifteen years later.
Scooby-Doo and the Mole People
This project gets shelved because the writers, no matter how hard they try, are unable to get Velma’s characterization under control. Her dialogue frequently veers into monologues about how unfair it is to be the smart woman who receives none of the credit. In one draft, she launches into a tirade about Rosalind Franklin, decrying the inequality of solving all the mysteries but not appearing by name in a single title. It’s all very meta.
Scooby-Doo Meets Marvin Martian
A crossover with B-roll Looney Tunes character Marvin Martian, the gang travels to Mars after rumors of alien contact are reported to the government. Fred—in this film, the head of the CIA despite decades of canonical evidence to suggest he is a dunderhead—launches a special mission to the red planet to intercept the aliens. For some reason, he is allowed to bring his three closest friends and a dog. Velma complains three separate times that she should be the head of the CIA after Fred bungles the mission repeatedly. The aliens turn out to be Russian cosmonauts; an astute thirty-something fan makes a few jokes on Twitter about how the plot seems to have been left over from the Cold War, hoping that his tweets will go viral. They don’t. The whole production is also a rock musical with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who are in the midst of a temporary feud with Disney after creative differences over the musical direction of Frozen 4.
Scooby-Doo and the Mothman Prophecies
The first animated Scooby-Doo to be released in theaters is widely panned for strange comic timing and odd characterization. Reviewers note in particular an overlong, unfunny scene where Velma refuses Daphne’s attempts to set her up on a date with a police officer in Point Pleasant who helps them with their investigation; one critic calls it “the cruelest eleven minutes of film this year.” Creators are baffled; they consult their scripts and storyboards. On paper, Velma agrees to the date and walks through the Mothman Museum with Officer Crubs, even holding hands with him. Nonetheless, the movie that audiences see is significantly different, with Daphne going so far as to call Velma an “ugly, unstylish, unlovable freak.”
Scooby-Doo in the Jungle
The next direct-to-video film in the franchise does not feature Velma as a character, which some speculate has to do with the voice actress being unhappy with the negative press the Mothman film got. In reality, the actress couldn’t care less, though she is confused because neither she nor the voice actress who plays Daphne remember recording the argument scene. They guess the editors stitched together unused takes from the recording booth to create the conversation, like they did with Paul Newman for Cars 3. Without Velma, the gang can’t crack the case, marking the first time that one mystery takes two movies to solve.
Scooby-Doo in the Jungle 2
This movie picks up where the last left off, with the gang (sans Velma) staring down Leopard Warrior with Spear #2 (his official billing in the credits). Velma parachutes into the jungle with eight minutes left in the movie, angrily handing Fred a map of the area with a dozen sites of archaeological significance marked: the Leopard Warriors are actually a handful of archaeologists trying to protect some ruins from a greedy logging company that is trying to cut down the rainforest. “Velma, like, where have you been?” Shaggy asks when Velma appears. She glares into the camera, or where a camera would be if the film weren’t animated, and says “I’m a hacker now, since apparently it’s the only career move for reformed nerd girls.”
Scooby, Meet Scooby!
This film, a clone caper, is the last entry in the franchise where Velma appears. It’s aired as a television movie before a home media release. Velma’s voice actress is nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance because of a meditative monologue about being true to yourself she delivers to Daphne while the two of them are made to flirt their way past the security guards at the cloning facility. The speech becomes popular enough to circulate on Facebook as a grainy screenshot of a Reddit post. Once again, the voice actress doesn’t remember recording the dialogue, but she’s over the moon about the Emmy nomination, which she loses to someone who voices a character on The Simpsons.
Scooby-Doo Down Under
Despite the Emmy nomination, Hanna-Barbera informs Velma’s voice actress they won’t be needing her services anymore. They don’t offer further explanation. Many loyal viewers realize there’s something odd about the animation in this entry, and it’s not just the more angular, geometric character designs and muted colors. Finally, someone compares new Daphne to old Daphne and realizes new Daphne has a wider body shape. Some people accuse the franchise of skinny-shaming Daphne, but others praise the film for moving in a body-positive direction.
Scooby-Doo: Knights to Meet You
The gang journeys to a castle in Scotland after hearing reports of a marauding band of knights in blood-red armor. Daphne, who suddenly wears glasses and whose skirt is longer, happens to be an expert on Scottish legends and recognizes the story of the MacLennan Knights, who terrorized medieval villages and stole livestock and gold. She goes to the castle library to do further research while Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby engage in a jousting tournament, played, of course, for laughs. As she lugs a heavy book from the shelf to a table, Daphne sighs then looks around suspiciously, like she’s convinced she’s being punk’d. By the end of the movie, her research leads her to the conclusion that the knights are actually just some local shopkeepers who want to boost tourism to the area to sell more macramé and coffee mugs.
Scooby-Doo and the Snake Lord
A repeating gag in this film features Scooby, Shaggy, and Fred walking in on Daphne on the phone. She always hurriedly hangs up and apologizes for being distracted from solving the mystery at hand. Fred, at his handsome-guy-creepiest, jokes forcefully that she must be talking to her boyfriend before flashing a set of almost-lupine teeth at her, though observant viewers notice it’s a distinctly female voice on the phone. Daphne’s signature lime green stockings have been replaced by forest green knee-high socks, and her kitten heels have transformed into flats. Her hair looks less maintained than in the past. A few viewers turn the volume all the way up and can make out the voice on the phone toward the end: “I told you they would do this after I left.”
Scooby-Doo and the Enchanted Maze
The Queen of England asks the gang to investigate the giant hedge maze she’s had constructed at Buckingham Palace; there are whispers it’s been enchanted by Merlin himself to entrap anyone who enters, as her precious corgis and five servants she sent in after them have yet to emerge. The gang separates into pairs: Shaggy with Scooby and Fred with Daphne. Scooby’s nose has no trouble finding the servants, as all of them were equipped with trays of Ye Olde Scoobie Snaxxe, which he devours eagerly. Meanwhile, Fred and Daphne wander, utterly lost, through the maze. Fred confronts Daphne: “Why are you acting like this? You’re supposed to be smart, remember?” he says threateningly, cornering her against a wall of rose bushes with sharp thorns. “That’s not who I am,” she tells him. “I just want to be myself.” Fred leans in close, eyes glinting wickedly, but before he can speak, they hear the Queen’s corgis barking nearby.
Scooby-Doo: Pizza Party!
This film is sponsored by Chuck E. Cheese, a company in its death throes, willing to try anything to bring customers in. The whole film takes place during the grand opening of a new Mega Chuck E. Cheese. Scooby has several hilarious encounters with the animatronic animals that play music during meals, including a moment where a young child, celebrating her birthday, believes him to be one of the robots and demands he play her a song with his banjo. Daphne gets trapped for fifteen whole minutes in a ball pit. Sinking back down yet again, she declares “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you. I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.” Most people assume she’s talking to the ball pit attendant who told her she was too old to play there, but this exchange is an invention of mass imagination, as no such character as the ball pit attendant exists. Once Daphne finally manages to clamber out, she discovers a secret passage behind a pinball machine. The film cuts away as she stares into the dark hallway open before her.
Mysterium Ex Machina
A diehard Velma fan creates a YouTube series starring Velma, on her own, solving mysteries. The production quality isn’t great, but it has about a thousand steady viewers a week. Hanna-Barbera threatens to shut the channel down for using a copyrighted character, but the creator persists. In the last episode, Velma, called to a shopping mall to investigate a haunted pinball machine, sees a woman she recognizes from high school named Dauphine across the food court. The woman has on a huge hat, trench coat, and sunglasses, like a latter-day Carmen Sandiego, and the episode ends as Velma calls out her name and walks over to her. The next episode never comes. The videos that were posted disappear in a fuzz of simulated, digital static, informing everyone that this content is not available because it has been blocked by Hanna-Barbera on copyright grounds.
Scooby-Doo and the Bigfoot Clan
The final direct-to-video entry in the Scooby-Doo franchise features two new women, Dilma and Verochka, who are Brazilian and Russian, respectively; some fans praise the film for adding some much-needed cultural diversity to the gang’s WASPy makeup, though many are dissatisfied to see Velma and Daphne gone. The plot, a confusing romp through the Pacific Northwest, barely makes use of Dilma and Verochka, both of whom are relegated to sitting in the back of the Mystery Machine and blurting out random information to push the story along. Diehard fans agree that enough is enough: they’re tired of seeing their childhoods ruined, so they organize a rally to dress like Velma and burn copies of this atrocity. Though the rally’s turnout is less than fifty people, the media attention it gets for its sheer ridiculousness is enough to convince the studio to pull the plug on the series. The gang is disbanded.
Jonathan Wlodarski is a graduate of the Northeast Ohio MFA. His work appears in Fairy Tale Review, Fiction International, and Third Coast, among other venues.
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