Should Real Monsters Have a Place in Scooby-Doo?

For decades, Scooby-Doo has been a franchise following the members of Mystery Inc. as they solve crimes and unmask villains dressed as spooky monsters. However, somewhere down the line, Scooby and the gang began to come face to face with real monsters instead of just humans dressed like monsters. Do these real monsters have a place in the world of Scooby-Doo, or does having them present take away what made the franchise what it is?

The original series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, and the few series following it, stuck to the man-in-a-mask formula pretty strictly. However, in the 1980s series, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, a couple of paranormal antagonists, like aliens and a vampire. The show mostly covered criminals in masks but had a couple of outlier episodes that didn’t follow that pattern. Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School featured Shaggy being hired as a gym teacher at an all-girls’ school where he discovers that all the girls are in fact young monsters. Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf had Shaggy transform into a werewolf. 

As it turns out, Scooby, Shaggy, and the others have had encounters with actual monsters for decades. However, each time they did back then, it felt like something special. Since then, though, it’s become more of a norm. The era of straight-to-video animated Scooby-Doo films arose in the late 90s (and still continues today), most of which feature real monsters instead of criminals in disguises. These include extremely entertaining movies like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost, and Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. It was from this point on when it seemed like there were just as many, if not more, real monsters as Scooby-Doo antagonists as there were criminals in masks. Heck, even all three theatrically-released Scooby-Doo films feature actual monsters.

The real monsters used to feel like an extra special occasion in Scooby-Doo media. It was exciting and oftentimes scarier than what we’ve seen before. Now, it’s become a bit overused at times. These TV series and movies that do feature real monsters aren’t bad by any means; there’s just an awful lot of them.

It is worth mentioning, though, that Scooby-Doo typically works best when Mystery Inc. is going up against a masked villain. There’s certainly some symbolism there regarding people (especially those who traumatize those around them so they can steal some ancient treasure or priceless jewelry), who are the true monsters. Plus, the disguised criminals formula does typically work better for a great whodunit story.

The stories featuring real monsters can offer plenty of fun and entertainment, but it does feel clear that Scooby-Doo was meant to focus on unmasking human criminals. Even some of the time when they confront a real monster, they at first think it’s a man in a mask. There’s certainly room for both versions of this mystery-solving series, but perhaps it should stick to the classic’s intention just a bit more often.

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